Indian Rationalist Association

India's largest rationalist organisation. Founded in 1949. Fights for scientific temper, secularism, freedom of thought and expression. Defends reason and science. Exposes superstition, blind belief, obscurantism, paranormal claims caste-based social divisions and guru-politics nexus. Strives for a post-religious society. President: Sanal Edamaruku Contact: Phone: + 91-11-6569 9012, +91-11-64630651

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Indian Rationalists call for the withrawal of India's UN secretary-general candidate

India should withdraw
Shashi Tharoor’s nomination

Sanal Edamaruku
President, Rationalist International
President, Indian Rationalist Association

I am shocked to hear that the Government of India has nominated Shashi Tharoor as its candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General. Shashi Tharoor - despite his carefully nurtured image as a suave and balanced intellectual - is a hardcore propagandist of obscurantism, miracle-belief and all kinds of superstitions, who does not miss a single opportunity to raise his voice in the international media in favour of paranormal claims and in praise of godmen and miracle mongers.

India has to be ashamed of Shashi Tharoor and his avowed positions. A progressive and forward looking country striving for a leadership position in a modern world would do itself a disservice by fielding a man to highest international positions, who has made it his program to promote ignorance and gullibility, the very scourges that held India back for centuries. The Indian Constitution declares scientific temperament as a fundamental duty of all citizens. How can India afford to nominate a man to the top UN post, who has ridiculed scientists and rationalists by defending the Ganesh milk drinking frenzy in 1995 as a real miracle?

When the world media came out to expose Indian godman Satya Saibaba, and his so-called miracles as well as his outrageous behavior towards many young devotees were documented in television clippings, the UNESCO distanced itself from Saibaba and cancelled a planned common project with him. Shashi Tharoor, however, did not hesitate to rush to the godman's rescue by singing his praise in international newspapers. In International Herald Tribune (dated 3 December 2002), Tharoor declared Saibaba’s conjuring trick of “producing holy ash” to be a miracle. He certified that Satya Saibaba did materialize gifts for his devotees from thin air and boasted that he himself was the recipient of a gold ring with nine embedded stones. The secret of the godman’s magic was already exposed by rationalists and his hand-sleight tricks were caught red-handed by television cameras and shown in television documentaries around the world. But Shashi Tharoor remained his staunch defender.

In the same article that appeared all around the Western world and is proudly reproduced in Tharoor's personal web-site, he expresses his position about India:

In the 1950s, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared dams and factories
to be "the new temples of modern India." What he failed to recognise was that the
old temples continued to maintain their hold on the Indian imagination. The software programs of the new information technology companies dotting Bangalore's "Silicon Plateau" may be the new mantras of India, but they supplement, rather than supplant, the old mantras. …. Saibaba and Infosys are, in fact, emblematic of an India that somehow manages to live in several centuries at once.
If a person who has such sinister views about India and propagates them with arrogance can contest as India’s nominee for the UN top office, it is shameful for all progressive-minded Indians.

Shashi Tharoor does not limit his miracle mongering to his godman Satya Saibaba alone. In another article he writes about another “holy” figure:

She took to standing in a crucified position, and blood appeared spontaneously
on her hands and feet — the stigmata of Christian lore. Like Saint Teresa of
Avila centuries earlier, she suffered seizures during which she levitated:
neighbors would come to her family home on Fridays to see her suspended high
against the wall in a crucified pose.
Shashi Tharoor's nomination is bound to become a major embarrassment for India as he is an articulate and avowed propagator of blind faith and superstition, and ridicules the scientific outlook of India’s policy, enshrined in the Indian Constitution. If he becomes the UN Secretary-General, he will moreover cause serious damage to the reputation of the august world organisation.

I call upon the Government of India to withdraw the nomination of Shashi Tharoor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atleast he is the First Indian to make it so far. Although I disagree with Taroor's Ideology I dont understand why it should disqualify him as a candidate. So who should India nominate? Mr Sanal Edamaruku???. I dont think it would make any difference.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said
The comments about how India should withdraw Sashi Tharoors's
should be forwarded to asome countries who are thinking of supporting his nomination.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Shamik Chakravarty said...

Actually I doubt if 'superstition' can be used as a pretext for removing the nomination. Imagine the Government giving this reason. It might sound, in the context of the multicultural international community as 'odd'.
Regarding the Fundamental Duty of pursuing the scientific temper mentioned in the constitution. Well I think it has a somewhat conflicting nature with the ambiguous definition of secular in the Preamble. The accepted definition tends more towards "respect for all religions" rather than the much desired "indifference to religion". In doing so it makes a metaphysical pronouncement that is contradictory to a rationalist position which presupposes 'either one religion is true or none of them is true. All cannot be true at the same time.' according to Bertrand Russell in his Preface to "Why I am not a Christian". In effect, the metaphysical pronouncement made by the accepted definition of secular in the constitution is value pluralistic and I doubt if it can encourage skepticism because it does not encourage people to see any of it as false. Indeed, if 'secular' would have meant "indifferent" that would have implied that the Constitution does not make any pronouncement on the truth value of any religion and thus people are encouraged to debate and be skeptical.
I would qualify my remarks. Not that the Constitution does not allow skepticism, but it is somewhat contradictory to the values of the freethinker.
Also, it seems that both Nehru and Mrs.Indira Gandhi dabbled in astrology to make policy decisions (I am not too sure of that as my source is a work of fiction- Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children.)
In the light of this so called secular past of India, including the idea of Bharat Mata based on a religious idea, it almost seems absurd to ask the government to withdraw Mr. Tharoor's nomination. The malaise is deeper and it seems freethinkers will have to try harder to solve it at another level. Good try though and a very nice

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good writeup this.

I had no idea about his association with the paranormal and "Godmen."

Wish that major newspapers or magazines would have this article. Unfortunately they would rather concentrate on the newest hairdo's and clothing.

Keep up the good work..

8:50 PM  

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