Friday, 31 May 2013

Port Blair Training Camp on Developing Scientific Temper Concludes

The five day training program to create scientific temper among children by explaining the scientific principles behind many of the so called miracles has concluded on 30th May 2013. 

Science Centre, Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Prof Narendra Nayak addressing the participants

Participants observing with  rapt attention

Burning camphor on tongue

Exposing the miracle of Kamrali Darvesh Darga

Explaining the Yogic stunt of stopping one’s pulse

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Science versus Miracles: Burning Water with Psychic Power

B Premanand

The psychic takes a bowl of water. He moves hishand over the water and it explodes with fire.

Experiment: 117

Effect: Burning water with psychic power

Props: A bowl, hot water, Sodium metal and a thimble.

Method: Hide me sodium metal in the thimble. Show the bowl of water and pass your hand over the water allowing the sodium to drop into the water. It will start burning.

Experiment: 118

Effect: When you spit, fire bursts out.

The psychic fills this mouth with water and spits into the bowl when fire bursts out.

Props:  CP Ether, bowl, Potassium metal and water in a glass tumbler.

Method: Take a bowl containing three tablespoons full of CP Ether and a small piece of potassium metal. Fill your mouth with water and spit it into the bowl. The potassium metal flares up setting fire to the ether which rises to me surface of me water. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Science versus Miracles: Piercing a Balloon without it Bursting

A psychic inflates some balloons. He requests the volunteers to come to the stage and gives them the balloons along with needles. He asks them to prick the balloons with the needles and they all burst. Then he takes a balloon and pierces it with a needle. Nothing happens. Thee balloon retains its shape.

Experiment: 116

Effect: Piercing a balloon without it bursting.
Props:  Balloons, sharp long needles, transparent cellotape and Vaseline.

Method: On the balloons which you are going to pierce with needles, stick a small piece of cellotape at both sides. Pierce the needle over the cello tape and it won't deflate. Or apply Vaseline on that portion. Gum on the cello-tape and the Vaseline seals the air from escaping. Another method is to prick me balloon at the top or bottom and the outside air pressure keeps it intact.

Needle through a Balloon

Have you ever seen someone pop a balloon with a needle? Is it possible to stick a needle through a balloon without popping it?

You will need the following materials:
• balloons
• long wooden or metal skewers
• petroleum jelly
• a sharp pin
• cellophane tape

Blow up a balloon – not too full – and tie the opening shut. Dip the tip of a skewer in Vaseline and spread the Vaseline along the entire length of the skewer. If you are careful, you should be able to push the skewer all the way through the balloon without popping it. Insert the skewer with a gentle twisting motion into the end of the balloon opposite the knot. Continue pushing and twisting the skewer until the tip emerges from the other end, near the knot. Why doesn't the balloon pop?

Now try to stick the skewer into the side of the balloon.What happens?

The rubber in the balloon consists of many long molecules that are linked together. It's similar to the way all of the noodles in a plate of spaghetti stick together. These long molecules are called polymers; when molecules of a polymer are chemically attached to each other, it is called cross-linking. These links hold the polymer molecules together and allow them to stretch…up to a point. When the force or tension pulling on the cross-links is too great, they will break, and the polymer will pull apart.

Look at the rubber near the ends of the balloon where you first inserted the skewer. Does it look lighter or darker than the rubber in the rest of the balloon?

The rubber at the ends of the balloon is stretched out less than in the middle of the balloon. Therefore, there is less force pulling on it. This allows the tip of the skewer to break some polymer cross-links, push aside the molecules of rubber, and slide into the balloon. However, enough cross-links remain so that the balloon holds together.

In the side of the balloon, there are fewer polymer molecules. When you push the tip of the skewer through the rubber in the side of the balloon and the skewer breaks a few of the cross-links, the tension on the remaining cross-links is too great, and the balloon pops.

Do you think there is a way to stick a sharp pin through the side of a balloon without popping it?

Put a small piece of cellophane tape on the side of the balloon and press it down well. Now take the pin and press it through the tape and into the balloon. Does the balloon pop?
The tape sticks to the rubber in the balloon and will not allow the rubber to stretch to the breaking point when the pin pierces the balloon. In other words, the tape reinforces the cross links, and the balloon stays together.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Asghar Ali Engineer’s Struggle for Preservation of Plural Ethos

Ram Puniyani

We lost Asghar Engineer on 14th May 2013. It is an irreplaceable loss to human rights movement, anti communal struggle, to the movement for preservation of secular values. This is a small tribute to my esteemed, close and very dear friend.

The events of last over three decades have shown us, more than before that the efforts of dividing the nation by communal forces have been a major obstacle to social peace and process of development. In India while the communal violence began with the Jabalpur riot of 1961, it is from last couple of decades especially from 1980s that the divisive politics has tried to drive a wedge between different communities along religious lines. The regret is that it is only few social workers and scholars who took this issue in all its seriousness and Asghar Ali Engineer can be counted amongst those few. He also spent major part of his social efforts to fight against the ideology and machinations which led to communal violence and the victimization of minorities, time and over again, year after year.

Engineer was a student when Jabalpore riots took place. It clearly left a deep mark on him. The imprint of this tragedy got reflected in his social engagement with the issues related to communal violence and communal politics all through. His talks and articles reflect about the impact of Jabalpur violence, its impact on nation and its influence on the conscience keeper of the nation, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Engineer’s work on the issue of communal violence, communal ideology and communalization of society spans on a vast canvass and will easily fill volumes.

Asghar Ali Engineer 
10 March 1939 – 14 May 2013

His work, to be referred below, shows that he took a serious interest in understanding the  dynamics of communal violence, he must have spent days in and days out, investigating the communal riots, their aftermath and their impact on the social and political affairs. He can easily be credited with being the major scholar-activist who pioneered this area of investigation. He spent enormous energy to investigate and analyze the communal violence in India. He can also be regarded as the foremost scholar-activist who not only commented on the issues related to communalism, but also gave his forthright opinion on the range of those, against the heavy odds. He has been criticized by the communalists of both the religions for his opposition to the politics of violence in the name of religion.

This article takes an overview of his work in the area of communal violence investigation and his contribution to campaigns for promotion of secular values. It is based on understanding his work from the vantage point of a close working relationship with him as a friend and associate. I have also tried to take the overview of his massive contribution from the point of someone who not only witnessed his work from close quarters, with awe admiration and some criticism, but also tried to learn from him to give direction to my own work.

Communal Violence

The communal violence of Jablapur (1961) shook Engineer very deeply; the very concept of violence in the name of religions was anathema to him as he was steeped in the spirituality of Islam right from his childhood. He was taught that Islam does not preach violence, and no religion teaches violence, so why this violence in the name of religion. This is the point when he decided to devote his life to promote communal harmony. It was an event which was to shape the course of life and work. He not only intervened after the events of communal violence to douse the fire of the violence but made it a central part of his initial life as an activist to investigate the acts of violence in depth. Starting from Biharsharif riots to Gujarat carnage, he spent time in unraveling the truth of the violence mostly by field studies. His reports on these events are a landmark in the area of riot investigation, in understanding the underlying machinations of this phenomenon. Biharsharif was a stronghold of CPI due to its following amongst the Bidi workers. Dr Engineer could unravel that RSS in order to spread it hold in the area, used the dispute between Yadavs and Muslims over the land for cemetery, to instigate the violence (1981). 

Godhra witnessed riots on and off during 1980-81. Engineer investigated these riots as a part of a team. The conflict here was mainly between Sindhis and Ghanchi Muslims. While Sindhi immigrants were looked down by other Hindus, for various reasons but those Hindu groups supported them against Muslims. The material reasons of poverty of Ghanchi Muslims and growing demands of Sindhis for facilities was the root cause of the trouble which assumed religious color. The report pointed out that rumors played a lot of role in this violence.

Engineer also studied the Ahmedabad violence of 1982. Extensive field investigation was done for this. In this case the poor Muslim locality of Kalupr and Daryaganj face the brunt of the violence. An incident over kite flying turned into stone throwing and violence. Just prior to this; VHP had started its work in these areas and prepared the ground for the skirmishes. VHP virulently talked against the conversions of Dalits to Islam. The communal forces resorted to heavy propaganda, especially through distribution of leaflets in the area. These leaflets used a communal version of history, demonization of Muslim kings, and emphasis on singing Vande matram, and opposing those who kill cow. Some people drew the attention of Gujarat government to this virulent propaganda, but there was no response to those appeals.

Pune and Sholapur were in the grip of violence in 1981-82. These were precipitated in the aftermath of Ahmedabad violence and VHP as usual had been at the forefront of spreading the communal venom. It was a period when VHP had launched a Jan Jagaran (People’s Awakening) campaign all over India. This campaign was based on demonization of Muslims as foreigners, beef eaters, etc. This was also a riot which took place in the aftermath of Meenkshipuram conversion of dalits to Islam in 1981. Dr. Engineer makes a very pertinent point while relating the communal violence to the core issue of atrocities on dalits. He points out, “VHP is raising the hue and cry of conversions of Harijans in Meenakshipuram so that people do not pay attention to the screams of dalits burning in the pyre of discrimination.” (Communal Riots in Post Independence India, P 265)

The aggressive campaign of VHP intimidated the Muslims. VHP took out a procession with portraits of Golwalkar and Manusmiriti, along with those of Gandhi and Ambedkar. The procession tore down the hoardings with Muslim names, including the one of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and shouted anti Muslim slogans. The procession changed its permitted route and entered Muslim locality, attacked Muslim hotels and shops were stoned.

In Sholapur also situation was similar. Here they propagated the myth of rising Muslim population to provoke the people. Here also trouble began with VHP procession on 15th Feb. 1982. The procession when it came near Punjab Talim Mosque, it started giving anti Muslim provocative slogans. There was attack on small shops owned by Muslims after which Muslims were attacked.

Meerut riots have also been a big sore on our polity. Meerut a city with great syncretic traditions also suffered the violence. Here the main goal was to co-opt the dalits, to give them liquor etc and to use them for violence against Muslims. Here the riot had more political reasons than economic ones. The riot was instigated on the issue of some piau (where one gets water to drink). One Muslim advocate and another trust were involved. Tension mounted in April 1982 and the provocative propaganda was stepped up. Biased attitude of police and communal slant of newspapers added to fuel to the fire. Similarly Vadodara Hyderabad and Assam riots were also studied by him.

His major observations have been that a small incident is taken advantage of by communal forces, the rumors add havoc to the situation and communalized state apparatus, police in particular, plays a partisan role, worsening the plight of minorities.

Apart form these riots of Mumbai 1992-93 (Report of EKTA Samiti, 1993) Gujarat carnage has also been studied by him (Sowing Hate and Reaping Violence, CSSS 2003). The studies by him have been used as a base by many a scholars to make interpretations and conclusions about the phenomenon of communal violence. He does interpret every riot on its ground and the specificities of the particular violence are well reflected in his studies and reports.  Another aspect which emerges from his studies and reports is that gradually the intensity of communal violence is worsening, and it did peak in Gujarat violence. He has vividly presented the failure and complicity of police machinery in this violence. It seems that the deeper process of communalization has been going up in last three decades. And now even the other minority Christians have also been brought under the chopping block of communal forces.
He also draws our attention to the fact that these episodes are not sporadic or spontaneous. There is a deeper motive behind these. There is a good deal of planning in such episodes. His other studies-reports show that popular perceptions about minorities lay the base for violence, the propagation of myths and biases against Muslims and Christians make the job of the communal group easier. What is undeniable is that communal forces take advantage of every conceivable opportunity to strengthen them, first by instigating the violence, then perpetuating it and in the process they increase their political power.

Apart from his own book-reports on the violence he has edited several volumes on the issue Communal Violence in Post Independence India, Communal Violence after Independence, Bhivandi Riots, and Communalism and Communal violence to name the few. He continued to chronicle the communal riots on regular basis and these were published as Issues in Secular Perspective, every year the January issue of this periodical carried his compilation and analysis of Communal Riots of the year past. (Also posted on CSSS-ISLA. COM)


Activist’s scholars in India have faced a challenging task of understanding, defining and intervening in the situations related to communal violence. How does one understand the phenomenon of communalism in Indian society? Why India is plagued with this problem? These must have been the issues dogging his mind when he began his parallel study of Indian history and analysis of contemporary issues.

While unraveling the Indian history, the communal interpretation of which is major component of communalization of social thinking, he focused on overcoming the communal interpretation of history and presented the view of looking as history of kings as battles for power and wealth. He understands lives of people as an ongoing journey of interaction, some frictions and major synthesizing tendencies resulting in syncretic traditions. His major book on this, Communalism in India (Vikas, 1995) gives a good reflection of his thinking on the issue. He tried to evolve his workshops with different sections of society on these lines. Later he came out with many articles and books on this issue. (List appended)

In his work the medieval history is presented not as a battle between Hindu and Muslim kings but as battles between kings for power and wealth. He draws heavily from original sources and from the works of national Historians. The issue of temple destructions, Jijia, policies of Muslim kings, spread of Islam and other aspects of social life during that period gives a good reflection of those times and is an effective tool in breaking the myths and misconceptions in peoples mind about it. The traditions of Sufis, Bhakti saints and their emphasis on values of love and amity is brought out effectively. The mixed traditions of society do convey that Hindus and Muslims were good companions and religion was not the cause of discord, the social interests were, and sometime surely these interests did come in the garb of religion. But communalism as a political phenomenon was introduced here after the coming of British rule.

He takes up the vexed issue of role of Muslim leadership in freedom movement and the role of communalists, Muslims and Hindus both in aggravating the communal violence even in pre-independence India. He handles the issue of partition of the country very delicately to focus that the main responsibility of partition lies on the head of British, while Congress leadership and Jinnah’s obstinate nature added to the issue. He seems to agree more with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on this point that partition could have been prevented had Maulana’s suggestion of sticking to Cripps Mission proposals been accepted.

As a part of dispelling myths about Muslim minorities he has written on the ‘Role of Muslims in Freedom struggle’. Fascinated by the approach of Gandhi in politically uniting different communities and emphasizing on non-violence and peace he has also compiled volume on Gandhi and communal harmony. His fascination for Gandhian approach to communal problems is seen in his work all through. His sense of Gender justice is very strong and he has shown how Islam gives equality to women, and highlights how women are the worst victims of communal violence. The list of his contributions and web site give an ample insight into his concerns and how he has handled them in a humane manner. His regular publication, Secular Perspective has a good circulation and is reproduced in many a websites and newspapers across the globe.

Secular Intervention:

It is difficult to decide as to which aspect of Engineer’s work is more important than other. There is a deeper integration in different facets of the work and one can see the deeper connection between different facets of his work.

His intervention in social issues began with his concern for communal harmony. His urge to study and understand the communal problem began with the tragedy of Jabalpur violence, later his study led him to intervene and undertake the campaigns and awareness work to promote communal harmony work. In Mumbai from late sixties he brought together like minded friends in to groups, Awaz-e-Biradaran. This group started talking about communal problem and raising the awareness about need for harmony through tasks in schools and colleges. As Engineer had deep interest in Urdu literature also, he did come in contact with prominent writers who also got involved in helping in the harmony work. With outbreak of Bhivandi riots, 1970, he camped in Bhivandi, along with friends including Balraj Sahni the renowned actor and Vinod Mubai, for two weeks, going to villages and talking to the victims and helping them. His group also involved prominent writers to issue the message of peace through All India Radio.

In Mumbai he also became part of Indo Pak friendship movement. At the same time he came in contact with the Sampradayikta Virodhi Committee (Committee against Communalism) in which doyens like Subhadra Joshi and D.R. Goyal were associated and Engineer started contributing to their work.

The response of Muslim leadership to the issue of Ramjanmbhumi disturbed him immensely, he held that Muslim leadership should be in the background, and the issue should primarily be tackled by secular activists and scholars. He also brought to the notice of Muslim leadership that it is important to agitate on the issues of Muslim poverty and backwardness. The Gopal Singh Committee report, which was lying in the cold storage, needs to be implemented. He himself involved many secular activists to issue appeals for peace.

He took initiative to form EKTA Committee in the wake of Meerut riots in 1987. This became the platform for trade unions and other progressive people of Mumbai to campaign for peace and to oppose the rising tide of communalism.

I witnessed his work directly mainly from 1992-93. During the Mumbai riots he undertook many a peace marches in troubled areas. The lasting impression in my mind is that of a sincere, honest and committed scholar activist. During the Mumbai violence, his office became a natural place for all the activists to meet and during those meetings over hundred activists used to throng to his office, standing in different corners of the small office, even balcony of the office used to be full to the brim. He used to sit in the middle, on the floor and used to conduct the meting and make the plans for action. Most of the planning’s were peace marches and community work. Behrampada, an area near Bandra was given special attention for work, peace marches. Peace marches were also organized in different part of the city.

These marches had important effect on the psyche of society and these gave lot of hope to the victims. As a peak of these efforts on 26th January 1993, in the thick of communal violence looming on the horizon, he organized a Peace march into the main areas of Mumbai. These activities were supplemented by the investigation into the Mumbai riots and the report brought out by EKTA Committee was remarkable for its in-depth work. This brought him face to face with the reality that police; the arm of the state to control the violence itself is much communalized. He decided to approach the police authorities for conducting workshops for communal harmony. It will be impossible to count the number of these workshops scattered in different parts of Mumbai, Mahrashtra and all over the country. He was faced with the challenging questions based on the biases against Muslims, their food habits, violence nature, Muslim Kings destroying temples, polygamy and what not. To his credit he has been conducting this difficult workshop with dignity and modesty coupled with deep scholarship of the issues.

Center for Study of Society and Secularism

Meanwhile he took up the task of formalizing the awareness programs and laid the foundation of Center for Study of Society and Secularism, which has emerged as the premier center for spreading awareness about secular issues. The CSSS, as we refer to it in brief, has also undertaken research on the contemporary issues relating to the National Integration. On awareness front CSSS began experimenting with various modules for different sections of community. Its workshops ranged from half a day affair to seven day in depth workshops for serious activists and teachers. These workshops cover the theme starting from History to the contemporary issues, terrorism, Islam and peace, values of freedom movement. I can guess that thousands of activists and others must have benefited from these workshops. CSSS has also set up Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution to formalize the training of activists into secular values. Plans were also made to initiate the longer training for activists, teachers and students.

His own engagement with multiple lectures and accepting infinite invitations from all over the country and globe are another facet of his work. What needs a mention here is his membership of National Integration Council during the UPA regime (2004-2009). He forthrightly raised the issues related to harassment of minorities in the name of terrorism amongst other issues. His interventions, along with the similar ones’ from other important members and the efforts of tribunal on the issue, did affect the Government policy. With these interventions the routine pursed by Police authorities to arrest large number of innocent Muslims youth in the wake of blasts anywhere, came to halt.

He has also been a major part of the process to bring together all the activists working for the cause of secularism. Groups working for communal harmony all over the country have come together as a platform from last few years, All India Secular Forum.     

Touching Moments

While one is talking on the social contribution of a person of high stature, there are some anecdotes which have been very touching at personal levels. I have shared lot of meetings and travels together along the course of our work. The interaction during these periods has been learning and sharing experience for me. One is privy to sharing his thoughts and ideas on most of the issues.

I cannot help but recount an anecdote, which has left a deep impression on me. One of the mornings we were standing in front of one of the meeting halls in the Mumbai University campus. The seminar was to begin in another 10-15 minutes or so. As we were waiting, one of the speakers came in a taxi and we welcomed him. As we were talking to the speaker, the taxi driver got down, did a respectful namaste (greeting) to Engineer and said, ‘Sir please continue your work,  your writing, it is a source of peace for the society’. I am sure there must be innumerable persons around the globe with similar sentiments for him.  

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Science versus Miracles: Eating Hot Chillies

B Premanand

A holy man goes on eating hot chillies like sweets to prove that he is above sensation. He also offers some of the chillies to the audience and when they eat they find them very hot.

Experiment: 115

Effect: Eating hot chilies.

Props: Pure Olive Oil, hot Chillies

Method: Unless food gets dissolved in saliva, absorbed by the taste receptacles, and that your tongue and mouth is fully coated with olive oil. Then when you eat chillies, they are not directly in contact with your saliva and the taste receptacles. So you do not have the burning sensation in the mouth.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

US: No Entry for Mr. Modi

Ram Puniyani

Mr. Narendra Modi, for whom some countries are warming up to relate to him in Europe and in the East; the latest report from US must be very disheartening. Despite a strong lobby for pressurizing to grant him Visa, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has called on the Obama administration to maintain a visa ban on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the pogrom of 2002 that claimed over 2,000 lives and displaced over 150,000 people, many of whom are still in makeshift houses.

The commission chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett, of the US commission for international religious freedom (USCIRF) said that "There is significant evidence linking him (Modi, added) to the violence and the terrible events that took place in Gujarat and for this reason, a visa would not be appropriate," In recent times Modi seems to be the only person so disgraced by the Human rights watch body. John Kerry, the present Secretary of the state of United States, had similar position about Modi, when he was the senator. He had written to the State department to the effect that Visa should be denied to Modi on the grounds of his possible role in 2002 anti Muslim pogrom. The US Intentional Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) bars entry of aliens ‘responsible for directly carried out, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’.

The US panel points out that there is a significant evidence linking Modi to the carnage. It is on this ground that Modi is on the Visa ban list from 2005 of US, and the recent efforts of pro-Modi lobbyists is not cutting any ice, in the face of the evidence against Modi. The report also takes cognizance of Muslim community’s suspicion that Maya Kodnani, who has been jailed, is a ‘fall guy’ for Modi, a ‘sacrificial lamb’ so to say. The Commission has also put India in tier two, as for as religious freedom is concerned. It also points out that the bringing in of ‘Freedom of religion’ bills in different states of India has increased the intimidation and atrocities against religious minorities in India. This trend of bringing in such bills is more in BJP ruled states, while few other states have fallen into this unconstitutional trap.

In India last three decades in particular have seen the rise of sectarian tendencies and intimidation of religious minorities. Sikhs in 1984 (Delhi), Christians in Dangs, Kandhamal and in various scattered acts of violence in Adivasi areas in particular, and Muslims in an ongoing manner in Meerath, Malyana, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Gujarat, various places in UP etc. The intimidation is being orchestrated at social level as well. One example of this is the religious congregations like Shabri Kumbh, the ones’ held in Dangs and many other places, through which Hindus particularly the Adivasis are frightened. The sectarian violence against Muslims is leading to a situation where the whole community is being relegated to the status of second class citizenship. Various states have brought in ‘Freedom of Religion Bill” which in an Orwellian manner prevents the free choice of religions by the people, a right granted by the Indian Constitution. These laws cannot stand the test of the values of Indian Constitution. But they give a big handle to the communal forces in collusion with the section of communalized state apparatus to intimidate the hapless religious minorities. The underlying reason of these tactics is to polarize the communities along religious lines, to prepare the ground for the ascendance of Religious nationalism, the communal fascism.

The acts of violence against the minorities are changing their pattern. On one hand instead of big massive violence, a scattered sustained violence is being organized in different parts of the country. The target is the non BJP ruled states like UP and Maharashtra in particular. In these states in particular local city based communal violence is taking place and communalizing the society. This trend will inherently strengthen the diehard communal party, which is the electoral wing of the agenda of religious nationalism. While Modi has been too clever and has changed the paradigm of his speeches from the communal one’s to the one’s revolving around the development, which as such should rather be termed as ‘pseudo development’. Modi he has already consolidated his communal-social base, so now to win the electoral battle he has to lure other layers of Hindus and communities, so the total projection around development. Somehow, though law has not fully caught up with him, the blood on his hands is refusing to get washed off despite his shrewd attempts in that direction.

The US commission report gives the hope at deeper ethical and moral grounds. Our laws and legal mechanisms are such that the guilty of communal violence are getting away while the innocent are getting killed during the communal carnages. The demand for a law which can punish the guilty for their acts of omission and commission during the violence is very much overdue. One hopes that we don’t have to depend on International agencies to nab guilty of those people who let it happen under their nose, either in a proactive way or by looking the other way around.

The test of democracy lies in assessing as to how secure the minorities are, what the level of their dignity is. On that scale India is gradually sliding down, it’s a blemish on our democratic norms. It’s time that irrespective of our religion, caste and creed we come forward to press for protection of innocents, and for this the we must come forward with suitable legislation so that those in authority cannot get away after presiding over such inhuman acts and couch them in deceptive statements to escape the noose.

The supplementary observation is about the rising trend of restriction of religious freedoms in South Asia as a whole. In recent times we have painfully seen the persecution of Christians and Hindus in Pakistan, of Buddhists and Hindus in Bangle Desh, of Muslims in Burma and Srilanka. The health of democracy in South Asia is a worrying matter. We know that regions grow together. India has been a strong pillar of democracy while other South Asian countries are in a different stage of evolution towards democracy. Somewhere military Generals are hovering over the elected leaders; at other the fundamentalist outfits are having a lion’s share in shaping the course of the events of the country. Tragically India is witnessing the downward slope on the scale of democratic ethos. Need for us to revisit the values of Freedom movement and the norms of Indian Constitution.

Science versus Miracles: Moving Objects by Mental Power.

Many psychics claim to move things by psychic power. They keep a pencil balancing on the edge of a table and through the psychic power, make the pencil turn and drop.

Experiment: 113

Effect: Moving objects by mental power.

Props: One round pencil, a table and a chair.

Method: Sit on the chair with table in front of you. Balance the pencil on the edge of the table facing you. Order the pencil to move. When you speak the air blown from your mouth moves the pencil and it falls of the edge. If you keep your hand before the pencil and blow on the hand, the pencil will move the other way and fall.

Experiment: 114

Effect:  Moving fruits and other objects by psychic power.

A psychic keeps a fruit on the table and when he orders, the fruit moves across the table and then springs up at the audience.

Props:  18" elastic, one small broad bangle, one strong thread, a table, table cloth and fruit.

Method:  Stitch the elastic on the side of the bangle and on the other side tie the thread. One end of the elastic should be fixed on the side of the table facing the audience so that the bangle is in the top of the table. The thread is taken to your side which you should be able to pull. Then cover the table with a cloth so that nothing is seen from the front. Place the fruit on the bangle. When you order the fruit to come to you, or go to the other side, pull or release the thread accordingly. It will seem that the fruit is moving by your psychic power. Finally pull the thread completely so as to stretch the elastic and suddenly release the thread. The fruit will jump into the audience.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Will The Biases About Terrorists Remain Permanent?

Ram Puniyani

We have witnessed number of acts of terror in India, during last two decades. While those involved in the acts of terror have been coming from individuals of different religions, the net outcome of the actions of investigation agencies and police has been to arrest Muslim youth, to put charges against them and in most cases to release them after the charges are not proved on any ground. This pattern had a ‘mini-break’ for sometime after the Malegaon blast of 2008. The professional, unbiased and meticulous investigation of the Malegaon blast by the then chief of Maharashtra ATS, Hemant Karkare came as a big step in getting to the terrorists. Due to this; starting from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, Swami Aseemanand and many others belonging to the ideology of Hindutva nationalism are currently cooling their heels in the jails. Investigations into Malegaon and many other blasts are showing the imprint of these Hindutva groups and people. One thought that this major breakthrough into acts of investigation will change the mind set of police authorities and they will overcome their biases and do a more professional job in investigation into the acts of terror.

Alas that was not to be and guided by Pavlovian reflex, in a knee jerk fashion, police continues to repeat its pattern of giving statements immediately after the acts of terror in which the organizations like Indian Mujahedeen. Lashkar and others continue to be being named without a thorough probe. This is followed by the usual arrests and framing them. Recently first in the case of Hyderabad twin blasts on 21 February 2013 in which 17 people died and over hindered were injured. These bombs were kept on a bicycle and Indian Mujahideen were blamed for this dastardly act. Later in Bangalore on 17th April a bomb exploded 300 meters from the BJP office. For this blast a motorcycle was used. In this blast around 16 people were injured. It was propagated that the blast took place near BJP office! As usual Indian Mujahedeen were blamed. In this blast again there was an additional factor about propaganda that blast took place near BJP office, when in reality the blast was 300 meters away from the spot. Congress spokesperson Shakil Ahmad said that this blast and the propaganda of its being near BJP office will benefit BJP in the forthcoming elections, while another Congress spokesperson and BJP countered the statement of Shakil Ahmad.

In Bangalore blast, the preceding incidents are very disturbing and revealing. Just ten days before the Bangalore blast, on sixth April in Kannur (Kerala) a blast took place from the motorcycle and RSS swayamsevak A. V. Dileep Kumar who was carrying four kilograms of explosives died. One recalls that the RSS associates also got killed in blasts in Nanded, Kanpur and many other places. This Kannur incident was underplayed and not much is known about the investigation so far as such. It is interesting that police authorities who immediately named Indian Mujahidin have been totally silent on the Hindutva connection of probable terrorists, as by now the nation knows the involvement of Hindutva groups in many acts of terror. The real loser of these biases held by authorities and common people is the country as a whole. The real reason being that if we don’t nab the real culprits and remain trapped in the usual prejudices and biases, the real culprits will continue to carry on their nefarious work over and over again.

As such apart from other things on this trend of Muslim youth being arrested a good amount of documentation and people’s investigation has been done by various human rights groups. ANHAD held a people’s tribunal and published it report, ‘Scapegoats and Holy Cows’. Lately a significant report by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association led by Manisha Sethi has published 'Framed, Damned, and Acquitted’. This report in a analytic way tells us the stereotypical manner of police investigation and actions and the plight of those who were arrested particularly by the Delhi Police Special Cell on charges of these youth being part of terrorist outfits. In most of these cases they were acquitted by courts. This report as such should have created awareness about the police methods and a pressure on police to mend its ways. The report also points that the biased atmosphere has been created as media is publishing the police version uncritically. This is in contrast to the journalistic ethics where the official versions have to be checked, cross checked and examined critically before publishing them. The human rights groups also have been struggling for getting compensation to these victims in good measure but to no avail so far. And then the question comes up as to what about the police officers who are guilty of these acts of wrongful investigation and implicating innocent youth, ruining their life in a serious way? Should they not be punished?

The pattern of police reporting is also very stereotypical and needs to be seriously criticized. The question is what the senior leadership is doing in the face of findings of these reports. Is it not important for the policy makers to take cognizance of such important reports and respond to them in the form of policy change for the investigation authorities? Amongst others another human rights group, Rihai Manch from Uttar Pradesh is also campaigning on this issue and trying to get the innocent youth released. UP Government had appointed a Nimesh Commission to investigate these cases, but for reasons known to itself the government is not releasing the report and is doing some patch work here and there.

While UP Government is dodging over the issue of implicating the Muslim youth, one of its ministers is having the taste of these biases in United States, where he was detained at Boston. While he is blaming Indian External Affairs Minister for this, he is forgetting that these biases against Muslims are equally widespread and before him, people of the stature of ex President Abdul Kalam and the celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan have faced similar situations. Is it not an indication enough for the UP minister to set his own house in order as for as the implication of Muslim youth in acts of terror are concerned. The real worrying point of all these incidents is the way biases against Muslims are becoming rooted more and more. What efforts are needed to counter this stereotypical nature of understanding security agencies and perceptions at popular level needs a serious course correction on urgent basis.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Science Centre, Port Blair to Organize Summer Camp-2013 for Students

The Science Centre, located at Goodwill Estate, Corbyn’s Cove Road, Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, is organizing “Holiday Camp” for the benefit of students from 1st May to 30th May 2013. Students can have practical experience on trades like Ship Building from May 02 to 06, Fun Mathematics / Fiber Glass Modeling from May 07 to 10, Aero modeling from May 13 to 16, Model Rocketry from May 17 to 23, Creative Science /Science versus Miracles from May 24 to 28, 2013.

The camp has ear marked five days for each subject during which the subject will be dealt in details with hands on experiments. Classes shall be conducted from 10.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

Prof Narendra Nayak, former Professor of Medical Biochemistry, Kasturba Medical College, Managalore, Karnataka, and President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, will be giving training on the subject Science versus Miracles from May 24 to 28, 2013.

Science versus Miracles: Lifting a Rice Pot with a Knife

B Pemanand

Whenever I try to explain and educate the people about the falsity of miracles, supernatural and psychic powers, the news media confuse them with stories of supernatural powers. While I was in Andhra Pradesh conducting a Vijnan Yatra, the news media came up with the story of a temple. When a married couple is childless, it is believed that if they go to this temple and pray, they will be blessed with a child. The idol in the temple is a six feet tall naked Kala Bhairava in stone. When I enquired about the truthfulness of the story, I found that about 90% of the ladies were really blessed with children. I was curious to know this god’s method of blessing childless women. I knew only one way by the practice of Aum, the Srishti Mantra.

A friend accompanied me with his wife who acted as my wife. I knew that for the blessings of the gods, one has to shell out much money. So we went dressed very shabbily. I met the priest and told him that in spite of my marriage, I had not yet become a father. I begged him to pray for the blessing of the god so that there would be someone to perform the shraddha ceremony when we died. As I was already old, he would have to do his best.

The priest sat in thought as if he was searching for the reason why I had not become a father. He looked at me and said that I had bad times with the dangerous planets Rahu and Ketu circling my head. That was why I did not become a father. He looked at the lady and told her since she had murdered a child in her past birth, the curse of that child was hovering around her head and so she would not become a mother. These planets would have to be propitiated and the soul of the child appeased. For this five thousand rupees would need to be spent for, the prayaschitta puja. For two hours we pleaded poverty, and finally he came down to Rs250/- which we paid. Then we were asked to bring a panchaloha pot filled with rice. The lota was available on rent. He gave us a knife and asked us to pray to the Lord Kala Bhairava with full faith, then insert the knife in the vessel filled with rice and lift the knife. If the god was pleased the vessel filled with rice would rise with the knife and we would be blessed with a child.

We prayed, touching each other, and raised the knife after inserting it in the vessel, but the vessel did not come up along with the knife. He told us that what he has found through intuition was correct. And he started the prayaschitta puja which continued for about an hour. With each word he inserted the knife in the vessel and took it out now and then. After the propitiation prayer was over, we were asked to insert the knife straight down into the rice and lift the knife. He helped us in this and surprisingly the vessel also lifted along with the knife. He explained the prayer had worked.

The next step was that the lady should be closeted in the sanctum sanctorum and have sex with the idol. She was a brave woman. After she entered into the sanctum sanctorum, the doors were closed. It was utter darkness inside as there was no windows or ventilators. She stood at the place where the priest had sat for the prayers as there was a plank on the ground which he had used for sitting. After some minutes she heard footsteps coming towards her from behind the idol. She was ready with the plank in her hand and she hit the person with it. Since it was sudden, and it had never happened before, the person fell down. The plank also hit the idol and the private parts of the naked idol broke off. She banged on the door, and we got it opened. A man was sprawled on the floor and the idol had lost its genitals. We took the picture of the idol. We now knew how the women who prayed at that temple got pregnant. The women who got pregnant were those whose husbands were impotent. They were not blessed by the god, but by the priest. Those who were barren were not blessed.

In earlier year Satya Sai Baba had also blessed hundreds of women with children. The modus operandi was that the wife would stay in the ashram and continue to pray in the morning and night. At the time of going to sleep she would be given a cup of milk and she would fall unconscious. Then the godman would see that she got pregnant. Our ministers like Y. B. Chavan and T.A. Pai had also approached him for blessing them with a child, but because they did not leave their wives there, Satya Sai Baba could not bless them with children.

In 1987, at Satara in Maharashtra, a Baba blessed several married women with children and the law enforcement department could not arrest him as the women would not come forward as witnesses. The skeptic group in Maharashtra, Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samithi, after talking to the molested women of the danger of allowing the Baba to continue the notorious activity, finally persuaded them to come forward as witnesses. He was prosecuted and jailed. For the first time in India, the Maharashtra Law Enforcement department issued orders to all police stations to help the skeptic groups to expose such frauds and to give them protection when they went to tile public to educate them about such frauds.

But other state governments and the Central Government, being a party to such frauds like Satya Sai Saba, instead of protecting the skeptics when they expose them, protect the godmen and harass the skeptics. In 1986 when I asked for police protection for a peaceful Dharna before Satya Sat Saba’s Ashram at Puttaparthi to allow us to investigate him, the Andhra Pradesh government imposed Section 144 of CPC and got us all arrested fifty kilometers away from Puttaparthi. The Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and the Inspector General of Police were directing the arrests. On 1.1.1986 I had planned to show the public at Puttaparthi all the miracles of Satya Sai Baba and explain how he does them and how they could expose him.

Any woman gone to a godman or Baba for a child will bear the child of the godman or Baba. Instead of going to such frauds, they should go to the hospital for proper treatment. Medical science has progressed so much that through proper treatment the sperm count of a man can be increased consider­ably and the wife become impregnated. Moreover, artificial insemination is possible if she has inverted fallopian tubes. Or she can have a test tube baby. No godman can help a woman to become pregnant if there is a medical problem. In such cases they can well adopt a child. There are thousands and thousands of orphan children who need parental love. Let me now explain how the rice pot trick works.

Experiment: 112

Effect: Blessing a childless couple with a child. A vessel filled with rice rises up when a knife is inserted in the vessel.

Props:  A narrow-necked pot with broad bottom, rice, and a plain straight table knife which is long enough.

Method:  Pack the pot with rice and go on jamming, inserting the knife halfway. When you feel that the rice has jammed at the bottom, insert the knife to the bottom straight down. The pot will rise up with the knife when it is lifted. I have performed this feat more than seven thousand times, but I have not delivered a child so far. Interestingly we have a god “Sabarimal Ayyappan” who is believed to be born from a union between Shiva and Vishnu. Lord Ayyappan is allergic to women and so women are not allowed entry to his temple. But temples have come up recently to his wife and children.


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