No food, no water for 60 years!

- Indian Ministry of Defence and NASA taken in by a village fraud

Prahlad Jani

The Indian Rationalist Association has criticized the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for promoting gullibility and undermining the development of scientific temper in India.

"The Indian Ministry of Defence and the NASA have obviously been taken in by the absurd claims of a village fraud," wrote Sanal Edamaruku, Secretary General of the Indian Rationalist Association, in a letter to the Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes. "It is shocking to see that government officials and scientists are so gullible to believe that a human being can survive 60 years without food and water! The claim does not only contradict experience and common sense, but also our well-established biological and medical knowledge about the functioning of the human body. It is absolutely impossible that it is true - if it was, it would disprove the laws of physiology and we would have to rewrite our scientific text books!"

The MoD had sent a team of physicians to Charada village in Gujarat state to conduct medical tests on one Prahlad Jani, a 78-year-old man, who claims he lives without food and water since 60 years. "We are trying to understand how he has been able to remain without food and water for so many years", said neuro-physician Dr. Sudhir Shah, who heads the team, very seriously. "NASA is involved in the project which is being coordinated by the MoD and has issued specific guidelines not to disclose any details about Jani."

"By 'testing' this man for 10 days without exposing him, the mysterious operation of MoD and NASA gives enormous credence to his absurd claims. Why this mystic mongering? The public has a right to know the nature and the results of the tests. It is an affair of public interest like any crime", wrote Edamaruku. "If your physicians have been able to expose the false claims, it is your duty to come out with the truth. If they are still marveling at the 'unexplainable miracle' due to inexperience and lack of skeptical faculties, we demand urgently that the opportunity to be given to the Indian Rationalist Association's experts to overtake and complete the investigation."

The Indian Rationalist Association has experienced specialists for such cases and a long track record of successful investigations into similar claims. Up to now, all of them have been exposed as frauds.

In 1999, there had been the widely reported case of Kumari Neerja from Jalaun district (Uttar Pradesh state), who claimed that she was the reincarnation of the Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of letters and literature. She stayed alone in a small closet and allegedly did not take any food for five years and did not excrete urine or stool. Since her managers announced that she would soon transform into a lifeless statue of Saraswati, the police was alarmed.

In cooperation with the police, our young rationalist investigators and physicians verified her room and found the entry to a little toilet hidden behind a shelf and a brick hole, through which she received food. Blood tests revealed the presence of glucose, indicating the intake of food. When finally a harmless gas, causing vomiting sensation, was released into her room, she vomited pieces of chapatti and potatoes. The confused woman turned out to be a mental case and was admitted to the local government hospital.

In 1992, Sanal Edamaruku exposed the godman Pilot Baba who claimed that he survived in meditation under water for five days without breathing. Pilot Baba's under-water feat attracted national and international attention. He constructed a huge swimming pool in a Delhi public park, climbed down in front of a crowd of 4000, ordered water to be pumped in and stayed there underwater for four days. That was at least the claim.

But Edamaruku and his assistants exposed him. They found out that there was a special secret pipeline connection. Though water was pumped in, the tarpaulin-covered pool did not get wet inside, and the Baba had a comfortable time on its dry ground. Four years later, in 1996, he tried it again. This time he claimed to stay for four days buried under the earth. Edamaruku exposed him again in front of television cameras. This time he was sitting comfortably in an underground dug-up room.