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.