About 11,000 people have signed an online petition by the British Rationalist Association, calling for the withdrawal of FIRs filed in Mumbai against rationalist Sanal Edamaruku for his comments about water drops falling from a crucifix in Vile Parle in March.
The FIRs were filed at MIDC, Andheri, and Mahim police stations by Christian community groups who said that Edamaruku had made derogatory remarks about religious leaders while discussing the incident in a television programme.
Hundreds of people had flocked to Irla, Vile Parle on March 5 after reports that drops of water were trickling from a crucifix near a church. Many called the event a 'miracle', but the Catholic Church, which has its own investigation process for such incidents, desisted from calling it one.
Since then, there have been unsuccessful attempts by some community groups to resolve the dispute. Delhi-based John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, said he spoke to Edamaruku and the complainants.
"While many people supported the idea that the matter should be settled, the complainants wanted to pursue the case," said Dayal.
A spokesperson for the archbishop of Bombay said the church had no role to play in the case, but community groups like the Catholic Secular Forum, Association of Concerned Catholics and Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum, which filed the complaints, said they will not withdraw the cases unless Edamaruku apologised. "We want the law to take its course," said Joseph Dias of Catholic Secular Forum.
Agnello Fernandes of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum said, "Edamaruku said on television that priests did tricks to collect donations. We wanted Edamaruku to verify whether the incident was true before defaming church leaders. He did not do so."
Edamaruku, who said he is on a lecture tour abroad, said an American journalist visited Mumbai recently to report the case, but was turned away by the groups.
"The groups (which filed the FIRs) insisted I should apologise. As you can imagine, my answer was obvious. Come what may: I will not apologise for a good thing that I have done," he said in an email reply to HT.