Scientists slam ‘irrational’ claims about ancient India, plan nationwide protests


Eminent Indian scientists and researchers from several institutions as well as laypersons interested in science have condemned the “irrational and unscientific claims” made by two scientists at the ongoing Indian Science Congress.

On Friday, Andhra University vice-chancellor G Nageswara Rao claimed to an audience of children and teachers at the Children’s Science Congress that Kauravas were born using stem cell technology, Ravana had 24 types of aircraft and Sri Lanka at that time had airports. A scientist from Tamil Nadu had also claimed during the session that Newton and Einstein’s theories would be disproved and that gravitational waves would shortly be named ‘Modi waves’.

On Sunday, representatives of the Akhila Karnataka Vicharavadigala Vedike (Karnataka Rationalists’ Forum), the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS), which seeks to popularise science among the masses, and other organisations led a silent protest outside the Indian Institute of Science.

BSS to protest in 10 cities today against Andhra Univ V-C’s claims

This has been happening at the ISC year after year. We had met the president of the ISC Association after the Mumbai session in 2015 and handed him a petition raising our concerns. After that we’ve had the congress in Mysuru, Tirupati and so on, and the same things continue. People must ask the organisers how they allow this,” Rajani KS, secretary, BSS Karnataka said. BSS will hold protests in multiple Indian cities on Monday, including outside Andhra University, to protest claims made by its V-C.

Sunday’s protest saw participation from students and IT professionals too. “We will be holding protests in more than 10 cities tomorrow. It is important that we tell people that such claims should have no place at an event like the ISC,” Rajani said.

The statement issued by the All India Committee of BSS said, “It is absolutely distressing that these claims were made in the Children Science Congress section of ISC where the audience was largely comprised of teachers and young students.”

Reputed Indian scientists also decried such claims about ancient Indian inventions, made on an eminent platform like the congress. Aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimha pointed out that previous sessions had also seen such claims. CNR Rao, noted chemistry professor said, “I now avoid attending sessions of the congress. If I attend, it might appear as if I am endorsing these statements and claims.”

Meanwhile, as the Children’s Science Congress concluded in Jalandhar on Friday, ISCA general president Manoj Kumar Chakrabarti told the attendees to forget the claims made by the two scientists on Friday.

“In your meeting with the scientists you heard about some stories from the Mahabharata and their connection to latest scientific techniques. The claims were not correct. Science is always based on truth, experiments,” Chakrabarti said. He did not, however, name the two scientists.

Both Chakrabarti, himself a biologist, and ISCA general secretary P P Mathur said they were considering putting new checks in place even for invited lecturers for ‘meet the scientist’ programme in Children’s Science Congress, a part of ISC events.

“We are thinking of having a scientist as chairman during the meet and if any speaker deviates from science-related issues, the chairman could intervene. Next time, we shall screen all invited lecturers,” Mathur said.

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