|Born||17 February 1930
Kozhikode, Kerala, India
|Died||4 October 2009
Podanur, Tamil Nadu, India
|Occupation||Rationalist, skeptic, owner-writer-publisher of the monthly magazine The Indian Skeptic|
Basava Premanand (17 February 1930 – 4 October 2009) was a skeptic and rationalist from Kerala, India. He has organised many tours around rural India for the promotion of scientific thinking including exposing alleged 'miracles' and scams done by various gurus and also spread awareness against superstition. He was the founder of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, the convener of Indian CSICOP and the owner-publisher-editor of the monthly magazine, The Indian Skeptic, which scientifically investigates paranormal occurrences in India. He was known for being one of the most vocal critics against Satya Sai Baba.
Premanand was born on 17 February 1930 in Kozhikode, Kerala. His parents were followers of the Theosophical movement. In the 1940s, Premanand quit school to take part in the Quit India Movement. With that ended his traditional schooling. His next seven years were spent in newly started Sri-Steila Gurukula, where the Shantiniketan-Wardha brand of education was imparted. He had an interest in the paranormal, and investigated swamis and gurus. He was strongly influenced by Helena Blavatsky in his early years and in 1969, met the Sri Lankan skeptic Abraham Kovoor who was on his 'Miracle Exposure' lecture tour in India, whom Premanand succeeded in 1978 due to his death.
Around 1975 Premanand started publicly denouncing the Indian godman, Sathya Sai Baba, and devoted his life to exposing godmen and paranormal phenomena. He was arrested in 1986 by the police for marching, with 500 volunteers, towards Puttaparthi, the town where the main ashram of the guru is located; in the same year he sued Sathya Sai Baba for violation of the Gold Control Act for Sathya Sai Baba's materializations of gold objects. The case was dismissed, but Premanand appealed on the ground that spiritual power is not a defence recognised in law, which was also unsuccessful. In 1993, he published his book Murders in Sai Baba's Bedroom which was regarding the killings of six inmates which took place in Sai baba's ashram and in which he claimed was an overlook by the authorities. He allegations against Sai baba further include sexual and economic offences. He claimed that he survived four murder attempts and bears injuries from beatings for his activism, and was known as one of Sai baba's most vocal critics.
Premanand used his skills as an amateur magician to try to give a natural explanation of some of the alleged miracles of gurus and godmen. Guru Busters, the documentary by the British film maker Robert Eagle, features Premanand displaying and teaching his interpreted explanation for many supposedly supernatural stunts such as levitation, flesh piercing and live burials. He took active part in Vigyan Yatra (Rally for Science) organised by Maharashtra Lok Vidnyan in 1982 to popularise science and scientific thinking as well as in the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha held in 1987 espousing the same cause, is also credited for the formation of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANiS) in 1989.
He founded the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations in 7 February 1997, which tours the villages of India to spread his ideas of natural explanations of gurus and fakirs whom he considered frauds or self deceived. He was the convener of Indian CSICOP, a Tamil Nadu-based skeptic group which is an affiliate of CSICOP. He was the owner-publisher-editor of the monthly magazine, The Indian Skeptic, which "publishes articles on the scientific investigation of apparently paranormal occurrences with a special emphasis on cases from India".
Once referred to in a BBC anti-guru show as India's leading guru buster, Basava Premanand has "been honoured by the government with its highest award for the promotion of scientific values among the public."
The paranormal challenge
In 1963, Abraham Kovoor offered an award of INR 100,000 for anyone who could demonstrate supernatural or miraculous powers under fool-proof and fraud-proof conditions. After the death of Kovoor in 1978, Basava Premanand continued his challenge by offering INR 100,000 to any person who would demonstrate any psychic, supernatural of paranormal ability of any kind under satisfactory observing conditions. This amount has not been contested and won.
Premanand was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and underwent a major surgery. He died on 4 October 2009 at Podanur, Tamil Nadu and donated his body to a local medical college. He was succeeded by Narendra Nayak and property, assets and the copyright of his 26 books were given to The Federation for Indian Rationalists Association.
Books and pamphlets
- Science versus Miracles
- Lure of Miracles
- Divine Octopus
- The Storm of Godmen, God and Diamond Smuggling
- Satya Sai Greed
- Satya Sai Baba & Gold Control Act
- Satya Sai Baba & Kerala Land Reforms Act
- Investigate Balayogi
- United Front - FIRA 2nd National Conference
- Murders in Sai Baba's Bedroom
- A. T. Kovoor Octogenary Souvenir
- Saibabayude Kalikal
- Saidasikal Devadasikal
- Pinthirippanmarude Masterplan
- List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal
- Prabir Ghosh, West Bengal rationalist and his $50,000 challenge against Godmen and astrologers
- Sanal Edamaruku
- Innaiah Narisetti
- "National Awardees for Science Popularisation". NIC. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
- Rahul Singh (2 November 2009). "The Spell Breaker". Outlook. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Datta, Tanya (2004-06-17). "Sai Baba: God-man or con man?". BBC. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
- Sushil Rao (25 April 2011). "His harshest critics died with a wish unfulfilled". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- "An Indian Skeptic's explanation of miracles". Mukto Mona. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
- Johannes Quack (22 November 2011). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 98, 99, 101. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta: Sunday, 21 November 2004
- Johannes Quack (2011). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 95–104. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8.
- Indian Skeptic official Website
- Interview with Premanand
- BBC radio documentary about Premanand (in RealAudio format)
- Skeptical Enquirer article on B.Premanand
- Guru Busters
- JREF Obituary