‘It is a blatant attempt to saffronise higher education’

From a tiny room on the first floor of a small building in a quiet area of Basaveshwaranagar, the Harsha Kriya Foundation runs its affairs. The Foundation has recently got the green signal for setting up the Amrutha Sinchana Spiritual University, the first of its kind in Karnataka.

Speaking to The Hindu in an office filled with such arcane objects as gems, shells, floating stones, and photographs of spiritual healers at work, Harish M., trustee of the Foundation and the university, said: “The university will offer degrees and diplomas in courses such as human energy field, feng shui, rudraksha, numerology, gems and crystals. Academic courses are likely to start from 2014-15. We want to offer specialised courses to promote Indian traditions.”

Mr. Harish’s printed bio-data states he is a “healer, counsellor and trainer,” who has “counselled and healed more than 1.5 lakh cases, ranging from cardiovascular and endocrinal disorder to medically rejected cases.”

The Amrutha Sinchana Spiritual University Bill was one of the 17 passed recently by the Assembly to set up private universities in the State.

The Governor has signed eight of these bills into law. This clears the decks for the universities to start functioning as soon as they set up their infrastructure.

The Amrutha Sinchana Spiritual University Act, 2012, states that the university will impart “value-added education, life and life-skills, [and] minimise [the] suffering of fellow human beings to promote and popularise drugless energy.”

Alongside, it has the mandate of “advancement of the spiritual in the form of adyathma or spiritual shakti given by ancient yogis established in the healing process through systematic instruction, teaching, training, healing process.[sic]”

Its 40-acre campus will be located at Ghati Subramanya in Doddaballapur on the outskirts of Bangalore.

The university has drawn criticism from educationists, student bodies, scientists and political parties alike. “The basic criteria for forming a university have not been met,” said Ananth Naik, State president of the Students’ Federation of India. In a memorandum to the Governor, the SFI called the Act a “blatant attempt to saffronise higher education.”

Academic and writer G.K. Govinda Rao said academics should oppose this “most unscientific varsity.” “We can’t sleep over this, we must oppose it. The State appears to have forgotten its responsibilities.”

Sabyasachi Chatterjee, professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, pointed to the constitutional provisions such an Act violated. “Article 51A (h) of the Constitution has highlighted the need to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Instead, here the State is promoting irrationality.”

Prabhu Nott, a professor of the Indian Institute of Science, said that while he was not opposed to research in spirituality, he was “uncomfortable” as “this government holds a record of promoting Hindu religion over other religions.”

Minister defends Act

But Minister for Higher Education C.T. Ravi defended the Act. “Research can be conducted to revive ancient Indian traditional methods,” he said.

Asked whether this fulfilled the stated objective for opening private universities, namely, the increase of Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, he said that while universities were focussing on job-oriented courses, there was a huge need for in-depth research into traditional methods too.