Coimbatore police arrested popular rationalist Aneesh Jasy ST last week for his Facebook posts questioning some of the tenets of Islam. Aneesh is well-known in Tamil atheist circles and used to also host the Atheist House Tamil room on the Clubhouse app to discuss rationalism, scientific temper, caste discrimination and superstition. His Facebook posts are also in a similar vein, questioning many Islamic beliefs. He usually uses the hashtag #ExMuslim to indicate that he himself had been born in the religion but had chosen atheism instead.
Late at night on December 29, Aneesh was taken to the Kuniyamuthur police station. Speaking to TNM, his friend alleges that the police had no warrant for the arrest and had instead told Aneesh and his wife that he was being asked to go to the station regarding an inquiry about his colleague. The FIR was filed after Aneesh’s arrest, the friend further alleges. Also, the FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by the sub-inspector (SI) of Kuniyamuthur police station itself.
In the FIR, SI V Ganesh Kumar claims that he was made aware of Facebook posts by Aneesh that “insult Islam, the Prophet and the Holy Quran”. Based on this, the SI says he checked the offending Facebook posts. One of Aneesh’s posts referred to in the FIR says that “people cry crocodile tears over a book that they insist is holy” to which a meme is attached. The meme features an “ex-Muslim” who says, “he is ashamed when he reads the Hadith”. Another post refers to a recent viral video of a devotee of Annapoorani Arasu Amma, a self-proclaimed godwoman. The devotee is seen loudly asking to be blessed holding the godwoman’s feet to her face. Aneesh had called Muslims laughing at the video “hypocritical”, adding that “there was no difference between the godwoman and Prophet Muhammad”.
SI Ganesh says in the FIR that printouts of these Facebook posts have been attached to his written complaint. The Kuniyamuthur police have charged Aneesh under 295(a) [deliberate and malicious acts meant to outrage religious feelings], 153A(1)(c) [promoting enmity between different groups of religion, race place of birth etc.] and 505(2) [statement conducing to public mischief].
Aneesh’s friend says he suspects that conservative Muslims who post threatening comments on Aneesh’s Facebook profile are behind the arrest but did not want to be named as the complainants. “I don’t believe that the police themselves went looking for his posts and took it upon themselves to file a complaint. What Aneesh was doing was nothing new. People from various religious backgrounds have become atheists and written about the flaws of their previous faiths. Since Periyar’s time, this has been happening here. He was only criticising hypocrisy within the religion he had left.”
The friend also said that on the night of the arrest, Aneesh was made to call his wife around 10 pm and say that he would be home soon. He, however, remains in prison. Aneesh was initially sent to Perundurai sub-jail and his bail plea was rejected on January 5. He is now in Coimbatore Central Jail, Aneesh’s friend tells us.