A science historian by profession, Professor Meera Nanda is out on a mission. She goes around debunking the 'absurd' claims being made by the Hindu and other right wing groups with regard to science in their quest to claim scientific advances made across the world as theirs.

The Citizen recently caught up with this academic who is armed with two PhDs - one in biotechnology from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the other in science studies from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

The 1954 born academic was at her alma mater Punjab University to deliver a lecture and doing what she is best at i.e. tearing apart the ridiculous claims put forward by the right wing elements, particularly the proponents of Hindutva.

“Our present prime minister took oath in May 2014 and in December 2014 while inaugurating a hospital in Mumbai he said that Karna (a character in Mahabharata) was the first test tube baby and Ganesha (a Hindu god) was the first case of genetic science intervention. Well! Well! We had the entire world laughing at us,” she said.

Expressing her disdain for the participants at the Indian Science Congress in 2015 when such claims were repeated she relates how she herself comes from a middle class family with a religious bent of mind.

“But my logics became clear when I studied science. Science clears the mist,” Nanda told The Citizen.

People who know this visiting faculty at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Mohali are of the view that had she been living in a metro, she would have got ample space for her work in media and civil society events promoting rationality.

But nevertheless, she has been carrying on the relentless efforts to debunk the myths being pedalled as scientific facts and to counter the efforts being made to interweave science and religion.

Pointing out how the Hindutva proponents are trying to usurp and negate the contributions of the world to science in their zeal to establish their superiority, she said, “The Pythogoras Theorem is being claimed as Baudhayana Theorem. There is a tendency to mix the Shunya (zero) of metaphysics with the mathematical zero. Claims are being made with regards to genetic science by giving examples like that of Lord Ganesha.”

“It is good to appreciate everybody and acknowledge their share of contribution. What is the desperation about? Why are we on the rampage to destroy the logics to hoot we are the best? Why can we not see any one else performing or acknowledge their contribution?”she asked.

Dwelling at length on the concept of zero, she said, “We claim zero to be ours while scientific proofs say otherwise. What is the need? Zero as a number developed after a lot of practice and not by speaking about it in Vedas. There is lots about it, its metaphysical use, place value etc. In the Brahmi script practiced by Indians, numbers did not have a place value.”

Meera also elaborated how she has been scientifically using the slides of ancient clay tablets from Babylonia to indicate that the Babylonians in the second millennium B.C.,1000 years before Pythagoras, had rules for generating Pythagorean triplets. She also pointed,“It is historically proven that the first use of zero as a number giving place value was not in India.”

“Yes we did contribute to science but we were not the only ones. Flying Hanuman, gold in cow’s pee or dung, Karna being the first test tube baby are all myths. Myths are a waste of time and science must begin with the criticism of myths. What are you trying to prove to world by naming the Pythagorean Theorem as Baudhayana Theorem? The historians of the world are thorough with the facts,”Nanda said.

She claimed that she has never faced problems while delivering her lectures before groups. “ People understand what I say with the help of evidence on hand. It is a fact that modern science came to India with British. They ruled us for years,” she said.

On being asked what needs to be done to wean away the masses from the myths being pedalled as science, Nanda pointed to the books that she has penned painstakingly - 'Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India', 'The God Market' and the latest being 'Science in Saffron'.

She is equally annoyed with the so called progressives in India pointing that they too need to widen their spheres to understand things from broader perspectives. Nanda posed a question: “Why does nationalism blind us to alternative evidence ? Why do we think India can be understood only through Indian concepts?”

The only request Nanda aired through The Citizen was,“Please do not rule this country with a wink-wink and nudge-nudge.”