Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj: An Introduction
The Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj (Bihar Rationalist Society- BRS) was founded by my wife, Kawaljeet, and myself in 1985, as a non-party, non-profit, educational society for promoting rationalism. My elder sister, Kiran Nath Datt, two younger brothers, Shivendra and Manavendra, and two friends, Ramanand Mandal and Rahul Prasad were the other founder members of the organization. In the beginning we exclusively used the name "Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj" to describe ourselves but gradually we have started using "Bihar Rationalist Society" as the English synonym for our name and "BRS" as the acronym. According to the BRS, blind faith in god and organized religions is a big hurdle obstructing the growth of human knowledge and a rational morality. Thus, we set for ourselves the ambitious goal of working for a philosophical revolution in the rationalist-humanist direction by promoting logical-scientific thinking and a secular, rational morality based on human values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
In 1985 I had already been working for two years in Patna University as a lecturer in philosophy. As a student I had been active in the Total Revolution Movement or the "Bihar movement" led by JP or Jayprakash Narayan. When we founded the Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj, many, including JP's former secretary, Sachchidanand, wrote to me asking why we had added the prefix "Bihar" to the name of our organization and why we did not want it to be an all India organization. My reply was that we did not want to spread our limited resources too wide. I was born, educated (largely) and married in Bihar. I had participated in the historic "Bihar Movement" of 1974 and I had a relatively better knowledge of social and political conditions of Bihar. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on Bihar. I believed, as I still do, that, with our limited resources, we could achieve better results with such concentrated efforts.
Bihar is a major Hindi speaking state of India. It has always been in forefront of social and political movements, in spite of its poverty. Since we decided to concentrate on Bihar, and Bihar is a Hindi speaking state, Hindi was our natural choice of language. We decided to work and to publish rationalist literature -- books, booklets, pamphlets, folders, leaflets, etc. -- mainly in Hindi.
In 1985 we began our activities by publishing Kya Ishwar Mar Chuka Hai? (Is god dead?). In 1986 we published Buddhiwadi Ghoshna-patra (Rationalist Manifesto) and Roy ka Nav Manavatavad (M.N.Roy's New Humanism). In 1992 we published Dr. Ambedkar ne Hindu Dharma ka tyag kyon kiya? (Why Dr. Ambedkar renounced Hinduism?) and Sampoorna Kranti aur Buddhiwad (Total Revolution and Rationalism). In 1995 when the BRS completed a decade of its existence we published the second edition of Kya Ishwar Mar Chuka Hai? In 1996 we published Hindutva, Sangh Pariwar aur Fascism in co-operation with the Indian Renaissance Institute. This small book was written by me on Tarkunde's suggestion. In February 1997 the second edition of Buddhiwadi Ghoshna-patra was published with a new title Andhavishwas ke Virudh (Against Superstitions). More recently, in the month of September 1997, we have published Dhramnirpeksha Manavtavadi Ghoshna-patra, Hindi translation of Professor Paul Kurtz's A Secular Humanist Declaration. Buddhiwad aur Manavtavadi Dristikone, Hindi translation of A. Solomon's Rationalist and Humanist Outlook has been published in December 1997 along with the second edition of Dr. Ambedkar ne Hindu Dharma ka tyag kyon kiya?
Buddhiwadi (Rationalist), the Hindi journal of Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj, is being published since January 1987. From 1987 to 1992 thirteen issues of Buddhiwadi were published. Since January 1993 it is being published as a quarterly. Buddhiwadi is sent free to the members of the BRS.
Why I am not a Hindu, the only English publication of the BRS was published in 1993. Its second edition titled Why I am not a Hindu and Why I do not want Ramrajya was published in 1995. This book was well received in the non-Hindi speaking areas of India, particularly in the South. This has enabled us to increase our reach in non-Hindi speaking states. (We do not hesitate in corresponding in English when necessary.) Out of two hundred and five persons associated formally with us, eighty five are from Bihar. The rest of the members and subscribes are from , U.P., M.P., Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh (all Hindi speaking states), Punjab, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Andhra Pradesh, Karanataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Goa. We also have one life member from U.K. and New Zealand, and one life subscriber from U.A.E. Some of our members are eminent rationalist-humanist and founders or leaders of their own organizations. Some of our members have a radical humanist background, while some others are associated with the Arjak Sangh.
Besides publishing literature, BRS has also organized meetings, seminars and letter-writing campaigns. It has organized and supported miracle-busting campaigns, inter-dining and inter-marriages. One of the highlights of the activities of the BRS has been the establishment of contact and co-operation with organization having broadly similar or complementary aims. Co-operation with friendly organizations has included exchange of articles, journals and literature as well as help in publicizing one another's literature. The BRS has also been publishing introductory articles on friendly organizations in Buddhiwadi along with information regarding literature published by them.
In June 1996 I, along with Kawaljeet and Kiran Nath, established Buddhiwadi Foundation, which is a registered, educational, public charitable trust for promoting rationalism-humanism and for eradicating blind faith and superstition. Dr. Kawaljeet is the managing trustee of the organization. Buddhiwadi Foundation and the Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj are two independent organizations. Buddhiwadi Foundation is a trust, whereas the BRS is a membership-organization. However, we have envisaged friendly and co-operative relationship between these two organizations. As a first step Buddhiwadi Foundation had set up the Buddhiwadi Study and Research Centre in co-operation with the BRS. The Foundation also started bringing out Buddhiwadi Newsletter (English) as an occasional publication. Its first issue was published in May 1997. From January 1998 the publication of the Buddhiwadi has been taken over by the Buddhiwadi Foundation. In last six years the Buddhiwadi Foundation has published five titles in Hindi and three titles in English. Besides, it has taken up the distribution of titles published earlier by the BRS. At present thirteen Hindi and five English titles are being distributed by the Foundation. The Foundation has also been maintaining a website since 1998.
Buddhiwadi Study and Research Centre, a reference library of rationalist-humanist literature was formally inaugurated on 23 February 1997 by Prof. A.K. Verma, former head, Dept. of Philosophy, Patna University. The Centre is situated in Buddhiwadi Seminar Hall, S. K. Puri, Patna. Rationalist and Humanist literature -- books, booklets and journals in Hindi and English, published by various rationalist, humanist, atheist and secular organizations -- are available at the centre for study and reference.
A research-project titled "Rationalism, Humanism and Atheism in Twentieth Century Indian Thought" has been our major preoccupation for last six years. This project was undertaken by me in collaboration with Dr. Kawaljeet. The aim of the project was to prepare the manuscript of a book of the same title in English. The book will contain brief life-sketches and philosophies of eight Indian thinkers, namely, Periyar, M. N. Roy, Ambedkar, Gora, Kovoor, A. B. Shah, Narsingh Narain and Ramswaroop Verma. Besides, it will have an introductory chapter on "Rationalism, Humanism and Atheism". In the concluding chapter titled "Some Critical Comments", I have tried to evolve a more refined rational humanist philosophy for twenty first century India by making a philosophical criticism of my distinguished predecessors .
A synopsis of the project along with a working bibliography was sent to nearly one hundred humanist organizations and individuals for their comments and suggestions. A Hindi version of the synopsis was published in the January 1997 issue of Buddhiwadi. The project had evoked a positive response from various humanist organizations and individuals of India. All the books and journals received as donations for this project have been made available to scholars through the Buddhiwadi Study and Research Centre. The manuscript of the proposed book is now ready and we are hoping to publish it in 2003 with the cooperation of fellow humanist organizations.
We realize that our efforts and achievements are quite modest in comparison to the enormity of the task we have set for ourselves. Still, the feedback to our work that we have received till now, makes us quite optimistic. And working for the promotion of rationalism and humanism has been the most satisfying experience of our lives
(This is an updated version of an article published in the International Humanist News, London.)