In what seems to be the epilogue to the ‘miracle water’ that seeped out of a cross near Dias Chawl in Irla, Vile Parle (west) on March 5, two FIRs have been lodged in MIDC and Juhu police stations against 50 year-old Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalists Association for calling the incident a money-making racket on a TV channel early last month.
While Joseph Dias, general secretary, Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) was the first to file the FIR at MIDC police station, Andheri (w), Agnelo Fernandes, president of Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum, filed the FIR in Juhu Police station. Both FIRs ,filed on April 10, have been lodged under Section 295, which charges a person for deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community. Sunday Mid Day has a copy of both the FIRs. “We never said it was a miracle, though devotees came to pray and atone for their sins. It was sad that it was claimed to be a money-making scam. Not a single penny was collected and even those who insisting on making donations, were told to feed the poor,” said Augustine Palett, Parish Priest, Velankanni Church, Irla.
Dias also alleged that Edamaruku’s derogatory statements regarding the Pope, Catholic Church and priests were uncalled for. “Edamaruku said that the dripping cross was created by priests as a gimmick to collect money and told viewers to watch the tamasha, but not to make any donations. He said that the Church was anti-science and executed such tricks to fool people,” alleged Dias. Richard Mascarenhas, member of Parish Pastor Council and Collin Gomes, founder member of Save St John Baptist Church committee, Amboli said, “Edamaruku will either have to apologise or physically prove his point.”
On March 10, Edamaruku visited the church to investigate the miracle. “Water from Jesus’s feet was being diluted and distributed among followers. They were telling the devotees that the water had medicinal remedies and would heal all their ailments. Even photographs with water dripping off the statue’s feet were being circulated,” said Edamaruku, who is currently in Delhi. This comment infuriated the Christian community. “They said they would file FIRs against me in different police stations and I would not be able to see sunlight for the next 10 days,” he
According to former IPS officer and lawyer, YP Singh, the cases have not been filed on merit. “Often, cops are compelled to file the case to quell the discontentment of a community and avoid a law and order situation. It is not applicable to someone who expresses his opinion, based on scientific rationalisation,” said Singh. According to senior police inspector Suresh Hujbal, the accused is likely to be summoned to record a statement.