This TV program is a breakthrough. CNN IBN, a leading English-language channel, started a campaign for the freedom of Sanal Edamaruku. “Does a rationalist deserve to be jailed for questioning a religious miracle?”, asked firebrand moderator Sargarika Ghose on 4th December in CNN IBN’s flagship program Face the Nation, calling upon the public to take a stand. The response was impressive: people from all walks of life expressed unequivocal support for Sanal, on camera, on twitter and on facebook. The wave keeps running... And 87% of the viewers who participated in a public internet ballot answered the question “Are blasphemy laws out of place in a secular democracy?” with a clear Yes! The blasphemy law should go.
Will India’s politicians now stop looking the other side when Freedom of Expression is violated in the interest of superstition and religious fanaticism?
Revelation on air
For those, who carefully listened, the studio discussion had an interesting revelation in stock. There were three panelists: John Dayal, a prominent moderate Catholic, who had come out in Sanal’s support, Father Dominic Emanuel, press secretary of the Catholic Archdiocese New Delhi, and Agnelo Fernandes from the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum, who had filed the FIR against Sanal.
While “hardliner” Fernandes stuck to his guns, Emmanuel tried to perform the great rope trick. He outright rejected the idea the Catholic Church – ever so liberal and soft spoken - would resort to blasphemy laws. He draw a line from Sanal to Jesus, like: two great victims of narrow minded fanatics. Like Sanal, Jesus himself was accused of blasphemy! He loudly reprimanded Fernandes for launching the case. Here came the lapse: Fernandes did not understand the game and clarified with utter conviction that he had filed the blasphemy case with approval and backing of the “Cardinal”. Emanuel and Dayal tried to shout him down, but the damage was done. The halo slipped and came crashing down.
Of course, we have long assumed that Fernandes was just an instrument of the holy men who always like to wash their hands. But now it is out, revealed on air. The “Cardinal” is obviously Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. Only recently, in an interview, Gracias feigned total ignorance about the case. To prove his innocence, he offered an alibi: he had been in Rome when the case was filed.
In the same interview the Archbishop offers that the cases against Sanal could be withdrawn if Sanal apologized, making it clear that the whipping boys are remote controlled by the top bosses of the church.
Sanal's answer to the apology offer is a clear NO.
“I can understand that they might be inspired by the stories of Inquisition and Witch Hunting in the middle ages. We live in 21st century. There are courageous people who would defend the right to speak what they are convinced about, even if stakes are invoked against them. I am one amongst them. I would not apologize nor succumb to any pressures.”
Click here to hear the whole program on CNN IBN. Attention: the interesting revelation about the approval of the Cardinal is made after 15 minutes (= 60% of the program).