The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Coimbatore murder says that in India, atheism is a faith that dare not speak its name

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Freedom of irreligion

Last week, 31-year-old H Farook, scrap dealer, member of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam and self-professed atheist, was hacked to death in Coimbatore. The police believe it was because he refused to take down a WhatsApp group on atheism that had 400 members from several districts. His family say he received threatening phone calls for Facebook posts speaking against god, caste and religion. Farook’s death would appear to confirm that, in India, atheism is the faith that dare not speak its name.

While religious fanaticism is on the rise across the world, atheists are also a growing population. In communist China, there are between 40% and 49% who do not believe in god, in Norway, apparently the happiest country in the world, there are more non-believers than believers and in stridently secular France, about a fifth of the population is atheist. Of course, in the United States, where religious conservatism is still strong, those who identified as atheist or agnostic was only 7% in 2014, but even this number is up from 4% in 2007. In India, according to the 2011 Census, about 29 lakh people, or just 0.24% of the population, were catgorised under “religion not stated”. Of these, only 33,000 identified as atheist, or those who do not believe in god. The rest of the number includes rationalists, or those who would base their actions and opinions on reason and knowledge rather than emotion or religious belief, and others who did not want to identify with any particular organised religion. According to other international surveys, the number of people who do not believe in god is higher, ranging from 3% to 6.6% for the population.

Atheists and rationalists now form a small, embattled minority, whose rights and beliefs are the target of violence and largely unrecognised by law. Indian secularism is so rapt in the fraught debate on freedom of religion that freedom of irreligion is yet to enter the public imagination. Yet, over the last few years, as the tide of religious fundamentalism rises, they have come under frenzied attack. Three rationalists, Govind Pansare, MMK Kalburgi and Narendra Dabholkar, have been allegedly murdered by Hindu extremist groups but the trials in these cases are barely inching along. There is also active popular resistance to the discussion or practice of such beliefs – in Mathura, Hindu and Muslim groups came together in violent protest against a “Nastik Sammelan” earlier this year.

The courts, on their part, have given delivered conflicting judgments over the years. A school teacher from Nashik won a case against his employers, who had withheld his dues because he did not join his hands in prayer. In 2012, a sessions court in Thane ruled that a person would have to legally identify himself as part of a religion, no matter what his personal beliefs were. But in 2014, the Bombay High Court held that the government could not force an individual to declare a religion in any document or form. Perhaps the ambiguity exists because no official recognition of atheism or irreligion exists in India. In December, the US introduced protections for those who identified as atheist into a bill on religious freedoms. India, a country where such beliefs attract actual violence and the threat of death, should also consider a similar law.

The Big Scroll

TA Ameerudheen speaks to the family of H Farook and leaders of the political party to which he belonged.

Shoaib Daniyal observes that though the 2011 Census showed a rise in the number of people who did not identify with any religion, India is no country for atheists.

Political pickings

  1. The Election Commission recommends a lifetime ban on convicted people from contesting in polls.
  2. The kin of those accused in Dadri lynching of 2015, where a mob battered 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq to death for allegedly eating beef, take heart from Adityanath being appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
  3. From West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government has approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Calcutta High Court’s order of a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation on the Narada scam.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Seema Chishti points out that during the Uttar Pradesh campaign everything meant to signal “vikas” was directly linked to Hindutva.
  2. In the Hindu, Manjari Katju comments that Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister is a case of the fringe going mainstream.
  3. In the Telegraph, Ruchir Joshi observes that the BJP’s talk of development, “sabka saath” and fighting corruption was “just so much cow manure”.

Giggles

Don’t miss...

Amit Sengupta on how India’s new National Health Policy sets a low bar for public health:

“The National Health Policy 2017 has actually rolled back promises in two significant areas. The policy proposes that the government undertake an increase in health expenditure as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15% to 2.5 % by 2025. The draft policy released in 2015 had promised that this will be achieved by 2020. In other words, in 18 months, the government has already doubled the number of years it forecasts will be necessary to increase public spending on health to 2.5% of GDP. Even if this is achieved, it will be half of what the World Health Organisation recommends as optimum public spending on health.

If we now contrast this with public spending by the central government in the last three years, there is a clear gap between claims and rhetoric on health. The Union Budget of 2015-’16 effected a 5.7% cut in total allocation to the health sector. The 2016-’17 budget allowed a marginal rise of just 5% when adjusted for inflation and there was a similar marginal increase in the 2017-’18 budget. In fact, the sum allocated in the 2017-’18 budget is less than the 2011-’12 allocation when adjusted for inflation.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

These GIFs show you what it means to miss breakfast

That monstrous roar is your empty stomach.

Let’s take a glance at your every day morning routine. You crawl out of bed, go for a quick shower, pull out and wear your neatly ironed clothes at the speed of light and then rush out of the house, making sure you have your keys and wallet in place.

Giphy
Giphy

You walk into office, relieved because you have made it to work on time. Stifling yawns and checking emails, you wonder how your colleagues are charged up and buzzing with energy. “What is wrong with these people” you mumble to yourself.

Giphy
Giphy

Slowly, you start to change. You start snapping at colleagues and start arguing with your computer. You take out your frustration on anything or anyone in sight.

To add to the aggressive behaviour, you’ve completely lost your focus. After some time, you simply forget what you were doing.

Giphy
Giphy

Unable to bear the hunger pangs, you go for a mid-morning snack. It is only when a colleague asks you for a bite do you realize that you have developed into a fully formed, hunger fueled, monster. Try not to look at yourself in the mirror.

Giphy
Giphy

If only you had spared not even twenty or ten but just 5 minutes in the morning and not skipped breakfast, your story would look completely different - as you will see in this video.

Play

The fast dip in your mood and lack of focus is because your body has missed its most important meal of the day – breakfast. Research has shown that skipping a meal, especially in the morning, worsens the mood because there is a drop in the blood sugar. This in turn affects the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals produced in the brain that control our moods and feelings. In simpler English, not having breakfast is going to make you really cranky and confused!

Morning is also when the body needs maximum nutrition to function efficiently through the day as you’ve just woken up from a full 7 hours of no food (and if you’re sleeping less than that, that’s a whole other article).

So in short, having a breakfast could make you go from looking like the earlier GIFs to this:

Giphy
Giphy

But with changing lifestyles and most people hard pressed for time, a healthy breakfast is taking the backseat. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. MTR has come up with a range of widely loved Indian delicacies like Poha, Upma and Halwa which can be made in (hold you breath) just 3 minutes! All you have to do is add hot water and wait for 3 minutes to get a delicious and filling breakfast.

Giphy
Giphy

These amazing and delicious breakfasts can be made in a jiffy and consumed with the least hassle, even in the midst of your frenetic morning routine. So grab your #MTRbreakfastin3 to start the day on an awesome note.

Click here to make breakfast a part of your morning routine.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MTR and not by the Scroll editorial team.