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H. Narasimhaiah : Rationalist

H. Narasimhaiah : Rationalist
Painted in red on the wall of his office in National College, Bangalore is: Prashnisade? Oppabedi (Do not agree without questioning). A credo Dr H. Narasimhaiah has sought to popularise in a life-long crusade to disprove miracles, expose self-styled godmen and dispel superstition—in short, propagate a scientific temper. The agenda is officially as old as the Indian Constitution, and generations of ‘literate’ Indians have grown up on NCERT schoolbooks dipped in such rhetoric.But this nuclear physicist, a confir-med bachelor at 77, still has enough on his hands.

Dr Narasimhaiah (or HN) first trained his guns on ‘godmen’. As vice-chancellor of Bangalore University in 1976, HN set up ‘The Committee to Investigate Miracles and other Verifiable Superstitions’ under his chairmanship.The committee went around disrobing yogis and babas and raised a cloud of unholy ash when it challenged Puttaparthi godman Sai Baba to submit himself to investigations under controlled conditions.Sai Baba, of course, was smart enough to refuse but this set off an animated debate and sowed the seeds of doubt among Baba’s devotees. Another holyman, Shivabalayogi, paid the price for taking up HN’s challenge. On the request of the Karnataka government, he prayed for rains to fill up the T.G. Halli reservoir to feed Bangalore in 1985. The rain gods, of course, showed no signs of taking notice.

"Questioning is the basis of all progress," says HN. "To not question is to get stuck in a cesspool. There’s no change in religion as religion disallows questioning." Guided by these principles, HN founded the Bangalore Science Forum in 1962. Through a string of activities—talks, seminars, film shows, science festivals—it carries on the good work.

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