After he exposed a ‘miracle’ in Mumbai, multiple FIRs were registered against Sanal Edamaruku under a blasphemy law. Expecting arrest, he fled the country and has now lived abroad for a year.
In one of the many lanes off Mumbai’s SV Road—that all-important artery connecting the city’s central region with its western suburbs—there exists an otherworldly place. Five minutes into Vile Parle’s Irla Lane, all the traffic disappears. There are no plush offices here, no towering buildings. Instead, large banyan trees line the sides of the roads, small crosses at intersections remind residents of their faith, and people live in small single floor homes with sloping roofs. This is a village of East Indians, the original inhabitants of Mumbai.
A little over a year ago, for a span of a few days, this sleepy hamlet transformed into nothing less than a carnival. People from various parts of the city, from a cross-section of religions, thronged the area for days, waiting to see a sign of god. The feet of a statue of Christ had started to drip water. For five days, water oozed out of Christ. In the glare of media channels transmitting this miracle live, people started collecting what they termed holy water. (Later, when their stock was running out, they increased it by adding ordinary water.) As the crowds increased, tarpaulin sheets were set up to shelter the faithful, chairs were organised for the elderly, all-night vigils began to be held, and, as with all good miracles, myths began to bloom. It was said that a few years ago, a tree fell at the spot, and while houses nearby were damaged, not a scratch befell the statue. People were said to have been magically cured of a variety of illnesses by the water. Two women over 60 years of age, one from Wadala and another from Khar, came hobbling on crutches, residents said, and after a sip went home with their backs ramrod straight.
The ‘miracle’ was first noticed not by a Catholic, but a Hindu woman. This pious lady, Sharda Parmar, always started her day by bowing to the statue. “Nothing was there when I reached that morning. It was when I was praying that I felt the first drop,” she says. Even after the dripping stopped, villagers had strangers knocking on their doors asking if they could share a few drops with them.