The glorification of ancient India has been a recurring theme of the Hindu right-wing discourse in India. During the prime minister Narendra Modi’s first term, this even filtered into the domain of science, saturating the media with dubious scientific claims. From Modi’s suggestion that the Hindu god Ganesh’s elephantine head proves that plastic surgery was prevalent 2,000 years ago, to Pragya Singh Thakur, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, claiming that cow urine can cure cancer, the past half decade was marked by various kinds of falsity. Below is a list of the most egregious pseudo-scientific claims made between 2014 and 2019.
Cow urine cures cancer
While speaking to the television network India Today in April 2019, Pragya Singh Thakur, a current Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament and an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, claimed that “a mixture of gau mutra”—cow urine—“and other cow products cured” her breast cancer. A mix of milk, cow dung and urine formed the alleged healing concoction. Oncologists later debunked her claims. She also said that rubbing a cow in a certain way can help reduce an individual’s blood pressure.
Hindus conducted stem cell research
In January 2019, speakers at the 106th Indian Science Congress claimed that it was ancient Hindus who pioneered stem cell research. “We had 100 Kauravas from one mother because of stem cell and test tube technology,” G Nageshwar Rao, the vice chancellor at Andhra University said, referring to the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata. “It happened a few thousand years ago. This was science in the country,” he added. Subsequently, the organisers distanced themselves from the conference speakers, describing these comments as unfortunate.