As Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrates three years in power, one story has persisted in making headlines: the project to create “tall and fair customised children” with high IQs.
It’s a decade-old project and is operated by the health wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the mother organization from which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) draws its inspiration, and the project is spreading its wings around the country.
As the country exploded in rage over similarities with the Nazi “Ubermenschen” ideal, which attempted to create a super Aryan race through eugenics funded by Hitler’s regime, many suggested that the RSS’ covert admiration for strong leaders – like US president Donald Trump and Modi – is directly related to this attempt to create perfect babies.
An abiding theme of Hindu extreme right-wing literature has been the self-loathing associated with the inability to fight off invading armies, mostly Muslim, over the last thousand years. In fact, RSS leaders routinely collaborated with British authorities before independence so that they didn’t have to join hands with who they perceived to be the greater enemy: India’s Muslims.
No wonder RSS leaders are obsessed with the “weak Hindu” and how to overcome his weaknesses. Enter the customised baby project.
The RSS’ ‘Garbh Vigyan Sanskar’ project, loosely translated as ‘Science & Culture of the Womb,’ properly prescribes the norms which go into the making of a custom-perfect baby. The Indian Express, which broke the story last week, outlined the process that involves three months of “purification” of the intended parents which prevents “genetic defects” from being passed on, intercourse at a time decided by planetary configurations, complete abstinence after the baby is conceived as well as procedural and dietary regulations.
Certainly, the project has absolutely no official sanction from the government, unlike Hitler’s Nazi regime which sought to purify its own Aryan nation from being “contaminated” by Jews, homosexuals, Roma gypsies, people with disabilities etc. Prime Minister Modi, in fact, has sought to change the demeaning vocabulary used for people with special needs (called “viklang”, literally “deformed body” in Hindi) by calling them “divyang” or “sacred body,” although the appropriation of divinity has been slammed by people who say that those with special needs are, simply, different.
The project claims to have delivered as many as 450 “custom babies” and targets “thousands” by 2020, the project convenor Karishma Mohandas Narwani told the Indian Express.
“Our main objective is to make a strong India,” she added, insisting that Ayurveda had got it right thousands of years ago.
Alongside bodily purification, a proper diet is paramount so as to push up the IQ. Calcium in the third month when bones develop, ghee in the fifth when the brain develops and Vitamin A in the sixth-seventh month when the eyes develop. Alongside this, the mother must chant shlokas and mantras to help in the baby’s mental growth and avoid labour pain.
Another RSS ideologue insisted that by following proper procedures, “babies of dark-skinned parents with lesser height can have fair complexion and grow taller,” he said.
It isn’t clear either how seriously the senior RSS leadership takes this project, or whether it is simply humouring the odd, but essentially, harmless obsessions of crackpot enthusiasts. According to one school, the ruling BJP as well as the RSS cannot ignore these people who have stayed with the organisation for decades. Now that they have such a huge mandate in power, the leadership cannot prevent people from speaking their mind, even if they are totally retrogressive in nature.
Certainly, the leitmotif of the RSS is to rediscover the greatness of ancient India and re-imagine a golden age before it was contaminated by “foreign” invasions. It is common for RSS workers to describe India as a “golden bird” and to be predisposed to a recurring nostalgia about her past greatness.
That is why the need to recreate this prehistoric perfect age where the Hindus did everything right – there were no Muslims or Christians or Sikhs or Parsis at the time, remember – and to use all the help you can get, preferably from the ancient science of Ayurveda, to round out that picture.
It doesn’t matter, then, that post-war Germany has spent all its waking hours in trying to compensate for Hitler’s abominations vis-a-vis Jews and other minorities. The RSS believes that India must be made strong again. So when an unnamed RSS ideologue met a German woman (an unidentified woman called the “Mother of Germany”) some forty years ago and asked her how Germany had “resurrected itself” so quickly after the Great War – certainly no credit here to German hard work or dedication to detail – she in turn told him, “You come from India, and you haven’t heard the story of Abhimanyu?”.
Ah yes. The story of Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata, as every Indian child knows, refers to the son of the great warrior Arjuna, who learnt how to fight the deadliest opponents because he heard his father reciting strategy when he was in his mother’s womb; unfortunately for Abhimanyu, Arjuna never completed the story, which meant that the young boy couldn’t save himself on the battlefield.
According to this unnamed “Mother of Germany,” children in the “New Germany” after the great war had been created through these practises of Ayurveda.
For the RSS ideologue, it was a sign. The past could certainly be avenged. The future belonged to those intelligent enough to respond to the present. And thus, the perfect baby project was born.