Around 10,000 people attend atheist meet in Kerala

The meet was organised by esSENSE Global, a group of atheists who call themselves ‘freethinkers with a scientific temperament’. The group’s founder, however, has frequently been accused of being a Sangh Parivar apologist.
Litmus 22
Litmus 22
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Around 10,000 people gathered at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Kadavanthara in Kerala’s Ernakulam district on October 2, Sunday, to attend an annual meet named ‘Litmus 22’, pitched as “the world’s biggest atheist meet in ‘god’s own country’”. The meet was organised by esSENSE Global, a group of atheists who refer to themselves as ‘freethinkers with a scientific temperament’. The participants included several writers, scientists, critics and activists, who discussed and debated topics ranging from atheism, religion and casteism to Hindutva and political Islam.

The first Litmus meet was held in Thiruvananthapuram in 2018, and the next in 2019 in Kozhikode. It was after a break of two years, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, that the third meet was held in Ernakulam.

Speaking on the occasion, C Ravichandran, one of the founding members of esSENSE, compared god to the fictional character Harry Potter in the JK Rowling book series, referring to god as an imaginary creation. Later, Askar Ali, who recently left Islam alleging harassment in religious study centres, spoke on topic ‘Insha Allah’. There was also a session on the topic ‘Is religious education necessary?’. Besides, discussions took place on subjects including herbal medicines, rocket science and so on. Beena Rani, Baiju Raj, Jose Kureekkal, Krishna Prasad, Abi Phil, Jhanvi Sanal, Rehna M, Manuja Maithri, Abhilash Krishnan, Augustus Morris, Praveen Ravi, Tomy Sebastian and CS Sooraj were among the speakers.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread criticism against the meet and specifically Ravichandran, whom many critics see as a Sangh Parivar apologist. Activists have frequently called him out for criticising Islam persistently, but hardly critcising the Hindutva movement. A video in which he says that one should only fear Islam and Communism has also been circulating in the social media.

Rejaz M, a Democratic Students Association leader from Kasaragod Central University, alleged in a Facebook post that Ravichandran was building an apolitical society. “He claims that politics now is completely based on lies, claims, and counterclaims. His support for NRC-CAA, farm bills and the uniform civil code, however, shows that his interests align with that of the Sangh Parivar. His silence on caste atrocities, his Islamophobic attempt to peddle the narrative that Genghis Khan was a Muslim, his opinions against social upliftment reservation, and his seeming inability to identify why that photojournalist in Assam stamped over a Muslim man who was murdered by police — all of this reveals his Sangh face,” he wrote.

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