December (Second) 1990 No.70, Edited, Printed and published by Vishwa Nath, for Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Ltd., E-3 Jhandewala Estate, Rani Jhansi Marg, New Delhi 110 055.

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One of the duties of the citizen, according to the constitution, is to spread scientific temper. The President of India, as the first citizen should be an example in performing this duty. But, instead of promoting science, how is it that the President goes out of the way to appease godmen and to patronise superstition?

President R. Venkatraman recently flew to a remote village in Andhra Pradesh, Puttaparthy, to celebrate the 65th birthday of Sai Baba. It is said that the President's visit was a private one, but the number of Army helicopters and Government cars there showed at whose expense the visit really was.

It will be wrong to say that the President patronised Sai Baba. It was the other way round. Photos in newspapers showed President Venkatraman and other VIPs walking behind Sai Baba at Puttaparthy. No wonder lakhs of people arrived to have a darshan of the Baba. If the Indian President would follow in the Baba's footsteps, why not the common people?

It has been proved beyond doubt that Sai Baba had attained this high stature by fooling the people with simple tricks like producing "holy" ash and Japanese wrist-watches from thin air. When challenged to subject himself and his divine tricks to expert scrutiny, he refused on the pretext that divinity cannot be subjected to scientific verification.

It seemed even while administering the oath of office to the Chandra Shekhar Ministry, the President's mind was in Puttaparthy to where he was to fly the same day. The uproar created by the journalists who were manhandled by Rashtrapati Bhawan security staff at the solemn occasion, was a shameful event, in the history of Indian democracy. The President could have intervened to pacify the enraged journalists, but he seemed to be more concerned about reaching Sai Baba's abode.

All talks of secularism and separating religion from politics are meaningless when men in high places are more worried about ensuring their seat in heaven than in performing their duties in this world for which they are appointed and paid.

The unholy alliance of politicians and godmen has to stop. Chandra Shekar's connections with the notorious Chandraswami have been much discussed. While there are criminal cases pending against Chandraswami, the agent of god continues meeting the Prime Minister without any difficulty, while officers on official business have to wait. This creates a bad impression on the people.

The position of the sceptic is well summarised by the points raised by Paul Kurtz, chairman of CSICOP, at the CSICOP Conference in Washington D.C. in March 1990, as reported in The Skeptical Inquirer (Vol.15, No.1)

* Problems must be carefully analysed and clarified before they can be solved.

* Beliefs must be recognised as tentative hypotheses unless and until they are confirmed.

* Evidence is central to judging and testing hypotheses.

* Ideas are analysed using the methods of logical analysis and evaluated by whether or not they contradict other, well-established findings.

* The quest for absolute certainty must be recognised as alien to the scientific attitude, since scientific knowledge is fallible, tentative and open to revision and modification.

* An open mind, willing to consider daring and novel departures and thought, is required.


Editorial in "ALIVE" September (second) 1990.

It is not man alone who goes to astrologers to know his luck. Even gods go to astrologers to know why things are not going well for them. In the famous Guruvayoor temple of Kerala, a devaprasna (astrological study) was organised in which noted astrologers looked into the Lord's stars and assessed his troubles. It is not known if they had the exact time and date of his birth. But the astrologers found out what was troubling the lord of Guruvayoor. It was the corrupt practices of the priests and temple officials (all Government employees) that caused misery to Guruvayoorappan.

Adulteration and impurity of offerings like ghee used for pooja, increasing use of non-vegetarian food and alcohol by priests, rescheduling of rituals to suit a chosen few, enmity amongst temple staff and misuse of temple premises were some of the revelations by the astrologers who opined that the god was in great distress because of these lapses of his staff.

What was the remedy for the lapses? What should be done to make Guruvayoorappan happy so that he will be once again able to shower his blessings on lakhs of devotees visiting him?

The astrologers prescribed 1,44,000 "Sukrutha homas" (a ritual) to be performed within one year.

It is not necessary for an astrologer to say that the temple priests and staff are corrupt and they indulge in all sorts of malpractices. This is all common knowledge. Perhaps, the temple authorities thought that by "authenticating" the crimes by the astrologers they could instill fear of the deity in the priests.

But the Divya Prasna and astrological revelations are bound to have very little effect on the priests and the staff. Being long near the Lord, they know how powerless he is to punish them!

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Last update: 14 July 1998