Situation at Vrindavan for Balendu Swami is rather tense after inviting atheists on 14-15th October at his home in private gathering. He along with his family has constantly been attacked by Hindutva groups at Vrindavan. False allegations are being thrown at him through local media to get him arrested. We reproduce below a letter written by his wife, Ramona Goswami, who happens to be a German citizen, to the German embassy in New Delhi:
I am writing you today in order to ask for your assistance. I am Ramona Goswami, born on 19th March 1988, carry a German passport and a PIO card, am married to an Indian, Balendu Goswami and together we have a daughter, Apra Goswami, who also carries a German passport and a PIO card. My daughter was born in India and I have had the pleasure to visit the German Embassy several times for completing paperwork. I am attaching pictures of my passport and PIO card.
We are living in Vrindavan, UP, where my husband’s family has property and where we have been running a charity school for unprivileged children over the past years. The children receive free food and education at our place. At the same time we offer yoga and ayurveda retreats at our Ashram to support this charity further.
This year, we have started running a restaurant called ‘Ammaji’s’, in which I am one of four partners. On 14th October 2016, my family had organized a private program on our 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.
Unfortunately some locals opposed this program and called for protests outside our home. We had taken a permission, even though it was a private program and not necessary. On 14th October 2016, 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. Of course we cancelled the meeting – however the attacks continued.
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. The ramps of our neighbours – equally built to cross the gutter – were not touched.
The crowd, feeling supported by these actions, were incited and further kept on shouting and protesting. One of our 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!
The people leading the mob in front of our house were Mahant Phool Dol Das, Mahant Naval Giri, Mridul Kant Shastri, Mohananand Lal Baba, Ramesh Poojari and Tarachand Goswami. They were in the front of the crowd, we have CCTV footage of their actions and they are the ones mentioned repeatedly in newspaper articles, too, trying to get further public opinion against us.
Additionally, a senior officer of the FRO Mathura came to our home on the 14th October and inquired about my stay here. 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’.
Ever since that day, my family has made efforts to explain that we have a right on our opinion: a right to be atheists and that we are not interested in conflicts with any religious or political party etc. On the contrary, we are highly tolerant, teaching the children of our primary school that we all need to learn to live together as humans, across differences of race, nationality, religion or caste!
My brother-in-law has filed an FIR complaint with the police against the rowdies protesting and damaging our property. Unfortunately, though, no action has been taken yet.
A few of the protesters have however continuously made efforts to defame us by giving wrong statements to local newspapers and asking for the arrest of my husband. Daily there are wrong quotations of my family cited.
On 22nd October 2016, another officer of the FRO office in Mathura arrived at our home, making inquiries about me working at our restaurant. He called his senior officer from our home to explain that I did have a PIO card and was thus legally allowed to live and even work in this country.
On 23rd October 2016, the ‘Dainik Jagran’ newspaper edition of Vrindavan mentioned me, without ever having talked to me, as the ‘schemer’ of the atheist meeting at our home.
This all has led to me feeling insecure and fearing for my security not only when leaving my home but also for any arbitrary actions from official offices, although I know that we have not done anything wrong. We have the right to our own opinion and I believe I do not need to face threats by the FRO in my family’s home and I have a right on protection by the Indian police when I am attacked in my own home!
I am thus feeling the need to ask you for your support. Please protect my human rights, living in this country, so that I am not harassed by local administration and media on base of my belief or non-belief. If the matter was made clear by a higher official, such accusations on me and my family could cease and we could continue running our school, Ashram and restaurant in peace!
Ramona Goswami’s letter to Sanjay Gupta, editor & CEO, Jagran Prakashan Ltd, Kanpur, UP, with a copy to the secretary, Press Council of India, New Delhi:
This is to bring in your kind notice that your local correspondent of Vrindavan city in Mathura District, UP is knowingly publishing fake/manipulated news continuously against us since last few days. We are a reputed family in Vrindavan and across India as well. Your local editor/reporter has demanded bribes indirectly to stop all these nonsense news. He has insulted and blamed our family members including myself, Ramona Goswami. I am of German citizenship and have been living here for several years with all the valid documents provided by the Indian Government.
You can check the attached the news clip published on October 23 in the Mathura edition on page no. 6 which clearly show the intention and integrity of your reporter/s who is/are using your publication for his/their own benefits. They have gone to their extreme lower level to blackmail us and publishing news without any proof or confirmation which is clearly a criminal act for which we are planning to complain in the Press Council of India and to file a defamation case against your publication house in the judicial court. I am copying the Press Council of India into this email as well.
Over the past week, following an incident in front of our home on 14th October 2016, your local newspaper edition has been repeatedly giving false information or messages merely meant to incite feelings against us. I am hereby giving you the links of other, national newspapers which have been reporting about this matter, displaying it as it is (click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).
Additionally I, a German national by birth, have been, in the above mentioned edition, addressed as ‘Videshi Sajish karta’ by your news reporter (news clips attached herewith) which is totally unacceptable. I am about to officially complain about this at the German Embassy in Delhi as well, whom I am copying as recipient of this email as well.
Likewise, your news clips allege that my brother-in-law Purnendu Goswami had abused and insulted sweepers of an organization while they were cleaning the roads and drains in front of our Ashram/ Ammaji’s Restaurant on Saturday 22nd October, 2016. In fact however, he was not even in the city on said day. My husband Swami Balendu and his younger brother Purnendu were at the Coffee House, Connaught Place, Delhi having meetings and conferences the whole day, for which we can provide strong evidence. Additionally we have CCTV camera footage proving that no such incident happened. This shows that your reporter/editor is even not verifying the facts and publishing news for harassing us with their personal intention. We are also going to file legal complaints about this.
Through this letter, we demand to take necessary action against your Vrindavan (Mathura, UP) editors/reporter, to publish a condemnation letter and apology for your news and not to publish any planned/fake news against us without any proof/confirmation, as it should be in real journalism. Anything else is only inciting hateful feelings among the common public.