A workshop on ‘Ancient Indian Knowledge Systems’ at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), for which the requisite permissions were apparently not taken, had to be converted into a lecture series following opposition from students and faculty members. The proposed seven-day workshop between December 3 and 9 was to have acquainted participants with the four Vedas that were “acquired from God”.
IIT-B director Devang Khakhar has said that he was unaware of any such event, and no permission to hold it was taken from the director’s office. While organizers of the event remained unreachable, students said the workshop was converted into a lecture series to avoid the need for permissions.
Posters about the programme put up late last month said, “For examining and carrying out experiments of the fundamental principles present in the Vedas, sages devised research methodology in the form of six Upangas or Darshans (viz. Mimansa, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Yoga, Sankhya & Vedanta). Vedas were acquired from the God and the knowledge contained in it is for the welfare of the humankind.”
Students and faculty members raised concerns over the manner in which the workshop was to be conducted. In a letter to IIT-B Director Devang Khakhar, students said there was no clarity on who the organisers of the event were. “Only six contact persons have been mentioned in the programme flyer, out of whom four are not part of IIT-B. It is only reasonable, for purposes of accountability and transparency, to demand that the details of the organisers are made public,” read the letter.
They alleged that while the poster said the workshop was open to public, students had not received any official communication from the institute.
“We would like to be assured that the institution is ‘in the know’ about this workshop in the campus and all the appropriate procedures were adhered to in allowing this event,” the letter read.
According to the students, some of the speakers were associated with sessions of last year’s Indian Science Congress, which had been mired in controversy. At one session on ancient Indian sciences, a retired flying instructor had presented a paper claiming that the science of building and flying aeroplanes was first recorded by Maharishi Bharadwaj in the Brihad Vimana Shastra, several millennia before the Wright Brothers built their aeroplane.
Khakhar accepted that he had received the students’ letter and denied knowledge of any such workshop. “All permissions go through the Director’s office and none had been taken for this workshop. Neither am I aware of such a workshop,” said Khakhar, adding that he intended to find out more about the programme.
Student Kranthi, who is one of the signatories in the letter, said that some organisations from outside the institute were trying to utilise the space on campus for their workshops. “The workshop was cancelled but it has been converted into a talk and is being held on campus,” Kranthi said.
Gauri Mahulikar, a retired Sanskrit professor of the University of Mumbai, said she attended the inauguration of the lecture series on Saturday. “I spoke about the Science of Interpretation,” she said, clarifying that it was a lecture series and not a workshop.