Successful Atheists’ Meets in Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai
December was an exciting month for our community of Atheists and Humanists in India. Successful Atheist meetings were held in two Maharashtrian cities – Pune and Mumbai on the 12th and 19th December respectively, and in Bangalore. While India has had a rich history of rationalist movements, and has been holding Atheist meetings and conferences on a regular basis, recent events herald a new era of freethought activism in India. (Note: A detailed report on the Bangalore group’s meetup is available here)
These two meetings were organised entirely on the internet by complete strangers for no reason other than the perceived need to organize in promoting reason and science over superstition and blind faith. It is different this time because there is very strong involvement of youngsters, and secondly, this is a bottoms-up approach as people who recognise the need for this platform are creating it without being prodded to. The most important feature is that these meetups are not just one-off, and they will become monthly or bi-monthly features. This too is because there is demand by the freethinkers in these cities and not because some central authority is organising it.
In other words, India is finally seeing the birth of its own “OUT Campaign”!
(In related news, Nirmukta is working with the Richard Dawkins Foundation to have the OUT Campaign pages in Indian languages and will soon work on promoting it in India in a big way).
Indeed, the atheists on our social media pages feel a uniting bond with people everywhere in the world who are involved in the same movement of science and logic – from Iran to the USA. But importantly, the recently media publicity being given to freethought activist stalwarts such as FIRA president Narendra Nayak has spurred the movement on.
The Pune Meet
Mujtaba Lokhandwala, an educator and freethinker based in Pune, first called for a meet in Pune on the Indian Atheists Facebook page. He offered to coordinate the meet, and there was immense enthusiasm from people in Pune and outside. Eventually the meet was held on the 12th of August, 2010, and Mr. Mujtaba informed us of a successful meeting in the following mail:
Thank you very much for joining me for the first free thinkers meet. From
what I have heard about other cities including London, we have had a good head start.
As per our discussions, I am recording the objectives that we have decided for the initial phase of our activities:
1. To provide support and counselling to youngsters who want to changeover from their earlier paradigm.
2. To provide support to free thinkers to face social pressures.
3. To create a platform for bringing in likeminded people to act collectively.
Please also share your ideas about how you think we should take the things
ahead and when and where do we meet again.
The Mumbai Meet
Spurred by the meet in Pune, a few Mumbaikars decided to have a meet of their own. Prateek Katekar, Kushal Madane and a few others helped organise and attended the meet. Prateek had the following to say about the meet:
The Mumbai meet went great. Several topics were discussed.
The main highlights were:
- All members discussed about how they became atheists and how they discovered that there is “nothing” (beyond the physical, natural world).
- We also discussed how we came out of closet with our stance on religion.
- We discussed about how is religion and politics a vicious combination.
- Interestingly, we had a brief discussion about philanthropy and atheism. Are they related or not? Most of the members differed on this issue.
- Members also discussed about well acclaimed documentaries/movies like The Zeitgeist (I know it has been debunked by a few but still interesting enough), The God Who Wasn’t There, Religulous, and Contact (Based upon a novel by Carl Sagan).
- Another thing which all the members agreed and insisted upon is setting up an concrete organisation or body which will bring better co-ordination and better efficiency to the group. It can be something like IA chapter of Mumbai.
To sum up, it was quite a successful meet and would like to have another one with bigger numbers in future.
What we learnt
It cannot be denied, however, that the meetings could have been better organised. But because there was no central figure in the organisation and it was a bottoms-up approach, we believe that it was successful in what it set out to do. It must be noted that now that there is a foundation set, and we know members in each of these cities personally, it will become easier to organise and inform the location and time well in advance for everyone to attend. This is important since these cities have planned to have regular meets.
All in all, it has been a successful month for the online Nirmukta and Indian Atheists community, and we hope that our meets planned in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad in the first month of the next year (to be announced) will be as or more successful!
Related Links: Bangalore Meetup