Monday, 30 July 2012

Play with thy Neighbour: Indo-Pak Cricket Series

Ram Puniyani

There has been mixed response to the BCCI's decision to host Pakistan Cricket Team in December-January for a limited-over’s series (July 2012). Ex cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and Kirti Azad are critical of this decision of BCCI, while many others on both sides of the divide have welcomed this idea. Imran Khan, ex-cricketer turned politician welcomed the idea saying that this will pave the path for bringing normalcy to relations between the two countries through negotiation table. For Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan, this is a step of confidence building between the two countries.

As such the relation between these two neighbours has gone through lot of ups and downs. Despite three wars between the two countries, some of the core issues are of such a nature that they cannot be resolved through violence and war, and so these problems persist from so many decades. The South Asian countries, and India Pakistan in particular, inherit the colonial legacy from the past and the problems related to the policy of imperialist power, the United States, at present. Issues like Kashmir, which is leading to massive suffering to Kashmiris, is a big thorn in the flesh, but it can only be resolved through a multi layered dialogue and gradual resumption of the relationship amongst different groups-areas. The current atmosphere of lack of trust, manifested though the VISA policies of both the countries are a good reflection of what should not be there between good neighbours. At present if one wants to visit Pakistan, the VISA is not easy and one is granted a city wide VISA for Pakistan and even then one has to report to the local police after one lands there. Many restrictions are there for those visiting from Pakistan to India.

The popular perception in India is that Pakistan is responsible for all acts of terror in India. While in Pakistan many things are attributed to the role of India, its interference in the Pakistan. In India one can see that with the mention of word Pakistan, there is an instant fright descending in the atmosphere. The latest attack of 26/11 is still being investigated and it has caused lot of worsening of the image of Pakistan in Indian psyche. As such right since partition and more so during last three decades these images are mutually negative. The whole politics of oil, as reflected in and around the Afghanistan-Taliban-Al Qaeda, which is primarily the creation of US policy of maintaining dominance in the region for the sake of controlling the global oil reserves, has the accomplice in the form of Pakistan army. The distinction between the US-Army nexus on one side and Pakistani civil society-democratic government is not much realized in India. All charges are attributed to Pakistan in general, leading to a negative feeling here. On the top of that the policies of Pakistan are reflected on to Indian Muslims, who in turn are supposed to be more loyal to Pakistan, an absurd and baseless assumption.

This assumption was exploited in a surreal manner by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In the after math of Godhra train burning-Gujarat pogrom, first he attributed the train burning to Pakistan’s ISI and then kept challenging General Parvez Musharff, the then President of Pakistan, who had usurped power from democratic Government, in his speeches. This went to the absurd limits of communal polarization when during the Gujarat elections the hoardings came up with Modi on one side and Musharraf on the other side, as if Modi is fighting election against Musharraf. The underlying message which Modi tried to give was that India is under threat from Muslims as symbolized by Musharrf and Modi is the saviour for Hindus. Musharrf was used as a symbolism for Indian Muslims. This shrewd trick helped the communal forces to consolidate themselves in Gujarat and other places, also leading to the victory of Modi in the post pogrom Gujarat elections.

As such there is a growing realization in both the countries that the destinies of both the countries are linked together and it is in their own interests to grow more congenial relations, which in turn will help solve most of the bilateral issues. Surely Pakistan army and the ultra nationalists-communalists in India are against such a rapprochement. Despite this there are many elements that are longing for a peaceful south Asia. In this context the people to people initiatives like Pak-India People’s forum, which keeps linking the citizens of both the countries on many occasions, need to be strengthened. This forum also plays a positive role wherever possible like solving the issues of fishermen who are caught by the sea guards. This is one amongst many initiatives undertaken by this platform of amity and peace. Similarly Aman ki Asha, a joint project between two big dailies, India’s Times of India and Pakistan’s Jang is creating ripples of peace in a slow and sustained manner.

As such there is a need to revive the SAARC, the joint platform of South Asian countries for regional cooperation. This platform came up with great amount of hope but seems to have lost steam from quite some time. India-Pakistan are the major players in this arena while the other South Asian countries share a lot of legacy, commonality of problems and their cooperation is in the interest of all of them. In this direction the peace loving individuals of South Asia have been contributing by keeping the links alive through various forums sowing the seeds of hope.

Today, this longing for bilateral relations and peace is finding a growing articulation in the civil society in Pakistan as well. Pakistan army, with its own vested interests is averse to such measures of peace, but our hope and wish has to be a stronger democracy in Pakistan, which will surely be looking forward to strengthening the bonds of amity between the two countries. It also reminds us as to how much both these countries are inflating their defence budget, year after year, projecting the threat of the ‘neighbouring enemy’. This inflated defence budget is at the cost of the basic needs of social welfare, which are the dire needs in both the countries.

Surely to begin with both the countries not only need to restore the cricket but also take the steps in improving ties in the area of trade, health and education. There is also a dire need to loosen the tightness of VISA regime, which is stifling the bilateral visits of civilians.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Eating Glass & Drinking Nitric Acid: Hata Yogi’s Other Tricks!

B Premanand

(Note: Some of the items described in this series should be performed only under proper expert guidance. One should never try them on one's own)

Experiment No. 49

Effect: A thread is put in one nostril and taken out through the other.

Props: 12" twine thread.

Method: There is a connection between the two nostrils. One has to practice putting the thread in one nostril without sneezing. Bend the top of the thread a little, push thread in the nostril and just exhale forcibly. The thread will come out of the other nostril. Then slowly draw it out.
Experiment: 50

Effect: Eating glass.

Zhang Yujian- a Chinese stuntman -eating light bulbs
If you know how to eat a banana you can also eat glass! Take a fused clear-bulb, wrap it in a handkerchief and smash it on the ground. Take a piece of glass from the broken bulb, put it on your tongue, transfer it to the masticating teeth and grind it into smooth powder. Fill your mouth with water, gargle and swallow the water with the powdered glass.           

Props: One fused clear bulb, one handkerchief, a jug of water, an empty glass tumbler, two bananas.     '

Method: Call a rustic boy from the audience, give him a banana and ask him if he knows how to eat a banana. Most village children peel the skin off the banana, and hold the peeled fruit in their hands to eat it. Stop him when he touches the banana with his hand and tell him that is not the way to eat a banana. One should not touch food unless the hands are properly washed with soap. So after peeling the skin, the banana should be held within its skin and then eaten. Demonstrate this as you eat the banana yourself.

Eating glass is not a trick. One must make sure that the glass pieces are completely powdered. This powder settles in the banana and is eliminated from the digestive system the next day.

What some people do is to spit the powdered glass into the tumbler while drinking water.  The powder of glass is not visible in water.           .

Experiment:  51

Effect: Drinking Nitric Acid.

Hatayogi demonstrated that he could drink Nitric acid, or any other acid as well as potassium cyanide and cobra venom.

Props: Capillary glass tube with large bore, one bottle of concentrated Nitric Acid (laboratory quality), another bottle of the same size one porcelain saucer, a copper piece, drinking water, polythene disk punched out, Vaseline.

Method: Before the performance, empty the Nitric Acid into another bottle of similar size. Clean the acid bottle and fill in with fresh water to the same level of acid. Dip the capillary tube into the Nitric Acid, close the top of the tube with your finger and lower it into the water bottle and release your finger. The liquid will find its own level. Then apply a little Vaseline on the top of the tube and fix the polythene disc on it. Remove the same and keep it on the table. Blow cigarette smoke into the water bottle and seal the opening the same way as the new Nitric Acid bottle.

Call two volunteers from the audience to participate in the experiment. You remove the lid of the water bottle and put the tube into it, at the same time palming the polythene disc on the top of the tube. Remove the tube from the bottle and pour contents of the tube into the saucer. Ask the volunteer to put the copper piece into the saucer when the reaction will start. See that they are satisfied that it is genuine Nitric Acid.

Immediately take the bottle of water and gulp down its contents. The audience is surprised to see nothing happens to you.

Potassium or sodium cyanide and cobra venom is poured into a double metal vessel. You act as if you are sipping the poison but actually the poison goes to the other side of the can and you show it empty. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Lt. Col Purohit: Acts of Terror and Finding Escape Route

Ram Puniyani

In the wake of the various acts of terror and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s motor cycle being traced, it became clear that the investigating agencies are acting on the wrong thesis that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’. A Pandora’s box opened and the link of ex-ABVP activist, Pragya Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, retired Major Upadhayay, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Swami Aseemanand came to surface, Role of two organizations inspired by the ideology of ‘Hindu nation’, Abhinav Bharat and Santana Sanstha also came to light. The investigations led by Hemant Karkare, by the Rajasthan ATS and National Investigation Agency (NIA) made it clear that there is a deeper nexus of elements like Purohit &Co., those who have been part of terror groups or have been supporting them in various ways. The confessions of Swami Aseemanand, named many more activists belonging to RSS combine, who are currently cooling their heels in jails and are facing investigations for acts of terror.

Lt. Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit
Lt. Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit came to be identified as one of the major player in the whole episode. He is the core person of extremist Hindutva group Abhinav Bharat. He was arrested on 5th November 2008 by Maharashtra ATS for his role in Malegaon blast. It was the investigation of Malegaon blast, particularly under the leadership of Hemant Karkare, which unearthed the whole terror network, which later on came to be termed as Saffron terror by P.Chidmabaram, the Union Home minister. For Purohit and other army officers, the army instituted a court of inquiry.

During the inquiry what Col Purohit said is very revealing. Purohit claimed that he was part of the network as an infiltrator and was keeping his superiors in the loop, keeping them informed. He claims that he infiltrated the terror network to keep a tab on the same. But his statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The major question is if he was doing all this for army, why did army hand him over to Anti Terrorism Squad?

The whole investigation seems to be mired in mystery and lots of facts need a further probe. Tehelka had also published investigative reports naming several ex-military men from the Bhosala Military School and their involvement in the Malegaon and other blasts, which was later confirmed by the ATS. The involvement of other army officers needs to be brought to surface as the whole matter seems to be much serious than just a case of few officers keeping a tab of these terrorist groups.

The blasts taking place in front of mosques and similar places where Muslims congregate for prayers, at the time when they are leaving the congregation was a clear indication of involvement of ‘other’ groups than the usual suspects, in which many a Muslim youth had been arrested and later released due to lack of any evidence whatsoever.

In the light of many a military officers role in these acts, it did not therefore, come as a surprise that Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Chief used the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Bhosala Military school (BMS) say that “military schools run under the aegis of Hindutva institutions are the need of the hour,”.

Looking at the key role played by Bhosala Military School, which is run by a group of people whose sympathies with the RSS is no secret, one fails to understand why the chief bosses of the school were not investigated for their role in the acts of terror? Very few people even know that BMS is one of those rare schools who impart training on service pattern to the students along with regular courses which is aimed at encouraging and preparing them for entry into National Defense Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) etc and other defense services.

Bhosala Military School has a long history. It was set up by Dr. B.S. Munje, the mentor of RSS Sarsanghclak, Dr. K.B. Hedgewar. Dr. Munje was inspired by Benito Mussolini’s fascist methods and believed that one who controls army rules the country. His statue in the Nagpur, where RSS was founded, has this phrase written on the plaque. With this perspective in mind this school was set up to act as a feeder for Indian army. The school was set up with the assistance of British and it supplied officers to the British army. Its training is meant to supply officers for Indian army. Now it emerges from different confessions and statements that the groups involved in terror had deeper connection with this school. What ideology it teaches and what it aims is very clear from some of the statements of the accused.

The phenomenon of Hindutva terror allegedly revolves around the likes of Lt. Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand of RSS to name the two central characters. After Swami Aseemanand’s confession the total picture and their agenda becomes clear. Aseemanand had said that 'bomb is the answer to bomb'. He also wanted to pave the way for the goal of Hindu nation through such terror outfits and their goal was larger than just a blast here and a blast there, they aimed at Hindu nation. Purohit in his statements during interrogation has said that their effort was to fight the Indian Constitution for (Hindu) Nation, “We will fight the Constitution to fight for our nation.” The RSS propaganda that Hindu religion is in danger and it needs to be defended was also stated by Purohit. He also says “many things are wrong in the country and need to be rectified. Hindu religion is in danger. It is our duty to defend Hinduism.” And finally “We have to establish this country in accordance with the Vedic procedures; we want the Sanatan Dharma, the Vedic Dharma.”

The la affair Purohit is getting murkier and murkier. The agenda of Hindu nation, the role of Bhosala military school and other army officers in the whole chain of command cannot be accepted at the face value. It needs a deeper probe and investigation of the whole terror network and the role of army officers, as it is clear that Col Purohit’s statement that he was keeping other army officers in the loop for an operation which was not the part of the army intelligence work, is a matter of worry. The role played by Bhosla Military School also needs to be probed. The ideology which such people are harboring to fight Indian Constitution to build Hindu nation is a clear danger to our Constitution, the democratic values and the plural character of the country. How does one save the values of India’s Constitution, the values of India’s freedom movement?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Walking on Water

B Premanand

In the history of miracles Jesus Christ is said to have walked on water without any props. In 1968 Hata Yogi L.S. Rao, with the connivance of Blitz Weekly, set out to fool a gullible public. Week after week articles published by R.K. Karanjia, told of the supernatural powers of this Hata Yogi. Finally it was announced that, he would walk on water without getting his feet wet. This was advertised as a billion dollar yogic TRICK. Tickets to watch this feat in Bombay one evening were sold in black, and fifty special planes were chartered with camera teams from all over the world to record the yogic walking. The demonstration was inaugurated by Gulzarilal Nanda, the then President of the All India Sadhu Samaj as well as Home Minister in Indira Gandhi's government. Hatayogi showed some tricks like inserting a thread in one nostri I and taking it out through the other, eating glass, walking on fire, and drinking acid: The tank was shown empty under the powerful lights focused on it. After filling it with water, Hatayogi lighted a ganja beedi, approached the tank and prayed while putting one foot in the tank. When his second foot touched the water, he sank like a stone. He was pulled out and explained his failure to the audience. "Last night I fell in my toilet and sprained my leg that is why I cannot walk on water. Our scientists have failed thousands of times to go to moon, but I have failed only this once. When I am cured of this sprain I will walk on water."

RK Karnjia, editor of Blitz
What really happened was that earlier he had challenged Satya Sai Baba to drink cobra venom which he himself would bring because Satya Sai Baba had claimed to be the avatar of Shiva. They were competitors-not in Hata Yoga but in smuggling. Satya Sai Baba sent his goondas three days before the demonstration and destroyed the water tank Hata Yogi had built in cement. There was no time for a new cement tank to be built again. So a metal tank was ordered. But Hatayogi could not divulge the trick behind his feat. He had asked the manufacturers to put two parallel rails length-wise to strengthen the tank. But they had put cross rails also. Thus the ramp which was to rise when water was filled in the tank could not move. Instead of cancelling the walk, he simply put his feet inside the water and went down. But the public was very angry and wanted the ticket money refunded. Hatayogi had to sell all his properties in Bombay to repay the money. He later settled in Bangalore. When Dr. A.T. Kovoor visited Bangalore in 1977 I managed to get Hatayogi to reveal to Dr. Kovoor his trick of walking on water.

The question is why should a person who can walk on water need a special tank to be built? He could have simply walked on the sea at Chowpatty beach. He could have walked on the back-waters of Bombay, or on any river and tank in the area. No human can walk on water unless he is supported by a bridge. For a miracle, the bridge should be invisible. In 1949, I saw a godman walk on the Ganges with two invisible metal ropes under the water. So Hatayogi's plan was to walk on a glass sheet which would rise to the surface when the tank was filled. But agents of Satya Sai Baba had destroyed the cement tank three days before the demonstration. There was therefore no time to build a fresh cement tank. So a metal tank was made by a firm which was so constructed that the glass sheet could not rise when water was filled in the tank. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Live Burial in a Pit under Samadhi

B Premanand

Pilot Saba of Delhi is an expert in live burial. In 1988 he was to perform an underground samadhi for 7 days at Nagpur in a pit of 10' x 10' x 10'. He was challenged as to why he needs such a big pit if after samadhi all his body functions came to a stop. He then agreed to do the feat in a glass chamber just enough for his body to fit. This would be sealed and made air-tight after re­moving the air. However, he never showed up to demonstrate his yogic powers.

Earlier, on October 1980, he had accepted a challenge to bury a person in a small pit just enough for him to sit in. He put Khareshwari Baba, a blind, deaf and dumb person, into a cemented pit of 10' deep and 3.5' square which was sealed. It was found that the helpless baba who did not know what was being done to him, had died inside and his putrefied body was infested with worms when he was removed. Though Pilot Saba had fixed a special contraption for oxygen he had forgotten to have an air exit. So pressure built up in the pit and the victim died.

Experiment: 47

Effect: Yogic burial.

A yogi sleeps on the ground near a pit of 6' x 3' x 3', goes into samadhi and becomes stiff. His pulse is checked and there is no pulse. In the stiff condition his body is lowered into the pit. The pit is then covered with planks or metal l' sheets and sealed with earth on the top. He comes out of the pit after four hours. 

Props: A pit of6' x 3' x 3'. One mat, a Turkish towel, 4' or 8' planks or metal sheets to cover the pit. Digger to spread earth on planks and to seal the pit.

Method: The volunteer lies down, becoming stiff in samadhi and there is no pulse. He is lowered in this stiff position into the pit and placed on the mat spread on the bottom. His face is covered with the Turkish towel so that the mud and the dust that falls when the earth is being spread on the planks do not get into his eyes and nose. The pit is closed with the planks or tin sheets and earth is spread on the planks and sides. The pit is completely sealed. After four hours the pit is opened and his body lifted out still in a stiff condition. He comes to life after a little while.

The air in the pit is enough for a person to remain sealed in for nine hours without any difficulty. Moreover, since the pit is not sealed completely with cement, air enters through the air holes in the ground; one hundred cubic feet of air is necessary for 24 hours. This has to be calculated after subtracting the body volume from the volume of the pit.

Experiment: 48

Effect: Live burial of head in a pit in shirshasana (upside down position). A small pit to fit the head of the mendicant, who does a head stand inside the pit. His assistant fills the pit with sand and he remains in this position for any number of hours.

Props: A pit of 12" x 12" x 12", one piece of thin cloth and cotton.

Method: The cotton is loosely inserted in the nostrils and the head is tied with the towel so that sand and dust does not enter his nose, mouth or eyes. The sand is filled loosely and he gets enough air through the pores in the mud to breath by mouth while standing with his head inside the ground. If someone tries to stamp the earth, the mendicant would jump up as he will get suffocated. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Celebrating Harmony and Peace

Ram Puniyani

Communal violence is the sad reality of South Asian states. India in particular has been witnessing this violence more so after the coming of British. British in pursuance of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’, introduced communal historiography and sections of population who wanted to preserve their feudal privileges, picked up this version of History and used religion as a cover for their politics. Both Hindu and Muslim communalism, in a way played a supplementary role to the British policy of divide and rule. The communal violence, which has been stalking the streets of India is due to numerous factors and is causing immense suffering to the society. Many a social group and many an individuals are doing their bit to ensure that the flames of communal violence are doused and amity prevails in the society.

Vasant Rao Hegiste and Rajab Ali Lakhani
In this light, it was heartening to note the observance of ‘Peace and Harmony’ day, on the anniversary of Vasant–Rajab on 1st July in Ahmadabad. Vasant Rao Hegiste and Rajab Ali Lakhani were two friends who were working for the amity in the society. In the communal conflagration which broke out in Ahmadabad in the wake of post partition tragedy, both of them went in the city to restore peace and amity. The crowd, maddened by the feeling of hate, killed them. The day of their martyrdom is being celebrated in Gujarat by various groups. One recalls there have been many outstanding individuals, thinkers, social activists who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of communal peace. The name of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi comes to one’s mind for his selfless work in the Kanpur violence of 1931. For Gandhi, father of the nation, the Hindu Muslim amity was on the top of agenda and when whole nation was celebrating the release from the clutches of colonial powers he was doing his best in the riot ravaged Noakhali and other places. His efforts were superhuman, as he did not care for his safety, what was paramount for him was as to how to restore the sanity amongst the violent mobs. It is because of this that Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of British Empire and First Governor General of Independent India called him as the ‘one man army’.

One is sure there must be various glorious examples of such superhuman efforts in our community, who need to be remembered with respect. One needs to learn a lot from their values while celebrating their anniversaries. It is all the more important in today’s India as communal violence is, unfortunately marching with relentless speed, changing it’s form and nature constantly. One has seen that since the decade of 1980s the violence in many a north Indian cities, Meerut, Malyana, Bhagalpur and Delhi was in a way revival of this horrendous phenomenon in the Independent India. The massacre in Nellie and Delhi were too dangerous in their extent and damage to human lives. Further down the Mumbai violence of 1992-93 gave us a warning signal that things are worsening on the front of intercommunity relations. This was followed by targeting another minority, the Christians, and brutal murder of Pastor Stains and later the Kandhmal violence came as yet another eye opener for us.

The root cause of the communal violence is the politics in the name of religion. In this the political, social, economic agenda of vested interests are presented in the language of religion. Unfortunately in India this phenomenon is running parallel to the process of global aims of Imperial powers that in pursuit of their control over oil wells have promoted fundamentalism and terrorism in the name of religion. The Imperial power has also demonized one of the major religious communities of the World. This present era has been the one where the deeper process of ‘alliance of civilizations’ has been undermined and the flagship of the vested interests has been the thesis of’ ‘Clash of civilizations’, which is a falsification of the reality of the human history. One knows that human society has progressed due to alliance of diverse civilizations and cultures. While the rulers and affluent have been fighting for increasing their power and wealth, the average people of the world have been allying, intermixing with each other leading to high degree of synthesis in all aspects of human culture, be it food habits, clothing, language, literature, architecture, or be it even the religious traditions followed by people. Social interaction is the moving engine of Human progress.

Vasant-Rajab Shahid Smarak
Jamalpur, Ahmedabad

The divisive politics in the name of religion begins by changing the paradigm of human understanding from the socio economic differences to religious one’s. The core aspect of human stratification runs around economic and social factors while the politics in the name of religion presents it as if the differences amongst the practices preached by clergy are the core points of difference. From last some time the syncretic aspects of society are being undermined and the divisive aspects are being highlighted. The communal politics has the base in the spread of Hate other propaganda. This hate other sentiments are the foundation on which innocent people are killed during the carnages. The carnages also polarize communities along religious lines and ghettoization of minorities follows. This ghettoization further traps the communities in to becoming inward looking and being further demonized.  Today we in India are witnessing a very concerted attempt to marginalize the religious communities.

The way out is very hard and a long struggle to restore the humanism of our society. We, people of different religious communities have a common heritage and our aspirations for better society are also common. What prevents our efforts for a better society is the hysteria created by religion based politics. This hysteria is created around the emotive issues. There is a dire need to change the paradigm of social thought, the one from identity based issues to the one revolving around the rights and livelihood of weaker sections of society. There is a need to overcome the impact of prevalent myths about minorities and stereotypes about them and strengthening the tradition of syncretism, which is our basic hallmark. There is a need to uphold the values of Bhakti and Sufi traditions, there is need to uphold the values of likes of Gandhi, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Vasant-Rajab and their tribe. We do salute this spirit of peace and amity in our traditions and hope this will show us the path to progress and peace in the long run. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: The Curative Power of the Water of the River Ganges

Kerala, the land of my birth, is very similar to Lanka in its topography, climate, fauna flora and even the cultural and ethnic qualities of its peoples. The phonetics of the Malayalam language is more similar to the spoken Tamil of Jaffna than that of South India; yet, the morphology of the Malayalam alphabets is more similar to those of the Sinhala language than the Tamil. The industrious and adventurous nature with their thirst for education make Keralians more similar to the people of the North than those of the South in this country. But, in their social and domestic habits Keralians are more similar to the Sinhalese than the Tamils.

Like Ceylon, the chief products of Kerala are tea, rubber, coconut, paddy and spices. Kerala, like Ceylon, has a coconut-growing wet zone where the Malayalees live, and a palmyra-growing dry zone where the Tamils live. After India attained independence the palmyra country was merged with the Tamil Nadu. The present Kerala is the Malayalam-speaking coconut country formed by the merger of Malabar, Travancore and Cochin. The meaning of the word Kerala itself is the 'land of coconut’.

Devprayag: beginning of the Ganges proper
Courtesy: Wikipedia
The three main religious communities of Kerala arc the Hindus, the Syrian Christians, and the Moplah Muslims. They live happily as good neighbours, sharing many social customs in common.

As in Ceylon, witchcraft and devil dances thrive even to this day among the villagers in Kerala. More than half a century ago, when I was a young boy, it was a common practice to resort to witchcraft whenever anything untoward happened in the family. Most householders, as a result of superstitious beliefs, treasured some sort of' sacred' medicine or talisman which, they imagined, could affect magical cures for all their ailments. For the Nairs it was the 'sacred' water - theertham - from the holy river Ganges, brought by pilgrims who returned from the' sacred' city of Ben ares. For the Syrian Christians it was often the sanctified oil from Antioch or tile 'sacred' water from Lourdes. For the Moplahs it was the water sanctified by the container made to touch the 'sacred' Kaaba stone at Mecca brought yearly by the Haji pilgrims.

From 1921 to 24 my younger brother the late Dr. Behanan T. Kovoor of the Yale University, U. S., and I were students at the University of Calcutta. The city of Calcutta is about 1500 miles from my native town Tiruvalla. It took about five days for us to reach Calcutta by train.

A trip from Tiruvalla to the distant city on the banks of the river Ganges, by two young boys in search of higher education was an unusual event those days along the people of our neighbourhood. Because of the long distance and the heavy expense involved, we used to come home only once a year during the long mid-summer vacation.

Ceremonial Send-Off

Our departure to Calcutta after the holidays was a ceremonial affair. Days be­fore our departure, both my brother and I were feted by our neighbours. During the last few days of our holidays we had practically all our meals in the neighbouring houses irrespective of caste, creed or class. Almost all the Nair families wanted us to bring for them, when we returned at least a few drops of' theertham' (Ganges water). For them, we were extremely fortunate because even in our boyhood we would be getting a chance of bathing in the 'sacred' waters of the 'holy' Ganges, and thus attain 'moksha' without much effort.

A girl selling plastic containers
for carrying Ganges water, Haridwar.
Courtesy: Wikipedia
On the day of departure, our house and courtyard used to get crowded with men, women and children from the neighbouring houses. The men folks in our neighbourhood, who were mostly farmers and petty land-owners, kept away from their normal work that day for the sake of bidding us farewell.

After prayers and blessings by our family priest the Rev. K.P. Thomas, a beloved cousin of mine, our mother insisted that we went round to all the elderly men and women in the group to receive their blessings, which they did by placing their hands on our foreheads, with tears rolling down their cheeks. Many women used to burst out into loud weeping. The sympathetic effect of their weeping on our tender minds made us also shed tears. It was really a touching separation, the effect of which used to linger in our minds throughout the whole journey. Fortunately, on reaching Calcutta, the multifarious attractions of the big city, and the boisterous life in our hostel made us forget fast all about the home and our good neighbours. Such thoughts came back to our minds only when the time for our return trip approached during the next summer.

The Ganges

The river Ganges which has its source in the 'sacred' Kailas (Himalayas) flows down the Gangetic plain for about 1500 miles and falls into the Bay of Bengal. Calcutta is at the mouth of this river. It is in flood throughout the summer months when the snow on the Himalayas melts. Since it is a fast-flowing river, its water is always muddy.

During my long stay in Bengal I bathed in this river only once. It became my first and last bathe in that river because of a shocking experience I had on that occa­sion. As I lifted my head out of the water after a long immersion my head came in contact with a white and slimy object. It turned out to be a highly decomposed dis­membered human hand, partially eaten away by fish. It made me sick, and I had to go without food for a couple of days.

Though prohibited by law at present, during the days of my youth it was the usual practice among the Hindus of North India to ceremoniously deposit the dead bodies of their dear ones into the 'sacred' waters of this holy river. By this they insured 'moksha' for their departed souls. Those who lived far away from this river had to be satisfied by throwing the ashes into it after cremation. More than half a century ago one could see at any time numerous floating carcasses flowing down this river in various stages of decomposition. Thousands of dead bodies were dumped into this so-called sacred river every day at hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the banks of this long river. Yet, millions of pilgrims from allover India 'purify' themselves by not only bathing in it, but also by drinking the polluted water. I have seen devotees pushing away carcasses which come their way, and continue their ablu­tions. They were brainwashed from childhood into the belief that in spite of the pres­ence of decomposing carcasses in it, the water of the Ganges is pure and 'sacred'.

People wash laundry in the Ganges River
Courtesy: Science Daily
As a result of the abhorrence after my first nauseous experience in this 'holy' river, I decided not to take even a drop of water from it to my good neighbours. Since Behanan and I were reluctant to disappoint them, we decided to substitute some good well water for the Ganges water.

The nearest Railway Station to Tiruvalla those days was Kottarakkara. When we got down from the train at Kottarakkara we used to fill two bottles with drinking water from the filter in the waiting room, cork them properly and keep them along with our luggage. From that time onwards the water in the two bottles was called 'theertham' .

To reach Tiruvalla we had to travel about 56 miles by transport bus. There were many buses running on this route, all belonging to different operators. There was much rivalry and competition among those bus operators. This competition was a boon for the passengers as they received very polite and liberal treatments from them. As there was no governmental control over bus transport those days, buses came and went at unscheduled times, took whichever routes the driver liked, stopped whenever the passengers wanted, and cancelled trips according to the whims and fancies of the operators.

To make sure of their fare the conductors and cleaners of the few buses at the Kottarakkara Railway Station used to struggle among themselves to put the luggage of the waiting passengers on the hood of their own buses. Once the luggage was on the top of their bus, they were sure that the owner of the luggage would get into their bus.

When the conductors and cleaners handle our luggage roughly in their struggle to secure their fare, we used to 'beg them to be extra careful about the handling of the two bottles of 'theertham'. The word 'theertham' had an electrifying effect on them as well as the other fellow passengers. They handled the two bottles with due respect, and saw that both of us were given specially reserved seats by the side of the driver. Finally, on reaching Tiruvalla, the bus is diverted from the normal route with the sardine-packed passengers in it, and driven to an extra distance of about two miles to drop us at Kovoor house. After dropping our luggage and us at home the conductor produced a small phial with the humble request for a small quantity of the theertham to be shared among the driver, the cleaner, and himself.

Miracle Cures

We used to entrust the two bottles of theertham to our devoted Christian mother. With pride and pleasure she used to distribute the theertham to our Nair neighbours according to their needs. Till the death of our beloved mother in 1942 she was not told the real truth about the theertham. During the first two days of our arrival home, our neighbours used to flow in to greet us and to get their share of the sacred water.

Next mid-summer too the same fraud was repeated with all solemnity. Thus, for four consecutive years we continued to cheat our Christian mother and the Hindu neighbours with the Kottarakkara Railway Station water, and every holiday we had to give patient hearing to the numerous accounts of miraculous cures affected by the previous year's supply.

Puthur Raman Nair had this to say: "During the last two years we had no need to seek medical help. My mother had a severe attack of diarrhea last April. I just gave her a spoonful of honey with two drops of the theertham in it. That was all. Within three hours she was perfectly cured".

Kilannaparampil Lakshmi Amma said, "Every time my daughte,r got cold ot fever, a single drop of the theertham gave her perfect relief. I was wbject to severe migraine since I had a miscarriage three years ago. Now when I get any symptom of the head-ache coming on, I simply apply a drop of the theertham on my forehead and it stops with that. Even if it comes, the pain is only very slight."

Vettuvelil Parukutty who had two difficult and complicated childbirths when she gave birth to her first two children, had a very easy one at home when her third child was born. All what she did at the third time was to take two drops of the theertham immediately when the labour pain started.

Oliprakkatu Narayana Kuruppu proved the miraculous power of the theertham by an experimental research. He had two grafted mango trees in his garden. Both were of the same stock and of the same age. During the dry season he watered the two trees. Once he added a few drops of the theertham to the water he poured for one of the trees. When the flowering season arrived the tree which got a dose of the theertham flowered, while the other tree produced only a crop of tender leaves.

Chankroth Patchu Pillai immunised all the members of his family by pouring a spoonful of the theertham into the family well. Since taking this precaution not a single member of the Chankroth family fell ill.

There were numerous similar stories of miracles narrated by our neighbours who came to repeat their request for a further supply.


The belief in miraculous powers of holy water is very ancient. Men in every walk and clime have maintained superstitious beliefs in the miraculous powers of sacred and holy objects, persons, places and times. Apart from the psychological effects of suggestion on their minds, there is absolutely no evidence to show that there are objective merits in such beliefs. Just as beneficial effects can be had by hypnotic suggestions, it is possible to have harmful effects, also by such suggestions or beliefs. Many of the neurotic subjects at mental hospitals are the final results of diverse types of superstitious beliefs. He who believes in sacredness is sure to get mentally tor­mented by acts of desecration too. Psychology tells us that such mental traumas are the causes of neurotic afflictions, mostly among the credulous and mentally feeble types. Among the numerous neurotics brought to me, I have found by statistics that the prevalence of neurosis among communities is directly proportional to the extent of superstitious beliefs held by them. Even in such communities, there are more women neurotics than men for the same reason. Better education for girls, and relaxation of the strict observance of the purdah, can help to a great extent to reduce neurosis among women.

A present Deputy Director of Education was some years ago teaching at Jaffna Central College, where I too was a teacher. One day he drank some water from a 'kooja' kept in the staff room. A few hours later another teacher drained the last quantity of water from that kooja into a glass tumbler. Out came a small dead snake along with the water. The Director who heard about it became violently sick. The nausea was continuous, and we got alarmed. Finally, it stopped abruptly when he was convinced that the water he drank was from another kooja which was on the same table. Though the water he drank was from the same kooja. His nausea stopped when he was made to believe blindly that he drank from another. This shows how one can get sick and get cured psychologically. But to argue that sickness which is not psycho­somatic in origin can be cured by faith is absurd.

The Kottarakkara Railway station water did not do any miracle in our neighbourhood. Our neighbours' anecdotes simply showed the credulous nature of those simple folks woo were brainwashed from childhood about the miraculous prop­erties of the theertham. Discarding logic and reason, their conditioned minds only attempted to give interpretations and explanations to suit their blind beliefs.

The so-called beneficial effects of sacrifices, pilgrimages, offerings, prayers, bless­ings, worships, vows, consecrations, dedications, ordinations, Lourdes water, theerthams, prasadhams, sacraments, baptism, anointing, holy ash, yagna, pooja etc., are of superstitious beliefs. He who believes in sacredness is sure to get mentally tor­mented by acts of desecration too. Psychology tells us that such mental traumas are the causes of neurotic afflictions, mostly among the credulous and mentally feeble types. Among the numerous neurotics brought to me, I have found by statistics that the prevalence of neurosis among communities is directly proportional to the extent of superstitious beliefs held by them. Even in such communities, there are more women neurotics than men for the same reason. Better education for girls, and relaxation of the strict observance of the purdah, can help to a great extent to reduce neurosis among women.

Academic education and intelligence need not be considered as marks of non-­gullibility. In fact, some of the highly educated persons in exalted positions are ex­tremely gullible, even resorting to witchcraft. It is only persons capable of rational thinking who can free themselves from credulity. Blind believers are mentally blind in spite of their intelligence and education.

Recently much newspaper publicity was given to the alleged healing power of one D.C. Wijemanne, who calls himself 'Uthama Sadhu'. Numerous persons, includ­ing an ex-cabinet minister, are reported to have gone to this man to get their diseases cured by being blessed by this man.

Like the Railway Station water, it was not the non-existing power of Wijemanne which affected the alleged cures, but the credulity of the minister and the others who went to him to get blessed made them imagine that they were cured.

If the Minister was really convinced about the healing power of Wijemanne, as one who was responsible for the welfare of this country, it was his duty to have per­suaded his colleague the then Minister of Health to appoint 'Uthama Sadhu' to the General Hospital, so that the country as a whole could benefit.

If 'Uthama Sadhu's claims are true, we can expect hundreds and thousands of incurable cases being brought to Ceylon from allover the world for miraculous cures. Indirectly this might even solve our problem of foreign assets!

Courtesy: Abraham Kovoor, Exposing Paranormal Claims, Published by B Pemanand, Indian CSICOP, Podannur- 641023, Date of Publication: 15-03-2000


B Premanand

The Godman of this century is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who has exploited thousands of his disciples by offering to teach them levitation. In 1978 he held the first levitation demonstration of his students at New Delhi. The Supreme Court judge Y.R. Krishna Iyer had written an article that he had himself wit­nessed levitation by the students of Mahesh Yogi at Switzerland.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 
They were seated on 12" thick foam beds, and hopped up and down like frogs. According to Mahesh Yogi this was the first step in flying. Even after two decades of practising TM they have not gone beyond this hopping.

As a guru teaching others the art of levitation, it should be possible for him to fly himself. So we asked him to fly from New Delhi to Old Delhi to prove that levitation is possible. He agreed to prove that levitation is possible if we brought Rs.I0000/-. We were ready at his door-step the next day with this amount. His reply then was that his yogic siddhi of levitation was not for demonstration. We wondered why a person who could fly when ever he willed it should need half a dozen helicopters to get from place to place, and why he conducted the hopping demonstrations.

Experiment: 45

Effect: A yogi levitating

A yogi is seen sitting on a stool with his yoga-dand under one arm pit.  When he goes into samadhi his assistant removes the stool and he is seen to be suspended in mid-air.

Props: One three feet square and 6" high platform with a hole in the centre to hold the yoga-dand through it. A stool, a metal base to fit the bottom of the yogi with a rod upto his arm-pit, and a yoga dand.

Method: The platform is in the centre with the yoga dand fixed in it. The yogi sits on a stool with his hand on the yoga dand. He goes into samadhi. The metal base is inside his kaffni with the rod on the right side under the dress up to the arm-pit and fixed to the centre of the yoga-dand. As soon as he goes into samadhi the stool is removed by his assistant and he is levitating. With the back metal base fixed to Yoga Dand, he is hanging on the Yoga Dand.

Experiment: 46

Effect: Levitation using Hockey Sticks!

This is the best levitation trick I have ever seen without any props near the Red Fort in New Delhi. A bed is on the ground. A person comes and lies on it. He is covered with a very big bed sheet stitched like a mosquito net which has a hole for his head to see. Then he levitates slowly one foot up, then two and later to his height inside the bed sheet.

Props: Two hocky sticks hidden in his pyjama, one big bed sheet stitched like a double mosquito net with thick cloth, with a hole for the head to be seen, and a bed to lie down, and pillows.

Two Indian street magicians, Aas Mohammed and Babban Khan, 
performing the trick

Method: The person walks to the bed without anything visible. He lies on the bed and he is covered with the bed sheet after keeping some pillows on his body, his head protruding from the hole. While music and drums play he takes out the hockey sticks from his pyjama in his hands. He slowly raises the hockey stick inside the bed sheet along with raising his head. Then slowly he squats with the hockey sticks rising up along with him, gets to his knees and then stands erect inside the bed sheet with the hockey sticks in his two hands and his head only seen through the hole. He has levitated to his full height. Then he reverses, sitting on his knees, then squatting and then lying down. The hockey sticks are hidden and the bed sheet is removed and he comes out and waves his hands.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Violence and ‘Clean Chits’: Sangma Backs BJP on Kandhamal

Ram Puniyani

Electoral politics is a strange game. We can observe that with the present weaknesses of electoral system many alliances are made up, which do not have much ideological basis. Amongst many flaws of the present system is the system of first past the poll. This prevents the true representation of people in the elected bodies. Many a times, the players on the political chess board, highlight and undermine facts depending on their political contingencies keeping in mind the need to keep their allies in good humor. One does not know whether these players of politics are ignorant about facts or choose to say things which are needed for their political victory or survival. Examples galore!

P.A. Sangma
Recently the candidate of President’s post, P.A. Sangma (June 25, 2012) when asked about Sangh’s alleged role in Kandhamal killings and Pastor Graham Stains murder said that there is no proof to suggest of their (Sangh-BJP) involvement in these killings. He was also asked about anti-Christian stance of Sangh Parivar and Jayalalita. One does not know how much track Sangama is keeping of the happenings in the Adivasi areas; where anti Christian violence has come up as a major phenomenon. Be it the Adivasi areas of Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra or Orissa, the Christians in the Adivasi areas and the priests and nuns working in these areas have been the victim of violence unleashed in these areas. Also one cannot forget Jayalalitha’s anti conversion bill and its withdrawal in due course.

The most heinous of these crimes was the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stewards Stains on the night of 23rd January 1999, in Keonjhar in Manoharpur district of Orissa. Pastor Stains and his two innocent sons Timothy and Philip (Age 10 and 6 respectively) were sleeping in a jeep, after the function in a village. They were burnt alive by Dara Singh of Bajrang Dal. Right next day the then Home minister Lal Krishna Advani said that Bajrnag Dal cannot do so, he knows them very well. Meanwhile a team of three central ministers, Murli Manohar Joshi, George Fernandez and Navin Pattnaik visited Keonjhar and proclaimed that international forces have done the act of burning as they want to destabilize the NDA Government.

Advani appointed Wadhva Commission. The commission in its report confirmed that the murder was done by Dara Singh alias Ravinder Kumar Pal who had instigated the local people. Dara Singh propagated that Pastor is anti Hindu, he is converting the people to Christianity and his work for leprosy patients is just a cover. Dara Singh was active in the local programs organized by Bajrang Dal and Sangh Privar associates.  Wadhva Commission did point out that there was no statistical significant increase in Christian population in the area where Pastor Stains was working. In 1991 it was 0.299% and in 1999 it became 0.307% The murder of Pastor Stains was part of the phenomenon of anti Christian violence which has been unleashed from last nearly two decades. The major role in this is the anti Christian propaganda done by Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal. BJP’s local leaders are also fairly active in these anti Christian activities. There is a great amount of overlap in the functions of these, progeny of RSS. In Orissa many a BJP MLA-leaders were very active in the process.

Graham Staines and family
The anti Christian violence has been investigated by various citizens’ tribunals and committees. In Gujarat  “Untold Story of Hindukaran in Gujarat’ by a citizens committee in 2006, in Orissa by the Indian People’s tribunal headed by Justice (Retd) K.K.Usha in 2006 and last one the National People’s tribunal (2010) headed by Justice A.P. Shah went into the Kandhamal violence. All reports showed that it is the hate propaganda unleashed by these communal organizations which is the base of violence in Adivasi areas. Interesting observation is that for the same type of activities the Christian missionaries in cities are not attacked by these groups. Moreover many a times the children of the practitioners of this politics do study in the schools run by Christian missionaries in the cities.

In case of Kandhmal, the story was the worst off and the tribunal named many a BJP leaders was playing a major role in the anti Christian violence in Kandhamal. The national people’ tribunal in its report pointed out ““The role of Hindutva organisations in fuelling and orchestrating the carnage has been officially acknowledged. In response to a question posed in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister of Orissa – Naveen Patnaik – candidly admitted, through a written response, that it has been found from the investigation that “members of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal” were involved in the violence. The Chief Minister also disclosed that police had arrested 85 people from the RSS, 321 members of the VHP and 118 Bajrang Dal members in the attacks. He said that only 27 members from these groups were still in jail. This is just one of the observations. As such most of the committees which investigated these acts of violence opined in a similar fashion.

A Christian girl who was burned
 during religious violence in Orissa in 2008

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Sangma is not the first one to mislead the people on such issues. When Mayawati was in alliance with BJP, she came in to campaign for Modi in Gujarat elections and squarely blamed the Muslims for the carnage. Sangma adorns the cross of his religion and invoked that the principle of forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. Very true, that’s what Galdys Stains, the widow of the slain Pastor did. But in the overall case of violence forgiveness comes when the culprits express remorse for their acts and seek the pardon. In the cases of communal violence, the perpetrators are emboldened and become politically stronger after the act of violence, and generally blame the victims for the violence. How to apply the principle of forgiveness to those who uphold their crime? And in this case the people who can forgive these cruel acts are the victims or the survivors of the victims and no one else.

It’s not a coincidence that Sangama has formulated this ‘Sangh Parivar has no role in Kandhmal carnage after his being backed by BJP in the Presidential election!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Yogic Siddhis – Stopping Pulse and Heart Beat

Godmen claim that when they are in samadhi all their bodily functions also stop like the pulse, heart-beat etc. The yogi asks the doctor to check his pulse. Then he goes into 'samadhi' and the doctor is surprised to find there is no pulse.

Experiment - 42

Effect: Stopping the pulse. 

Props: Two lemons or two handkerchiefs, a medical doctor.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
Method: Hold the two lemons in the two armpits. Or make a big knot in the handkerchiefs and tie them on either shoulder with the knots under the armpits. After the doctor examines the pulse, act as if you are meditating and going into samadhi. As you do so, slowly press the lemons or knots under the armpits. The doctor will note that the pulse is slowing down until it actually stops.

Pulse is the movement of blood in the artery. When the lemon or a knot under the armpit is pressed, the blood flow becomes slow and then stops.

A girl student of the Bhopal Medical College got the first prize in All India Yogic Competition at Kozhikode in Kerala for stopping her pulse through yoga. Some of my friends sent me the news report with her photograph. It was found that she had fooled the yoga examiners by simply pressing her hands against her chest muscles and thus stopping the pulse. Later, I found that she had earlier attended one of my lectures.

[Editor's note: A tennis ball too can be used instead of a lemon, as shown in the following video]

Experiment- 43

Effect: Stopping heart beat.

The yogi sits in padmasana and the doctor checks his heart beat. Then the yogi takes deep breaths, controls the breath, and goes into samadhi. The doctor finds that his heart beat is beating faster and faster and then slowing down until it has completely stopped.

Props:  Medical doctor with stethoscope.

Method: Fill the lungs with as much air as possible and keep the breath in by pressure in the abdomen and chest. An air cushion is thus created which absorbs the heart beats so that the doctor cannot detect them with his stethoscope.

Experiment - 44

Effect: Increasing the body temperature.

The yogi asks the doctor to check his temperature which would be normal. He sits in meditation and requests the doctor to check his temperature every five minutes. The doctor finds that within 15 to 30 minutes his temperature has risen to 104° F.

At the Occult Conferences at New Delhi and Bangalore in 1990, the press reported the claims of Dalai Lama that the Tibetan monk can control the cold through meditation. And that they remain naked without feeling cold. In the conference the above stunt was demonstrated as to how they increase the body heat and control the winter cold.

In reality, if the temperature of a person rises above the normal tempera­tures of 97.6°F., he is ill and suffering from fever. If the temperature increases to 102° F or above, he shivers even in hot weather. Thus the increase in body temperature cannot control the cold.

Cold is felt when coldness touches the skin and through the skin pores it gets registered in the brain. So, to control cold we wear warm clothes which do not absorb the cold. They thus help the body to retain its normal temperature. What really helps Tibetans is not the meditation but the application of yak fat all over their bodies which helps the body to retain its heat and also stops the cold from coming directly into contact with skin.

Props: Soap of 8 to 10 ph value of 50 paisa coin size and diameter. A cup of hot and very strong tea made with 3 spoons of tea leaves. A doctor and a thermometer.

Method: Ask the doctor to check the temperature. Chew the soap and swallow it. He will find it normal. Now drink the cup of tea, and act as if you are doing pranayama (controlling the breath). Request the doctor to check your temperature every five minutes. He will find that it is rising by 10 to 20 F every five minutes until it reaches near about 1040 F.

This is a chemical reaction. Heat is generated when alkali and acid come together. The soap is alkaline and tea has 35% tannic acid. When both these combine in the stomach a reaction takes place and heat is generated, which will go on until the reaction is over. After the demonstration drink as much cold water as possible to bring down the temperature to normal. 


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