Life Of Sreeni Pattathanam
The Online Petition
A National Defense
Committee (NDC) was formed by PUCL, Kerala to further the actions against
the Kerala Government's inhuman Order against the Malayalam writer and
eminent rationalist leader Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam. Following the NDC,
the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) State Committee has passed
a resolution to support the writer Mr. Pattathanam. It
appeals before every human rights activist and like-minded people to
help this cause in whatever way they can. What follows is a short account
of the controversial issue, which led the author Sreeni Pattathanam
to become the prey of religious fanatics.
About the Author
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam
is a Malayalam writer who has ten books and many investigative reports
to his credit. He was born in Kollam, Kerala State. He began his career
in Police Department, which helped him to find the unjustifiable alliance
between the State and Religion. Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam was instrumental,
among others, several years ago in exposing the `miracle' of the divine
Makarajyoti light, which appears during the annual Ayyappa pilgrimage
in Kerala on a remote hill. Having resigned from the Police
service Mr. Pattathanam joined as a teacher in a Government school.
mind of a police officer and the analytical mind of a school teacher
gave Mr. Pattathanam a charming presentation of his topic which reflected
in his writings as well. He traveled a lot in the nook and corner of
Kerala. He had been the Editor of `Ranarekha', rationalist monthly,
published in Malayalam. He was also the State General Secretary of Indian
Rationalist Association (IRA) of which Mr. Sanal Edamaruku as its National
General Secretary. Currently he is the Chief Editor of `Yukthirajyam',
Malayalam rationalist monthly; and, the General Secretary of Bharatiya
About the Controversial
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam
has written a book Matha Amritanandamayi: Divya Kathakalum Yatharthyavum
(Matha Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, Mass Publicationas,
Kollam, Kerala, revised edn.) that becomes the controversial one in
Malayalam language. It was first published in 1985, since this godwoman
was not as famous as she is today. For the book there was no demand
from the Math to prosecute the author.
But later, when
the lady became an incarnation of the Lord Krishna himself, they could
persuade the government to move against the author. Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam's
efforts to bring to light facts are pioneering. His main contentions
are: the Math's claims to miracles are bogus, and that there have been
many suspicious deaths in and around her ashram, which need police investigation.
The research work contains elaborate references to court records, newspaper
reports and quotations from well-known literary figures, including statements
from the Math's close relatives, as well as an interview with Matha
About Matha Amritanandamayi Devi
Devi ( Sudhamani, born in 1953 in the district Kollam, Kerala State,
India) is known to the world as the "hugging mother". She
was also the subject of a televison documentary in the 'Weird Weekends'
series on BBC TV, presented by Louis Theroux. She hugs people and passes
on to them `energy'. Reportedly she has hugged and healed some 20 million
people all over the world as part of her mission. On Fridays she acts
as the goddess Kali, and on many occasions she has claimed to be Lord
Like god man Satya
Sai Baba, she too has many devotees: BJP leaders like Prime Minister
of India A.B. Vajpayee, Home Minister of India L.K. Advani, and also
Congress Party Chief Minister (of Kerala) A.K. Antony are amongst them.
Home Ministry records
of the Government of India show that the Matha Amritanadamayi Mission
is the second largest recipient in India of foreign funds in 1998-99
alone Rs. 51.55 crores were received (about 515 million Indian Rupees
or about 11.5 million US Dollars). Educational institutions established
by this primary school drop out enjoy Deemed University status; Penguin
India published her authorized biography (Amma, a Living Saint by Judith
Cornell) where her miracles and her boundless love are highlighted,
and the train Amrita Express (Palghat Town- Thiruvananthapuram) is named
Her devotees have
celebrated Matha Amritanadamayi's 50th birth anniversary at Kochi. The
five day long (in 2003) ceremony was in fact a festival in which all
the pompousness and luxurious attitude of the ashram was reflected.
It is said that 191 delegates from the UN member countries were participated
in the anniversary festival. The President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul
Kalam himself inaugurated this!
The whole Eastern
Religion and Philosophy especially Vedanta declare that there is no
birth and death and man is an immortal being. Mata Amritanadamayi is
claimed to follow the Vedanta philosophy. But instead of showing reluctance
to the concepts of birth and death she has celebrated her 50th birthday!
What is the point in a particular number? Has the number 50
got any divine significance? In fact the hidden truth is that the devotees
have made use of Amma's birthday for popularizing the ashram and its
multifaceted business ideals. PUCL State Committee strongly believes
that in and around the ashram many corporate brains are being worked
and the ashram itself is a
multinational corporate company.
Origin of the Complaint
Let us now come
to the complaint made by Adv. T.K. Ajan, secretary, Amrita Apartments
Residence Association, of the ashram, Kollam, Kerala, for a
permission to prosecute Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam, the author of the book
as well as the publisher and printer, under section 295-A of IPC, 292
of IPC, 196
of Cr PC with section 34 of IPC. The first petition was filed before
the The Principal Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of
Kerala Government's Position
Instead of investigating
the allegations and examining the evidence produced in the book, the
state government headed by the Mata's ardent devotee the
Chief minister A.K. Antony - initiated moves to prosecute Mr Pattathanam
for making `objectionable references' to the spiritual leader, and for
the religious sentiments of her devotees'. With great alacrity, the
state government moved swiftly, and the police inspector of Karunagappally
recorded statements from Sreeni Pattathanam as well as the publisher
printer. The relevant law going to be applied would be Section 295-A,
which criminalizes `insulting or attempting to insult the religion or
religious beliefs of any class of citizens with an intention of outraging
its religious feelings'.
Rising to the occasion, a group of writers and social activists headed
eminent Malayalam author Paul Zacharia and Human Rights activist Mr.
Mukundan C. Menon issued a statement condemning the vindictive nature
of the government's moves. "Since certain ruling politicians, both
at the federal and state governments, are known devotees of the Mata,
we have reasons to suspect that there is a sinister and malicious conspiracy
behind the move to prosecute Mr Sreeni Pattathanam".
Because of the ensuing
international attention, the government relented and halted its steps
to facilitate the prosecution of the author. However, the Mata's
devotees against those who came to Sreeni Pattathanam's defense launched
a relentless internet-based campaign.
Mr. T.K. Ajan has
then filed another petition before the High Court of Kerala. Thus the
government has reopened the issue and the State Home Secretary has summoned
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam to present himself before him on 18th March 2003
for hearing. After this questioning, the government of Kerala has sanctioned
Adv. T.K. Ajan to prosecute Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam, the author of the
book Matha Amritanandamayi: Divya Kathakalum Yatharthyavum as well as
the publisher and printer. (The government Order is attached herewith).
The Question of Human Rights and the Writer's Freedom of Expression
It was pointed out by the Supreme Court of India in L.I.C. of India
v Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (AIR 1993 SC 171: 1992 (3) SCC 637: 1992(4)
JT (sc) 181), that freedom of speech and _expression is a natural right
which a human being acquires on birth and, therefore, it is a basic
human right. This human right has been admired as the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights
(1948). UN Human Declarations have to be respected by all the signatory
States, which India is.
In the Preamble
of the Constitution of India, the people of India declared their solemn
resolve to secure to all its citizen liberty of thought and_expression.
This resolve is reflected in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution,
which guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression
to all citizens.
affirms the right of freedom of expression, which includes:
1. Right to voice one's opinion.
2. Right to seek information and ideas.
3. Right to receive information.
4. Right to impart information.
An Indian State
is under an obligation to create conditions in which all the citizens
can effectively and efficiently enjoy the aforesaid rights. What Mr.
Sreeni Pattathanam has done is that he only made use the Constitutional
rights stated above. Mr. Pattathanam says: "I believe that I worked
in accordance with the Indian Constitution
they are trying to deny
my constitutional rights."
In Romesh Thappar
v State of Madras (AIR 1950 SC 124: 1950 SCR 594:1950 SCJ 418: 1950
Cri LJ 1514), the Supreme Court of India held that the freedom of speech
and _expression includes freedom of propagation of ideas and this freedom
is ensued by the freedom of circulation.
Taking into consideration
the above cases PUCL State Committee has passed a resolution in which
it has criticized the government Order against the writer and reiterated
the fact that by issuing this Order the government has violated the
above two Orders of the Supreme Court of India.
India's first blasphemy
protection was happened in 1933 when Dr. D' Avoine, the President of
the Rationalist Association of India (RAI) from 1938 to 1944, published
an article entitled, "Religion and Morality" in the September
1933 issue of "Reason", the official journal of RAI at that
period. The Bombay
Police confiscated all the copies of "Reason" and later arrested
Dr. D'Avoine and charged under IPC295A. On 5th March 1934 Sir H.P. Dastur,
the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Bombay, dismissed the case by saying
that "The accused may be wrong
But the article merely represents
the writer's view."
Religion or Charitable
In the complaint
of Adv. T.K. Ajan, dated 23/05/2002, it is emphatically stated that
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam should be punished because of his "deliberate
and malicious intention to outrage the religion and religious feelings
of the devotees of Amma" (Complaint no.5&7). He also says that
Mata Amritanandamayi Math Amritapuri is a place of worship of the devotees
Amma who is their religious Guru (Complaint no.3). But there is no mention
in the complaint about the nature and content of this `religion'. There
religions in the world like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism,
Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. Barring Hinduism each religion
own founder. However, all religions have their own particular rituals,
ceremonials, principles, and sacred books. Hinduism is a group of religious
sects each of which commonly accepts the Upanishads and the Bhagavad
Gita as scriptures. Since all these are the known facts, the plaintiff
should have stated in his complaint the name, nature, and content of
his religion. He has not pointed out any `ism' in connection with `Amma's'
name. If it is a religion what is its religious book or books? What
are their religious principles?
If he says that
it is Hinduism, which is `Amma's'religion he should not forget the truth
that Hinduism is as old as the Rig Vedic period. Besides this, each
Hindu religious sect has its own religious ideals, which may contradict
with other sects of the same religion. All these show that criticism
is not foreign
to Hinduism. The Hindu religious philosophers like Sankara, Ramanuja,
and Madhva had developed criticism among them. But they had not prosecuted
their opponents nor had they demanded prosecution from the political
authority. Instead, they allowed a discussion among themselves. But
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam is being crucified by the demands of this so-called
religion and its followers.
issued by Collectorate, Kollam, certified that "the organization/institution
namely `Mata Amritanandamayi Math' (Register No.
IV.9/1988(KL/KPY), Amritapuri (P.O.) Kollam District), Kerala
690525 is a charitable and non-profit making organization in India working
in the field of
Health/Social welfare/Education/Rural development as a non-sectarian
" In the complaint the plaintiff himself has given a
list of charitable activities managed by the Math.
Nowhere in the certificate
is it mentioned that the Math is a religious institution or a religion.
It is not a religion but an "organization in India working
in the field of Health/Social welfare/Education/Rural development."
The government of
India has never accepted this Math as a religion. The aforesaid reasons
point to the fact that the allegation of the plaintiff in the complaint
that Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam's book is written with "deliberate
and malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of the devotees
of Amma" is obviously inconsistent, illogical, and hence illegitimate.
Since the Math is not a religion Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam has not committed
any offence that comes under the section 295-A and 292 of IPC. Rather
demanding from the authority for the prosecution of the author the plaintiff
Adv. T.K. Ajan insulted the sincerity and investigative mind of an author,
because, in the complaint (no.6) it is said that "Through the selling
of the book the said Sreeni Pattathanam gain money illegally and also
gain publicity illegally." But publishing and selling books is
not considered as illegal in India or anywhere in the world. Neither
is it illegal to gain publicity thereby. Hence the contentions and the
arguments of the plaintiff are weak and not legitimate.
The PUCL State Committee
expressed its grief in the growing intolerance of the fanatics. It affirms
that we can expect tolerance, love, and compassion only from a civilized
Humanist and Ethical Union's Intervention
and Ethical Union became aware of the prosecution proceedings from the
very beginning. Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam as well as Mr. C.I. Oommen, the
President of Bharatiya Rationalist Association, met with IHEU leaders
in January 2003 and in a video taped interview with IHEU Executive Director
Babu Gogineni they told about their fears that in view of the prevailing
campaign against rationalists, and the rise of Hindu fundamentalism,
the danger for them was still not over, and that efforts to prosecute
would be restarted. Mr. Pattathanam could be arrested and even tortured.
Custodial deaths are not uncommon in Kerala, they reminded the free
thinkers. Mr. Pattathanam says:
and cruel move against a writer by Hindu Fascists should be stopped".
He told a newspaper, "If the charges contained in my book are baseless,
the devotees could have published a rejoinder. They have published malicious
reports against rationalists in their publications".
IHEU calls upon
the Kerala State government to uphold the principles of secularism and
Humanism incorporated in Article 51 A (h) of the Indian Constitution
which enjoins every Indian citizen to develop scientific temper and
IHEU also calls
upon its member organizations, associates, human rights activists and
defenders of democratic principles to send letters of protest to
the Chief Minister of Kerala as well as the Home Secretary of Kerala
state. IHEU is bringing the urgent matter to the attention also of Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Sans Frontieres, The International
Committee for the Protection of Journalists and the UN Special Rapporteur
of Freedom of Religion or Belief. www.iheu.org
Need of the Hour
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam's
case is not a new one in human history. He inherits the great minds
of the yore that showed an extraordinary courage to criticize the established
religion and the state. Socrates had to drink the hemlock, Hypatia,
a courageous woman in the medieval period who criticized the Church,
are some examples we have from the pages of ancient history. In modern
times too, writer's like Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen are being
subjected to the intolerance of religious fanaticism. Recently in Pakistan
Dr. Younus Shaikh had been jailed for blasphemy. But as a result of
the worldwide demand for the release of Dr.Younus the Pakistan government
had to release him from death sell. So if human rights activists, secularists,
free thinkers and rationalists take this matter seriously and act urgently
persuade the government to quit from the execution of the Order that
will be a boon to all those who think freely. Above all, if we act in
this very moment we
could perhaps prevent the similar incidents in future. What we must
do now is to organize a worldwide campaign and do everything in favour
of this writer
and hence the Kerala State Committee of PUCL requests the cooperation
of all like-minded people and organizations in this regard.
PLEASE SEND LETTER TO
Mr. A.K. Antony
The Chief Minister of Kerala State
Thiruvananthapuram 695 001
Dear Chief Minister
I am writing to
protest against the recent govt. order
to sanction the prosecution of an author and
rationalist leader Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam in your
state, because of his book Matha Amruthandamayi -
Divya Kadhakalum Yatharthiavum (Matha
Amrithanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, Mass
Publications, revised edition) exposing the alleged
wrong doings of Mata Amritanandamayi.
I am aware of your own personal devotion to Mata
Amrithanandamayi; however, I am alarmed that as Chief
Minister as well as home minister incharge of police
and security, instead of examining the evidence
produced in the book and launching an inquiry into the
ashram activities, you have chosen to initiate moves
to prosecute Mr. Sreeni Patthathanam on the grounds
that his book has hurt the religious sentiments of
people, following a complaint by one Mr. Ajan. The
Mata's organisation is registered as a social
organisation and not as a religious organisation. How
can criticism of a social organisation and the doings
of those associated with it cause hurt to religious
sentiments? In any case, religious leaders cannot be
immune from the attentions of the criminal justice
I call on you to uphold the principles of secular
democracy, to uphold the rule of law, and to protect
Mr. Pattathanam's freedom of _expression and belief
and its lawful exercise.
In these troubles times in India where intolerance is
on the rise, the international community is watching
you and looking to you to uphold democratic principles
Expecting your urgent intervention in this matter.
Copy of your suggestions and comments may be forwarded
PEOPLES UNION FOR
KERALA STATE COMMITTEE
GANDHI BHAVAN, KACHERIPADY, BANERJI ROAD, KOCHI 682
PRESIDENT: Adv:P.A.Pauran: GENERAL SECRETARY:
TREASURER: Jacob V. Lazer