A private meeting of atheists in Mathura was attacked by Hindutva activists on Friday morning before the meeting could start in the afternoon.
Spiritual guru-turned-atheist Swami Balendu, who had invited like-minded atheists, friends and acquaintances from different parts of the country, to his ashram in Mathura, said immediately after the attack senior police officials came with the Hindutva activists and threatened and pressurised him to cancel the meeting.
Swami Balendu cancelled the meeting after police officials said they cannot guarantee security to him and his guests because of the tension in the city due to the proposed private meet.
Under pressure from Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Prishad and other Hindutva groups, the Mathura administration which had earlier given permission for the private meeting, also withdrew the official permission in the last minute.
Senior administrative officials of Mathura, however, denied the charge of harassment and said they had to request the organisers to cancel the meeting as it could pose a “law and order problem”.
“Over 50 activists of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and local Hindutva groups reached the Bindu Seva Sansathan Ashram at about 10 in the morning and started shouting slogans and attacking the ashram property. Armed with sticks, the Hindutva activists broke the glass panels of the ashram belongings,” Swami Balendu told The Hindu on phone from Mathura.
“Immediately after the attack, the Hindutva activists accompanied senior police officials and talked to us in a tone which can be termed as threatening. The Hindutva guys told us that the protest was a mere start and if we go ahead with the meeting then much bigger things could happen in the city,” added Swami Balendu.
“Even though it was a private event we took all the permission. The Constitution permits us to be non-believers. But this seems like an all out attack on the freedom of expression and the freedom to be a non believer,” added Swami Balendu.
“The police officials said that there was tension in the city and they can not guarantee us our safety and security. We were forced to cancel the meet because I can not jeopardise the safety and security of our guests,” he added.
Swami Balendu alleged that the administration was harassing the guests who were on their way to Mathura for the event.
“We were told by the administration that the guests who have reached the Ashram should be asked to leave as their presence could create law and order problem. Even the guests who are not aware of the cancellation of the event and who have reached Mathura, are not being allowed to come to the Ashram,” he alleged.
Several participants of the meet told The Hindu that they were threatened by by the Hindutva activists not to write anything on social media platforms. All of the participants The Hindu talked to on phone wondered how could a private meeting of like minded people in a private property could create law and order problem.
“The administration has been trying to harass us and shut the Ashram some how. They sent a food inspector to the restaurant so that they could seize the place. We did not want disturb any body. Neither was our intention to create a law and order problem. But what I fail to understand is that how and why few guests of mine, visiting my home, could create a law and order problem,” said Swami Balendu, who was born and brought up in Mathura, and comes from a “family of Hindu spiritualists”.