The description in Mahabharata of the blind king Dhritarashtra getting updates about the battle of Kurukshetra from Sanjay, both sitting in the palace, proves particularly piquant for right-wing thinkers looking for scientific achievements in ancient India. While the epic explained that Sanjay was granted special powers by the sage Vyas, many remain convinced that it proved television existed in ancient India.
Today Mr Deb, while speaking at an event in state capital Agartala on computerisation of the Public Distribution System, took it up a notch. “How can he see through Sanjay’s eyes? There was technology available at that time… internet was there, satellite communication was there,” Mr Deb said.
Mr Deb has been trained by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor. The 47-year-old got the state’s top job when the BJP stormed to power in the state with a promise for development after three terms of Left rule.
While the scientific community is yet to comment on the Chief Minister’s comment, this is not the first time BJP’s ministers have been caught on the wrong foot.
In February, junior education minister of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet — Satyapal Singh – courted controversy, saying certain ‘mantras’ codified the laws of motion much before they were discovered by Isaac Newton.
Last year, the minister said the first flying machine was invented by Indian scholar Shivkar Bapuji Talpade and not the Wright Brothers. This, he said, should be taught in the Indian Institutes of Technology and other engineering institutes.
Y Sudershan Rao, the chairman of India’s leading historical organisation, has maintained that Ramayana and Mahabharata indicated that Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and using cosmic weapons 5,000 years ago. Horrified by such views, many academics have described his appointment as a blow for the 40-yera-old history organisation.
In October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments that Lord Ganesha was the product of plastic surgery, prompted the Indian History Congress, to pass a stern resolution to “resist interested distortions of our past.” The next January, PM Modi had said the account of Karna’s birth in Mahabharata indicated that “people were aware of genetic science”.