India in the last few years has witnessed a meteoric rise of Hindutva majoritarianism spearheaded by the RSS-BJP Fascist regime at the centre. The RSS-BJP has practically declared war against all rational and progressive voices active within this nation through coercion, threats, and even death. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh were rationalists assassinated by Hindutva goons for their staunch critique of the ideals of Hindutva that feed off of pseudoscientific practices prevalent in the society. The centuries old fight against the proponents of pseudoscience who use it as a tool to preserve their hegemony thus continues.
The beginning of this year was marked with the 106th edition of the Indian Science Congress that has for the last few years, been reduced to a ‘circus’ (to quote the Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan) in which academicians as well as independent researchers are allowed to make preposterous claims regarding ancient Indian science and technology. Instead of employing conventional scientific methodology, they cite the Vedas and Puranas as their source of facts and evidences. A particularly outlandish claim made this year by an independent researcher KJ Krishnan was the utter negation of the contributions of Newton, Einstein, and Hawking in the field of theoretical Physics. He went on to propose that Gravitational waves should be renamed as ‘Narendra Modi waves’ .
In the year 2016, after decades of hard work, scientists were able to detect the ‘chirp’ of gravitational waves for the first time, putting the General Theory of Relativity on a firmer basis. The utterly pseudoscientific claims made by researchers at the Indian Science Congress not only prove the worthlessness of the screening procedure at ISCA (if it exists at all), but also deeply insults the endeavour of the entire scientific community who devote their lives to bringing more rigour to theoretical predictions via experimental validation/falsification. What is even more terrifying is that the target audience chosen for making such claims comprised mostly of school students and teachers. For children of such impressionable age, it would be foolish to expect that they would possess the faculty to filter the truth out of the myth presented to them by these so called scientists. The implications of such events are twofold. Firstly, such claims prove that the real desire of the claimants is to develop proximity to the Hindutva nationalists wielding power at the centre. Secondly, in India, scientific temper and science education already develop as two disjoint subjects when it comes to educating young minds. When such deluge of pseudoscientific claims come from the stage of Indian Science Congress, the problem intensifies.
The AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Naturopathy, Siddha, Homeopathy) ministry was set up in 2014 to promote a host of medical practices that are majorly pseudoscientific . On one hand the central government is investing on such pseudoscientific practices by forming a separate ministry, on the other hand healthcare facilities are increasingly being privatised rendering them out of the reach of the common people. In the rural settings people already are heavily dependent upon quacks leading to premature deaths from even curable diseases. This issue needs to be addressed at the local level by promotion of awareness against the prevalent pseudoscientific methods, more importantly there needs to be government health centres that impart affordable conventional healthcare measures. Instead of all these, the measures that are being taken (like AYUSH) are pushing people backwards in time. In December 2016, IIT Delhi held a workshop to initiate a national project to validate the health benefits of panchgavya (a concoction of urine, milk, dung, curd, and ghee obtained from cow). IIT Delhi even received fifty research proposals on this matter from various institutes . The Central University of Kerala has recently issued a circular restricting research topics to only matters of ‘national priority’ . Such diktats impose boundaries on the freedom of operation of researchers and go against the temper of scientific investigation.
Dissent has the power to resist the increasing Hindutva Fascist tendencies within the nation. Hence, the Hindutva brigade actively promotes pseudoscience to crush the spirit of dissent that comes from flourishing of scientific temper. In pre-WWII Germany, Hitler rallied the people of Germany against the Jews by spreading the idea of Aryan racial superiority. This leaf out of history reinforces the fact that patronage of pseudoscience is a common mode of operation of Fascist regimes. In the Indian context too, pseudoscience would gain stronger grounds with deepening of Fascist tendencies unless strong voices of dissent emerge from within.
2. Chowdhury, S., & Kundu, P. (2018). Alternate Systems of Medicine in India—How Pervasive and Why? Journal of Health Management, 20(2), 178–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/0972063418763653