Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Attack on atheist meet: Vrindavan's German citizen seeks Embassy intervention to protect her right to live, think

Ramona, Apra and Balendu Goswami
By Our Representative
In an unusual move, Ramona Goswami, whose house was attacked in Vrindavan recently for calling a private meeting of atheists, has sought the urgent intervention of the German Embassy in Delhi for “support” and “protection” of her “human rights” to live in India, so that she is not not harassed by local administration and media on basis her “belief or non-belief.”
A German herself, Ramona is married to Balendu Goswami, who had organized the event. Living with their daughter Apra Goswami, who also carries a German passport and a PIO card like her, Ramona says, on October 14, her family organized the private programme on their property, “inviting scientific-minded, rationalist people to our place for discussions.”
“As we are non-believers, atheists from all over the country were expected to come to our home”, she says in the letter, regretting, however, “Unfortunately some locals opposed this programme and called for protests outside our home.”
Pointing out that “prior permission for the programme was taken even though it was a private programme”, she says, “On October 14, when guests had started arriving, a crowd came together to attack our meeting – and police officials urged us to cancel our event, saying they would not be able to guarantee security of our guests.”
Ramona says, although the programme was “cancelled” the attacks have continued, adding, “The city administration, under pressure of the crowd, came with a digger and tore an advertising sign as well as the ramp leading to our restaurant.” She adds, interestingly, “the ramps of our neighbours – equally built to cross the gutter – were not touched.”
Living in Vrindavan, UP, where her husband’s family has property, Ramona says in the letter, her family has been “running a charity school for unprivileged children over the past years”, where “children receive free food and education”, adding, “We offer yoga and ayurveda retreats at our ashram to support this charity further.”
Pointing out that this year they started running a restaurant called ‘Ammaji’s’, in which she is one of the four partners, Ramona says, “During the protests one of he guests, “a senior female photo journalist,“was pulled onto the road and beaten by the mob with the police standing by but not helping.”
“People started throwing stones and damaged our property, breaking new glass panel on the 1st floor of our restaurant. They were shouting paroles, threatening our lives. They had petrol with them, pouring it on our property, in order to set our home on fire, which was fortunately prevented”, she pointed out.
Identifying individuals who led the crowd, Ramona says, the problem particularly got aggravated after a Hindi daily’s Mathura edition called her as a ‘schemer’ of the atheist meeting, identifying her as 'Videshi sazish karta'.
Worse, Ramona says, a senior official from the neighouring city of Mathura came to her home on October 14, making inquiries about her working at the restaurant and whether she was legally allowed to live. “Speaking to my husband, who assured him that I was legally living here and had a PIO card. This officer threatened with the words ‘If I want, I will not let her live here for one more day’.”
Later, on October 22, the issue got “solved” when another senior officer from Mathura came and explained that she did have a PIO card and was thus legally allowed to live and even work in this country.
“My brother-in-law has filed an FIR complaint with the police against the rowdies protesting and damaging our property. Unfortunately no action has been taken”, Ramona says, adding, “A few of the protesters have continuously made efforts to defame us by giving wrong statements to local newspapers and asking for the arrest of my husband.”

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