Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and The Rationalists’ Forum, Tamil Nadu along with Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, organized World Atheist Conference 2018 at Tiruchirapalli on 5-7 January 2018. Many atheists, rationalists and humanists from the other states of the country and abroad participated in it. The dignitaries and delegates attended the conference individually as well as representing their organizations. Almost all the affiliates of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA) had participated in all the three day proceedings of the Conference.
First Day – 5th January 2018
Atheist Book Centre – Inauguration
The first day proceedings started with the opening of Atheist Book Centre, at the Periyar Centenary Educational Complex, situated at K.K.Nagar, Tiruchirapalli. The centre was inaugurated by Elizabeth O’Casey, Director of Advocacy, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Brussels, Belgium, in the presence of Dr. K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, A.Raja, Former Union Minister of Telecommunications and Dr. G.Samaran of Atheist Centre, Vijayawada.
The inaugural session of World Atheist Conference 2018 commenced at 11.00 a.m. at Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan Arangam. Dr. K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, presided over the inaugural session of the conference. The rationalists-humanist stalwarts murdered by religious fanatics were commemorated. The portraits of Dr. Narendra Dhabolkar, Com.Govind Pansare, Prof. M.M. Kalburgi and Journalist-Activist Gauri Lankesh were unveiled by the dignitaries at the commencement. The entire delegate audience stood up and paid Red-Salute to the stalwarts. Dr.G.Vijayam, Executive Director of Atheist Centre, Vijayawada explained the theme of World Atheist Conference 2018: ‘Atheism, Hope of Humanity’.
Five Books (English) were released. The updated edition of ‘Bhagavad Gita – Myth or Mirage’ written by Dr. K. Veeramani was released by Prof. Suba Veerapandian, General Secretary, Dravidian Tamil Federation. The compilation of speeches of Dr. K. Veeramani at various atheist conferences and meetings, ‘March of Atheism’ was released by Gary McLelland, Chief Executive of IHEU. The revised edition of ‘Compilation of old Testament of Indian Atheism’ written by Prof. Sunendra Ajnat was released by S. Rajaratnam. Tax Management Consultant-Rationailst S.Rajaratnam’s Essays on Matters which Matter (A Rationalists’ Perception) was released by Elizabeth O’Casey. The first magazine (English) published by Periyar E.V.R. was ‘Revolt’ in 1928, 1929 and 1930. The two compilation volumes of ‘Revolt’ were released by A.Raja, Former Union Ministers for Telecommunication.
Dr. Lakshman Tamil, Periyar International USA, delivered the keynote address of the Conference.
The Guests of Honour – Gary McLelland, A.Raja, S.Rajaratnam, Rustam Singh (Atheist Alliance International, USA) and Avinash Pail (Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti) delivered their addresses. V.Anburaj, General Secretary, Dravidar Kazhagam welcomed the dignitaries, delegates and observers who had gathered in large numbers.
The Messages of Greetings for World Atheist Conference 2018, from Roy Brown (former President, IHEU) Levi Fragell (Norwegian Humanists’ Association) Vox Muller (Chairman of Humanistischer Freidenkerbund Brandenburg, Germany) were read by V.Kumaresan, Secretary-External Relations, Dravidar Kazhagam. Dr. V.Nehru, President, The Rationalists’ Forum proposed vote of thanks of the inaugural session.
Paper Presentations – Plenary I
In the afternoon, the scheduled plenary sessions of paper presentations were held at the Auditorium of Periyar College of Pharmaceutical Sciences situated in the campus. The first plenary was chaired by Balwinder Barnala, Tarksheel Society, Punjab, and moderated by Dr.G.Samaram, Atheist Centre, Vijayawada.
The paper on ‘Atheism for the progress of Humanity’ was presented by Dr.Sudesh Ghoderao, Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti. S.Kumanarajan, Chief Editor, ‘Tamil Lemuria’, Mumbai, presented the paper on ‘Threat of Religious Fundamentals, Problems and Solution’. A paper on ‘Medicine and Atheism’ was read by Dr. R.Gowthaman, Director, Periyar Medical Mission.
The second plenary was presided over by Prof. Dr. Lakshman Tamil, Periyar International, USA, and moderated by B.Sambasiva Rao, Manava Vikasa Vedika, Hyderabad.
Prof. Sam George, who served at American College, Madurai presented his paper, ‘Atheism-A Way of Life’. M.Govindasamy, Malaysian Dravidian Association, Kualampur, Malaysia, presented the paper, ‘The Dravidian Movement in Malaya (Malaysia).
In all the sessions, the paper presentations were followed by interactions between presenters and the audience – delegates.
In the evening Dr. K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, delivered his special lecture, ‘The History of Atheist Philosophy and Movements in India’. The lecture content well explained the origin of atheism in the East especially India, which started well earlier to Buddha as Nastika and Asuras collectively with historical prominence of Charvaka, Brahaspathi etc. In fact, Dr. K.Veeramani proclaimed that Atheism is as ancient as Humanity. The special lecture was followed by good interaction among the audience.
‘Periyar’ – Feature Film Screening
As the last event of first day proceedings of Conference, the Tamil Feature film, ‘Periyar’ (with subtitles in English) which celebrated its 100 day continuous screening in public cinemas throughout Tamil Nadu was screened. The dubbed Telugu version of the film had created significant impact in Andhra Pradesh through public screening. The film with sub titles in French was also made available to the delegate viewers.
Second Day – 6th January 2018
The forenoon proceedings of Conference were conducted at Periyar Maniammai Institute of Science and Technology (PMIST) – Deemed to be University campus, Vallam, Thanjavur.
All the dignitaries and delegates of Conference were received at PMIST and were taken in a procession, being led by the students playing the Games of Valour, a cultural identity of the area. Tree plantings in the campus were carried out by Dr. Lakshman Tamil, Gary McLelland, Elizabeth O’Casey and Rustam Singh in the presence of Dr. K.Veeramani, Chancellor, PMIST.
The special session on the topic: ‘Building Scientific Temper in Children and Students’ was held at Einstein Hall, PMIST. The dignitaries of the Conference were welcomed and felicitated by Prof. Dr. Sundar Manohar, Vice Chancellor and Prof. Dr. Dhanraj, Registrar of PMIST, Vallam, Thanjavur.
Prof. S. Devadoss, Chief Executive Officer, Periyar Technology Incubator, PMIST, delivered the welcome address at the special session.
Dr.K. Veeramani, Chancellor, Periyar Maniammai Institute of Science and Technology (Deemed to be University), Vallam, Thanjavur, presided over the special session. Elizabeth O’Casey, Director of Advocacy, IHEU presented the special address.
The paper presentation session was chaired by Prof. Narendra Nayak, National President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. Prof. Dhaneswar Sahoo, President, Odisha Rationalist Society, presented a paper ‘Science, Scientific Temper – An Overview. K.Raja Kennedy, The Rationalists Teachers’ Forum, Tamil Nadu gave a presentation, ‘Building Scientific Temper in Children’. A paper, ‘Periyar and Gora – Stalwarts of Atheist and Humanist Movement, was presented by Prof. Dr. E.K. Ramasamy, Rationalist, Madurai. The vote of thanks was proposed by V.Kavinila, Vice President, Student-Rationalists’ Club, PMIST.
Paper presentations by Research Scholars of Ph.D., M.Phil., and teaching faculties were arranged at a parallel session, organized by Centre of Excellence for Periyar Thought, PMIST.
In the afternoon the dignitaries and delegates of World Atheist Conference 2018 visited the PMIST Campus.
In the evening a massive public meeting was held at Periyar Maaligai, Puthur, Thiruchirapalli in the specially erected venue, named after Dr. Narendra Dhabolkar, Com.Govind Pansare, Prof. M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh.
Cultural programmes like little drama, group dancing, classical dancing with light and music effects were held depicting the social revolution brought by Periyar (1879-1973).
The portrait of Farooq who was killed by religious fanatics at Coimbatore was unveiled by Dr. K. Veeramani. The entire atheist fraternally assembled and paid Red Salute to the Rationalist – Farook Hameed.
The public meeting was presided over by Dr. K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, Poet. Kali Poongundran, Vice-President, Dravidar Kazhagam welcomed the gathering. Special Addresses were delivered by Poet Kanimozhi, Member of Parliament, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Thol.Thirumavalavan, President, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK). Gary McLelland (IHEU) delivered his address which was translated by V.Kumaresan, Secretary-External Relations, Dravidar Kazhagam.
Honoring Dr. Narendra Dabholkar with IHEU Award
In 2013, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was murdered by religious fanatics, still unidentified, in retaliation for the noble service rendered for the cause of eradication of superstitions. IHEU, London honoured Dr. Narendra Dabholkar by announcing an Award to him. The announced award was presented by IHEU to MANS at the public meeting. Gary McLelland, Chief Executive, IHEU presented the Award to Avinash Patil, Executive President of Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), founded by Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, in the presence of the prime functionaries of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations.
The book, ‘Crusaders of Rationalism and Humanism’ written by Dr. Sudesh Ghoderao, Secretary, Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, and published by MANS was released by Dr. K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam.
Third Day – 7th January 2018
Atheist Walkathon – Mass Tree Planting
The third day proceedings started with the visit of the delegates to ‘Periyar World’, the monumental project, coming up at Siruganur situated at 30 Km from Trichirapalli on the Trichy – Chennai National Highway.
At the early hours around 6.30 a.m. the delegates visited Periyar World and all went on Atheist Walkathon raising slogans hailing atheism. All the atheist organizations joined holding their flags. 100 guava seedlings were planted by the delegates. The event was telecast worldwide.
The final plenary started at the Auditorium of Periyar College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trichirapalli. The session was chaired by Prof. Dhaneswar Sahoo and moderated by Vikas Gora of Atheist Centre, Vijayawada. G. Olivannan, Vice President, The Rationalists’ Forum, Tamil Nadu, presented the paper, ‘Critical Thinking and Free Enquiry in Education’, followed by ‘Theism to Atheism’ by Chandrama Majumdar, Educationist-Atheist, New Mumbai. Dr. Y.Srinivasa Rao, Scholar of Subaltern Studies, Tiruchirapalli, presented a paper on ‘Relevance of Periyarism’. The paper, ‘Rationalist Mass Movement of Periyar’ was presented by V.Kumaresan, Secretary-External Relations, Dravidar Kazhagam. All the papers invoked in depth interaction with the audience.
The valedictory session was held at Kalaivanar NSK Auditorium. Prof.Dr.M. Naganathan, Former Vice Chairman, Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission, and Dr. Ravivarma Kumar, Former Advocate General, Government of Karnataka, delivered their special addresses. Declaration of World Atheist Conference 2018 was proposed by V. Anburaj, General Secretary which was welcomed by the standing ovation of the audience.
The valedictory address was delivered by Elizabeth O’Casey-IHEU. The concluding address of World Atheist Conference 2018 was delivered by Dr.K.Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam.
Essay Competition for College Students
In connection with the Conference, essay competitions were conducted for college students both in Tamil and English. Essays were invited on ‘The Role and Service of Self Respect Movement for Eradication of Superstition’ and ‘The Role of Periyar in Women Liberation and Empowerment’ respectively. The Competitions fetch three cash prizes each of Rs. 5000/-, Rs. 3000/- and Rs.2000/- for Tamil and English separately. The winners were announced at the Conference. They will be presented with cash award and certificates on a convenient date later.
The vote of thanks was proposed by J. Thamil Chelvi, Executive President, The Rationalists’ Forum, Tamil Nadu.
Celebrations of Pongal, Secular Harvest Festival
World Atheist Conference 2018 was concluded with the celebration of Pongal, Secular Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu. Pongal is celebrated in mid January every year by all the people irrespective of their religious identities. Many delegates, both male and female, involved themselves in cooking ‘Sweet Pongal’, which was distributed to all. The celebration included the folk arts and cultural programmes that were enjoyed invariably by all the delegates.
The three day World Atheist Conference 2018 proceedings concluded with sincere commitment by all the delegates to serve the cause of Atheism in the path of reason, which only will bring peace and prosperity to Humanity.
Compiled by: V.Kumaresan