I was 8 years old when Shaktiman, my first childhood hero, was trying to convince me that I too could spin and fly off to places. The fantasy was shattered with education and reality. So it is with some wonder and should I say awe when I read and hear comments from our senior leaders---Prime Minister, Ministers, Chief Ministers---as they make claims that make me relive my Shaktiman days. Where imagination blurred reality and where irrationality overtook reason to a point where myths became fact.
The comments coming out now faster by the day equate Narada with Google, trace Internet to the Mahabharata days, link cancer to sin, and defy science by insisting that the cow is the only animal that inhales and exhales oxygen.
A sample of just 21, our leaders coming of age:
1. “Just like Narada, Google is the source of information.”- Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat. April 30, 2018.
2. “After pursuing mechanical engineering one should not go for civil services. Instead, civil engineers should join civil services as they have the knowledge and experience to help build administration and society.”- Biplab Kumar Deb, Chief Minister of Tripura. April 28, 2018.
3. “I have no hesitation in saying that (Dr B R) Ambedkar is also a Brahmin. Ambedkar is a Brahmin because his surname, Ambedkar, a Brahmin surname, was given by his teacher, a Brahmin. There is nothing wrong in calling a learned person a Brahmin. In that context I will say proudly that Honourable (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji is also a Brahmin”- Rajendra Trivedi, speaker of Gujarat Legislative Assembly. April 28, 2018.
4. "India has been using internet since ages. In Mahabharata, Sanjay was blind but he narrated what was happening in the battlefield to Dhritarashtra anyway. This was due to internet and technology. Satellite also existed during that period."- Biplab Kumar Deb, Chief Minister of Tripura. April 17, 2018.
5. “Tripura Chief Minister’s observations about the happenings of the Puranic period are topical. It is virtually impossible to conceive of devices like ‘Divya drishti’,Pushpaka Ratha’,etc without some kind of prototype and study thereon”- Tathagata Roy, Governor of Tripura. April 17, 2018.
6. “Each and every custom and ritual of Hinduism is steeped in science; every modern Indian achievement is a continuation of our ancient scientific achievement. Even Stephen Hawking said, our Vedas might have a theory superior to Einstein’s law E=MC^2.”- Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests and Climate Change- Government of India. March 16, 2018.
7. “There are mantras which codified ‘laws of motion’ much before it was discovered by the Newton. Hence it is essential that traditional knowledge must be incorporated in our curriculum,”- Satyapal Singh, Minister of State in Human Resource Development Ministry. February 28, 2018.
8. “Darwin’s theory (of evolution of humans) is scientifically wrong. It needs to change in school and college curriculum. Since the man is seen on Earth he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, have said they saw an ape turning into a man.”- Satyapal Singh, Minister of State in Human Resource Development Ministry. January 20, 2018.
9. “Homosexuality is a genetic flaw and we cannot celebrate it. We cannot treat it as equal to normal behaviour.”-Subramanian Swamy, MP, Rajyasabha. January 8, 2018.
10. "God makes us suffer when we sin. Sometimes we come across young men getting inflicted with cancer or young men meeting with accidents. If you observe the background you will come to know that it's divine justice. Nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice,"- Himanta Biswa Sarma, Health Minister of Assam. November 21, 2017.
11. “Ram na ek ek teer, ek ek missile haata. Ane ISRO je kaam kare chhe, yeh Bhagwan Ram ye, tyaare chhodta hata. (Every arrow of Ram was a missile. The work that ISRO is doing, Lord Ram used to release those).”- Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat. August 26, 2017.
12. "If we link infrastructure with Lord Ram, imagine what kind of engineers he had at that time to build that Ram Setu bridge between India and Sri Lanka. Even squirrels contributed in building that bridge.”- Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat. August 26, 2017.
13. "Virgin means unmarried, nothing objectionable in it."- Mangal Pandey, Health Minister of Bihar. August 3, 2017.
14. "Peacock too has his qualities. He is a lifelong celibate. He does not indulge in sex with peahen. The peahen gives birth after it gets impregnated with the tears of the peacock. A peacock or a peahen is then born.”- Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Rajasthan High Court. May 31, 2017.
15. “Cow is the only animal that inhales and exhales oxygen.”- Vasudev Devnani, Rajasthan Education and Panchayati Raj Minister. January 14, 2017.
16. “The idea behind Yogic farming is to empower the seeds with the help of positive thinking. We should enhance the potency of seeds by rays of parmatma shakti.”- Radha Mohan Singh, Agriculture Minister. September 13, 2015.
17. “If you want to save yourself from cancer, there is a need to protect cows on a priority because cow urine is effective in curing cancer completely.”- Shankarvai Bhegad, MP in Rajyasabha. March 19, 2015.
18. "Today we are talking about nuclear tests. Lakhs of years ago, Sage Kanad had conducted a nuclear test.” and "Astrology is the biggest science. It is in fact above science. We should promote it."- Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Uttarakhand's former chief minister. December 3, 2014.
19. “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.”- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. October 25, 2014.
20. “We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. October 25, 2014
21. “Climate change? Is this terminology correct? The reality is this that in our family, some people are old ... They say this time the weather is colder. And, people’s ability to bear cold becomes less. Climate has not changed. We have changed. Our habits have changed.”- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. September 5, 2014.
The above list is not exhaustive. Even more stupefying is the state of school education in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. As per a report published in Indian Express, a compulsory reading list is given to government primary and secondary schools which has its own take on science, particularly landmark inventions. Written by Dina Nath Barua, Tejomay Bharat is one of the nine books distributed in schools.
The book states, “What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this…” (on Page 60).
“We know that television was invented by a priest from Scotland called John Logie Baird in 1926. But we want to take you to an even older Doordarshan… Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti. There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra” (on Page 64).
“We should not demean ourselves by calling our beloved Bharatbhoomi by the shudra (lowly) name ‘India’. We should not fall for this conspiracy and forget the soul of our country…” (on Page 53).
As per a report by Mumbai Mirror, a new textbook describes Akbar's rule as one trying to "bring India under a central authority”. It adds that Akbar's endeavors were challenged by Maharana Pratap. Not just Akbar the textbook finds little to no mention of other Muslim rulers. Razia Sultana – the first woman to rule Delhi – remains conspicuously absent, as do Sher Shah Suri, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and others.
In Rajasthan, textbooks are changed to speak for government. History chapters have been tweaked.
Science and History seem to have become the Bharatiya Janata Party’s main opponents.