A fight against false gods

By Mohua Das

Whenever he hears of a godman drawing a large crowd with his “supernatural powers”, Prabir Ghosh rushes to the spot to challenge his lofty claims. For the past few decades, Ghosh has been fighting long and hard to make people adopt a rational attitude to life.

“I have watched godman doing tricks from a young age while living in Adra and Kharagpur, and I felt the need to eradicate false beliefs and superstitions among people. So, I read up a whole lot of books on different subjects, from society to popular beliefs,” says Ghosh, sitting in his modest flat on Debi Nibas Road in Saatgachhi, where he lives with wife Seema.

The passion turned into a movement when Ghosh formed the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India in 1985. With offices in Sealdah and Nagerbazar, the association currently has more than 120 branches who travel across the country, hunting down impostors and busting their tricks.

In 1993, Ghosh went on to set up the Humanists’ Association of India to “counsel people in distress and work on human rights issues.”

“I have to travel to villages to expose charlatans who trick villagers into believing in their fake powers and squeeze money out of them. Once I traveled to Malda to expose a trick that an old lady was playing on the local people. She was using a custom-made winnowing tray to change rice grains into puffed rice,” laughs the 62-year-old, who makes a living out of writing books and conducting sting operations for news channels.

Of around 40 books penned by Ghosh, the Aloukik Noy Loukik (Nothing is Supernatural) series remains his bestseller.

Having made a name for debunking “around 160 astrologers and 1,000 godmen professing phenomenal powers”, Ghosh is often called on by BBC or National Geographic Channel on their programmes to unravel the mysteries behind miraculous feats.

One has to think twice before bringing up topics like Reiki, Vastu Shastra or Feng Shui, for Ghosh believes in none. “I have kept an open challenge of paying Rs 20 lakh (2 million rupees) to anyone who claims to possess paranormal powers and can prove the same without resorting to any trick. The day I’m unable to solve the so-called miraculous feat, I shall dissolve the association,” claims Ghosh.

(Published in Calcutta based English daily THE TELEGRAPH, dated 1 June 2007)

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