Blasphemy in Hinduism
Abrahamic atheists come from religions that mandate capital punishment for blasphemy. In fact, capital punishment for ‘blasphemy’ predates the introduction of Abrahamism in Europe. The Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced for blasphemy and eventually awarded a death sentence.
Abrahamic religions mandate capital punishments for blasphemy in their scriptures. The punishment awarded for blasphemy is death in the Bible. This was strictly implemented in practice. 55000 people were executed in a single year alone in Spain in 1492 on charges of Blasphemy.
These impositions continued into the early modern ages. In Britain, the last person to be hanged for blasphemy was a young student named Thomas Aikenhead in 1697. In the US, a women’s rights and racial equality advocate named Abner Kneeland was sentenced for blasphemy in 1838. Sometimes, the offense as minor as coughing in the direction of the Church attracted strict punishment under ‘blasphemy’ in the Christian world during the Medieval and Early Modern ages.
Even today, there are 27 countries in the world where Islam is the official state religion. In many of these countries, blasphemy is an act that attracts the death sentence. In many Christian countries, blasphemy attracts strict punishments even today. Under such circumstances, the very act of ‘blasphemy’ was hailed as quite revolutionary by several atheists, agnostics, and free thinkers. It signified an act of defiance against an establishment that effectively suppressed their voices for ages. This was the desensitization**.
Now, let us look at the history of ‘blasphemy’ in Hinduism. The word “Blasphemy” has its origin in the Greek word “Blasphemein” meaning “to speak ill of (Gods)”. Although there is no corresponding translatable word in Hinduism, the one that comes closest is Dēvanindā (देवनिन्दा).
Interestingly, this word Dēvanindā is completely absent in all the early texts like Veda Saṃhitās, Brāhmaṇas, Araṇyakās, and Upanishads which form the core texts of Hinduism. It is also absent in ancient Indian epics such as Rāmāyaṇa. It can be found in some later texts. However, even in the instances where the word Dēvanindā (देवनिन्दा) is found, Nowhere is it mentioned that देवनिन्दा should be treated with capital punishment. As an example, let us examine the usage of the word & the context in which it appears in a medieval Sanskrit text. The word Dēvanindaka देवनिन्दक appears in the 9th-century text Hayaśīrṣa pañcarātra. This text talks about the characteristics of Ācāryas (Gurus). It mentions that an Ācārya should not be a Dēvanindaka! That such a person should be avoided. That is it! Just avoid the person! No punishment is other than “avoiding” Dēvanindaka is mentioned in this text. And nowhere in the entire Sanskrit literature is it mentioned that a Dēvanindaka should be awarded death sentence. This conception, in theory, is very reflected very well in practice. There are many Arabic, Persian, English & French, etc records of India throughout the Medieval & Modern ages. There is not a single record that any Hindu was ever awarded a blasphemy death sentence. I repeat. Not a single record of blasphemy killiηg in Hinduism in the last 800 years.
Even when the British ruled India, no law of Blasphemy even existed. No blasphemy law exists even today in India. The one that comes closest to blasphemy is section 295A of IPC which criminalizes insult to religion. It was first implemented by the British in the colonial age.
Section 295 A has a very interesting history. It was enacted because Indian Muslims demanded it in 1927. Hindus were quite happy without any blasphemy law even until colonial India. It was Muslims who demanded it and forced the British government to enact the law. Indian Muslims demanded a blasphemy law after an Arya Samaji criticized an Islamic prophet in a book named Rangeela Rasool. The book was written as a response to the insult to the Hindu Goddess by some members of the Muslim community. Note that, Hindus responded to insult with criticism.