Why I Cannot Accept ‘Anti-Scientific’ Baba Ramdev Speaking At JNU’s Science Conference

Posted on December 28, 2015 in Campus Watch

By Shehla Rashid Shora

The silent right-wing onslaught on JNU continues. It is very unfortunate to know that the Jawaharlal Nehru University, a co-organiser in the ’22nd International Congress of Vedanta’ being held in JNU’s Convention Center from 27th to 30th December 2015 has allowed “Baba” Ramdev to be invited as a keynote speaker in the Valedictory Ceremony to be held on the 30th of December. It does not befit the stature of an academic institution like JNU to have persons with such a questionable and shameful background to address an academic gathering.

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The first principle of science is freedom from bias and prejudice – be it Indian science or Western science. The person in question harbours extreme hatred, bias and prejudice against various minorities- religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities and also against the girl-child. All this is public knowledge and yet the JNU administration has gone ahead and consented to have a keynote address by him! He is not an academic or a man of science. His Doctorate is an honorary doctorate and not a regular PhD. earned by him. Of course, he is a practitioner, but not one without many problematic positions that JNU cannot afford to endorse, or be seen as endorsing.

baba ramdevHere are some of his regressive views that make him unfit to address a scientific gathering at JNU. This person says that the population of Muslims must be controlled and a special policy be created to check their alleged population increase!

He has called Rahul Gandhi’s visits to Dalit households as “honeymoon”, which is a deeply insensitive remark, considering the reality of sexual oppression that Dalit women have faced for centuries at the hands of the socially powerful.

Ramdev’s company Patanjali sells a medicine “Putrajeevak Beej” to ensure the birth of a male child. Ramdev has repeatedly decried same-sex relations, calling this preference a “disease” which can be cured by Yoga, and homosexual persons as “criminals”, thus inciting hatred for persons who identify as LGBT. While on the one hand, JNU, after repeated intervention of students and teachers, has started taking some progressive steps, such as allowing for self-identification of persons belonging to the third gender, making GSCASH inclusive for persons who bear a different gender or sexual identity, etc. inviting such a person to address a scientific gathering at JNU takes us several steps back. The point is not merely that he made these remarks, as these are only a handful of his media statements. The larger point is that this person professes a certain regressive ideology, which JNU cannot be party to.

Please note, that we do take an anti-imperialist stance, and, we do support a genuine inquiry into ancient Indian science and not an uncritical acceptance of Western science. This also means that Indian science should also not be accepted uncritically and that similar standards of rigour must be adhered to, in case of Indian science. One such principle is the principle of freedom from bias. In the name of ancient Indian science, persons like Ramdev cannot be allowed to spread regressive ideas in our progressive campus. His person embodies a certain mindset which is loaded with bias, and a scientific gathering should not be addressed by such a person. His views on Indian science are not academically driven, but are deeply ideologically grounded in a regressive and hegemonic understanding of what constitutes the “Vedic” way of life. If anything, his views are anti-scientific.

We urge the JNU administration and the other organisers of this conference to immediately cancel the keynote address or face a massive agitation.

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