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Vrindavan ‘Nastik Sammelan’ called off amid protests by saints

The protest began early in the day and an effigy of Swami Balendu, the host of the meet, was burnt on Parikrama Marg. Even residents extended support to the protesting saints.

lucknow Updated: Oct 14, 2016 22:50 IST
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times
Nastik Sammelan,Atheists,Vrindavan
Saints from Vrindavan at collectorate in Mathura to lodge protest against Nastik Sammelan on Friday.(HT Photo)

The much talked about ‘Nastik Sammelan’ (meet of atheists) could not be held in Vrindavan on Friday due to strong protests by saints and locals in the holy city.

Only a few people could enter the Shree Bindu Sewa Sansthan Ashram, the venue for the sammelan, on Parikrama Marg while others were not allowed entry by protesters.

Later, the organisers gave in writing that they were not organising the meet due to law and order concerns.

The two-day meet was to begin in the afternoon. However, the protest began early in the day and an effigy of Swami Balendu, the host of the meet, was burnt on Parikrama Marg. Even residents extended support to the protesting saints reaching the gate of the ashram.

Protesters burn an effigy of Swami Balendu in Vrindavan on Friday. (HT Photo)

The saints met district magistrate of Mathura and lodged protest against the event saying the meet could hurt religious sentiments.

On Thursday evening, saints also lodged a complaint at the Vrindavan Kotwali seeking ban on the event hosted by Swami Balendu who had allegedly insulted religious scriptures terming them imaginary and “merely as books meant for entertainment.”

On Friday, protesters gathered near the ashram and shouted slogans against the organisers.

The situation turned violent as the protestors started pelting stones broke window panes of the ashram.

A file photo of Swami Balendu.

“How can a religion be so weak that it could be shaken by a gathering of a few hundred people talking on atheism. On the direction of the local administration, I have given in writing that we have called off our event. Despite this, I am free to hold my non-belief in God and would continue to hold this ideology,” Swami Balendu said.

“It is unfortunate that despite having permission from the circle officer, we were not allowed to hold the meet and hurdles were created by those believing in God. Stones were hurled at our ashram and even bulldozers were moved while policemen remained silent spectators when those coming to attend the meet were targeted. Even media persons were not spared,” complained Swami Balendu who termed the cancellation of the meet as an attack on the constitutional rights one has in the nation.

“No permission was granted by the local administration for such a meet. It was called off by organisers themselves,” maintained SSP Babloo Kumar. Though Kumar denied that there was any violent protest at the venue, he admitted that someone in the crowd had thrown a stone damaging the window.

Swami Balendu, who runs an ashram in Vrindavan, has been preaching ayurveda and yoga in the holy city. He comes from a family where his grandfather and father were known for religious preaching. But Swami Balendu chose to deviate from the religious path and began targeting those believing in God, saying that religion had led to harassment of the common man.

The first ‘Nastik Sammellan’ organised in 2015 was a low-key affair. Swami Balendu claimed he had not extended any invitation and those coming from different parts of the country were coming on their own to discuss atheism.

Read more: Chandigarh a city of believers, has only 89 atheists: Census

First Published: Oct 14, 2016 20:39 IST