দ্য টেলিগ্রাফ পত্রিকা সুমিত্রা পদ্মনাভনের সাক্ষাৎকার নেওয়ার জন্য বেশ কয়েকটি প্রশ্ন পাঠান। সেইসব প্রশ্নের পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে পাঠানো সুমিত্রা পদ্মনাভনের উত্তরের অংশবিশেষ ১১ জানুয়ারি ২০১৫ টেলিগ্রাফ-এর একটি নিবন্ধে স্থান পেয়েছে। বাংলায় অনুবাদ করা প্রশ্ন এবং উত্তর ‘আমরা যুক্তিবাদী’ পত্রিকার বইমেলা ২০১৫ সংখ্যায় ছাপা হয়েছে। ইংরেজিতে পাঠান প্রশ্ন-উত্তরগুলি ওয়েবসাইটে তুলে দেওয়া হল।
In this context I would be happy to share my views—
1. What is the response to a magazine like The Freethinkers?
—- Great! Simply great! Appreciations and abuses pour in… One cannot be indifferent. It’s fun because we encourage arguments, not fights or jihad.
2. In today’s religiously surcharged atmosphere what are the challenges before an atheist?
—- Is it a challenge really? Well if we are convinced about our own stand, that should be enough—we cannot and need not be staunch about it, or try to convert others to our ideology as religious bigots often do. Main challenge is within the family in most cases— and that varies from family to family. Only the person concerned has to deal with it. We, Humanists try to give them support and the necessary tips. We are a cool lot, actually!
3. Several people I have spoken to, including young people, profess to be atheists privately but shy from openly declaring themselves as such. Why do you think that is?
—- One reason is the age-old fear & respect for the elders in the family—as a result, the rituals continue. Secondly, many think it smart to call oneself an atheist, but are not able to come out of the fear of the unknown, and blind faith in the supernatural, fear of the unexpected, fatalism etc.
3. Is it easy or challenging to be an atheist in this country?
—- Yes, and No. We have seen Dabholkar… so it would be silly to say that there’s no challenge. But then we never press others to follow us. We never laugh or jeer at believers. The real fight is against corrupt practices, the fraud elements. And that can be dangerous—we all know the reasons.
4. How has the environment changed for atheists over the years? Any significant trends?
—- Of course it has changed. We don’t find haunted houses inside the city any more, which was common in the 80s and 90s. Could we have imagined a movie like OMG or PK twenty years back? Recently saw PK in packed hall—people applauding at every single nonchalant remark made by the alien, who is new to the Earth’s (particularly Indian) ways! It seems the masses were waiting for these questions to be raised!
5. Do you find young people inclined towards atheism, and/or rationalism?
—-Yes, yes, yes…the number of newcomers to the association of the Rationalist-Humanists keeps increasing. They come with questions and doubts. And those who don’t come are brought up in liberal families anyway. They sometimes call themselves ‘non-practicing’ Hindus etc. They love the festivals no doubt… but in general ‘atheism, and/or rationalism’ is percolating.
6. Why is it important in the modern world to be free of or detached from religion?
—- Look at India—the pieces of news– love jihad, honour killing, oppression and terrorism of all kinds. Need we say more? See the condition of women—foeticide, dowry, child marriage—does it not have its root in religious scripts. The Bible, Quran, Manusamhita…all have downgraded women in general. And in India—didn’t we profess to be a secular country 65 years back?
‘Detached’ yes, that’s the right word. The state has to be detached from religion totally. That should not be difficult; because personal choice or personal freedom can still be respected. In fact those will be respected all the more under such circumstances.
7. Given the rise of militant and mischievous upholders of faith-based religion, do you feel concerned about personal security while expressing your views?
—-Not yet. Not in Kolkata, not in Bengal.
8. Please give a short personal introduction.
—- Born in 1953 in a liberal Brahmo family. Joined the Rationalists Association in 1991. Was President of the Assn for 15+ years. Edited the Bengali magazine ‘YUKTIBADI’ for 20 years. Started the Humanists’ Association in 1993 to propagate Humanism in place of religion. Still involved in fighting issues of injustice and non-science of all kinds. Promoting ‘Body donation’ and ‘Euthanasia’.
9. Finally, should you want to add anything else, any anecdotes or information, please feel free.
—-Two most important social foundations— Children’s education and Marriage (or love-life of any kind) should be totally free from any kind of coercion or indoctrination. To say in short—I would suggest coeducation as compulsory in all stages.
Children should be encouraged to study all religions (If at all) as part of history or sociology before choosing any faith for themselves… the rest will follow.
If that sounds too far-fetched–as answer to some basic questions I quote a friend – ‘Atheism comes with some responsibility; without it, it is just as bad as, if not worse than, religious bigotry. Morals are not a product of religions – they were there before religions – a requirement for genes to survive! Sense of morals has to be much stronger in an atheist. Such morals are to be developed through free-thinking (education).’ So you see what I mean? Education should be all about free thinking which, sadly for India, is not happening yet.
P-2, Block B, Lake Town. Kolkata 700089
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