The Indian Rationalist (sic) Association has demanded that India withdraw the nomination of Shashi Tharoor for the post of United Nations’ Secretary-General. The president of the association, Sanal Edamaruku, has labelled Tharoor 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.”
Edamaruku cites Tharoor’s defence of the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi despite his (Sai Baba’s) outrageous behaviour towards many young devotees.
“In International Herald Tribune (dated 3 December 2002), Tharoor declared Sai Baba’s conjuring trick of “producing holy ash” to be a miracle. He certified that Satya Sai Baba 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.”
Edamaraku also slams Tharoor for writing about another “holy” figure thus:
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: neighbours would come to her family home on Fridays to see her suspended high against the wall in a crucified pose.
“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,” says Edamaraku, and demands the withdrawal by Tharoor’s nomination.
Questions: Is the rationalists’ association simply grabbing a bit of the spotlight? Should Tharoor’s personal views on godmen and women be held against him? By sponsoring his candidature, has India done a disservice to the scientific outlook enshrined in India’s Constitution? Or is this just much ado about nothing? On the other hand, if the Sai Baba really has those magical powers, as Tharoor claims, can he pull off his disciple’s win?