AMID the public outcry over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s West Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh’s aggressive comments justifying police violence against protesters in BJP-ruled States, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar shocked academic circles with controversial, if less violent, remarks of his own.
Inaugurating a fair at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata, Dhankhar claimed that the Hindu epics bore testimony to advanced scientific and technological knowledge. He said that though the aeroplane was invented “in 1910 or 1911”, “in the Ramayana we had this udan khatola [flying machine] and in the Mahabharata we had a situation where Sanjay narrated everything and not from the battlefield. We had those arrows of Arjun, which had nuclear power.”
The comments annoyed eminent academics and scientists in the State. The Governor was perceived to be toeing the BJP’s line of glorifying Hindutva by trying to invest myths and legends with scientific truth.
Probir Roy, eminent physicist and a former senior professor of theoretical physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, told Frontline: “Almost all BJP leaders speak in the same manner. Any political power whose present situation is wobbly will resort to absurd glorification of the past. There are similar legends in Greek and Egyptian mythologies as well, but that is not prompting people from Greece and Egypt to make ridiculous claims that they had such advanced technologies in those times. This kind of statements stem from a complex about one’s own culture. It is particularly distressing when educated people say such things.”
Bikash Sinha, former Director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, reportedly called Dhankhar’s statement “irresponsible, senseless and irrelevant”.
The Governor, however, would not pipe down. “Some people may take Ram to be just a mythological figure, I don’t… any opinion that criticises me, I read thrice. I try to understand and rationalise it, but that does not mean I have to agree to it. I believe in my history, I believe in my culture, I believe in my background of science,” he said.