A private conclave of atheists called “Nasthik Sammelan” was called off on Friday due to violent interruptions by Hindu and Muslim groups in Mathura. The conclave was being organised at the ashram of Baba swami Balendu. Balendu, who is an “atheist guru”, used to be a spiritual leader once. He had called the called for the two-day conclave on atheism at his ashram. On Friday morning, though, hundreds of protesters, both Hindus and Muslims lined up outside the Ashram with sticks. It was reported that they had the complete support of the police.
The Mathura Police had initially granted them the permission but had later backed out citing “hurting of religious sentiments” as the reason. The protesters were mostly from right-wing groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and a few clerics from the Jama Masjid. Phool Das Maharaj, one of the religious leaders, told IE that Balendu’s claims that all the religious scriptures were fictional and suited only for entertainment were against Hinduism. He further stated his opinion that such leaders must be banned.
Swami Balendu however, said that the protests were unlawful and an attack on the freedom of expression. He told the reporters that they had even taken a police permission, despite it being a private event. He said that the Indian constitution permitted all its citizens to be non-believers. However, Alok Priyadarshani, SP Mathura was of the opinion that the convention was capable of spreading communal “disharmony”. He said that even though the organisers had taken permission for the event, they did not mention it being an atheist event.