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India: Ridiculous Claims Regarding Madhya Pradesh Assembly Being a Haunted House

7 November 2013

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The Telegraph, November 7 , 2013

Death—cracy: House that haunts politicians

RASHEED KIDWAI

The Madhya Pradesh Assembly, designed by Charles Correa. Picture by Saeed Faruqui

New Delhi, Nov. 6: The 17-year old Madhya Pradesh Assembly building, designed by influential architect Charles Correa, has struck fear among sections of politicians who claim its “evil effects” have killed sitting legislators.

Senior political leaders from the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress, while campaigning for the November 25 Assembly polls, are also planning a range of spiritual methods, including yagnas and vastu corrections to ward off the effects.

Since the building became functional in 1996, 21 sitting MLAs have died. Speaker and senior BJP leader Ishwardas Rohani died in Jabalpur yesterday. Rohani, who was 67, complained of chest pain and fainted during a meeting with BJP workers at his residence in Jabalpur. Family members rushed him to hospital where he was declared dead.

In May this year, the state’s deputy Speaker, Harbans Singh, died of cardiac arrest. He was 68.

The deaths have prompted some political leaders, including state commerce, industry, and information technology minister Kailash Vijaivargiya, to claim the Assembly building is jinxed, exudes “negative energy”, or violates principles of vastu shastra — directional prescriptions for buildings scripted in ancient India.

Rationalists have slammed the claims by politicians. “Such fears are absurd and ridiculous,” said Sanal Edamuruku, president of the Indian Rationalists Association. “People die of old age, illness, or accidents — buildings don’t kill people.”

Edamuruku said conducting yagnas to ward off evil would be tantamount to violating a fundamental duty enshrined in Article 15A of the Constitution, which requires Indians to promote scientific temper.

“Rather than conducting ritualistic ceremonies, they should count the number of legislators who did not die in all these years and the number of legislators from other state Assemblies who died during the same 17-year period,” Edamaruku said.

Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh also dismissed the fears. “When we shifted here in 1996, there was no such stigma. Such talk is all rubbish,” the Congress leader told The Telegraph.

But his party colleague and former Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, who headed the chair between 1996 and 2004, says the building suffers from “faulty construction and layout”. Tiwari claims he had organised a yagna to atone for the lapse.

“Somehow, no puja was performed when the building was operationalised in 1996. It was a glaring lapse, so I organised a puja, which many have called a yagna,” Tiwari said.

Vijaivargiya said it is strange that each year one or more sitting MLAs have died.

“The history of this Assembly building is not good. The Bhopal gas tragedy took place in 1984, when the construction started. Four years after we shifted to this building, Madhya Pradesh was bifurcated (with the formation of Chhattisgarh),” Vijaivargiya said.

Indore-based vastu expert Pankaj Agarwal says the building has flaws that can attract “negative energy”. Agarwal had prepared a 46-page report in 2006, suggesting 28 changes in the building to correct the flaws.

“The treasury benches face west while the Opposition faces east,” Agarwal said. “This means the government will always be in the dock while the Opposition dominates the proceedings. Such mistakes can affect the state’s morale and performance — and an individual’s immune system and thought processes.”

A senior immunologist in New Delhi said she is unaware of any scientific study connecting vastu with the human immune system.

The Madhya Pradesh government’s website describes the Assembly building as a structure designed by applying Correa’s “deep understanding of Vedic principles of architecture”.

Rohani himself believed the Assembly was jinxed. He had asked chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to take measures to correct the vastu flaws.

Poet, playwright and Sahitya Academy recipient Rajesh Joshi says it is sad that a building is being blamed for deaths. “So many farmers have committed suicide. Does it mean the state boundaries have vastu dosh,” Joshi said. “It is tragic that in the 21st century such talks should be taking place.”