An Indian man known for debunking religious myths lives in self-imposed exile in Finland after he explained that water dripping from a statue of Jesus Christ was merely the result of bad plumbing.
Sanal Edamaruku arrived in Mumbai to investigate claims that a miracle had taken place. Water had been dripping from the toe of a Jesus Christ statue outside a Catholic Church, and locals were convinced it was a sign from God.
Some collected the water and dubbed it holy water, while the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni designated the statue as a site of pilgrimage, according to The Guardian.
Some of the locals even drank the water, reports BBC News.
Edamaruku brought an engineer friend with him to determine what was causing the leak. They quickly discovered the moisture was the result of an overflowing drain that was connected to a nearby toilet.
"This was sewage water seeping through a wall due to faulty plumbing," Edamaruku told The Guardian. "It posed a health risk to people who were fooled into believing it was a miracle."
Indian authorities were not impressed. Edamaruku was charged with blasphemy, an offense that carries up to three years in prison. When he started receiving death threats, Edamaruku sought exile in Finland.
He has since spoken out about the blasphemy law that forced him to flee his country.
"There is a huge contradiction in the content of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and the blasphemy law from 1860 under the colonial rule," he said.
"India cannot criticize Pakistan for arresting young girls for blaspheming against Islam while it arrests and locks up its own citizens for breaking our country's blasphemy laws," he added. "It is an absurd law but also extremely dangerous because it gives fanatics, whether they are Hindus, Catholics or Muslims, a license to be offended. It also allows people who are in dispute with you to make up false accusations of blasphemy."
Since Edamaruku fled to Finland, his daughter gave birth and his mother died. He is still unable to return to his homeland.
"I miss a lot of people," he told BBC News. "That I cannot see them is something that saddens me."
Even so, he rejected an offer by Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, who called on Edamaruku to apologize in exchange for clemency.
"I feel that I have full right to express my views," Edamaruku said. "I am open for discussion and correction but I am not willing to accept anybody's bullying, change my views or submit to their pressure to apologize."
And despite everything, Edamaruku says he has no regrets.
"I would do it again. Because any miracle which has enormous clout at one moment, is simply gone once explained. It's like a bubble. You prick it and it is finished."