Critics say 'genius' babies engineering in India is 'Straight out of the Nazi playbook'

Indian children jump into a decorative pool in gardens at the India Gate monument on a hot iNew Delhi day.
Indian children jump into a decorative pool in gardens at the India Gate monument on a hot iNew Delhi day.PHOTO: AFP

India's largest Hindu far-right organisation said it is working with expectant couples in the country to produce "customised" babies, who, they hope, will be taller, fairer and smarter than other babies, according to a report in the Indian Express newspaper.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) health officials claimed that their program - a combination of diet, ayurvedic medicine and other practices - has led to 450 of these babies, and they hope to have "thousands" more by 2020, the report said.

"The parents may have lower IQ, with a poor educational background, but their baby can be extremely bright. If the proper procedure is followed, babies of dark-skinned parents with lesser height can have fair complexion and grow taller," Hitesh Jani, the health wing's national convener, told the newspaper.

Jani explained that the programme consists of a "purification of energy channels" and body before a pregnancy, and mantra-chanting and "proper food", such as meals rich in calcium and Vitamin A, after the baby is born.

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On Saturday, the chairwoman for a state child rights commission tried to attend one of the workshops where couples are counselled on how to produce these "genius" babies - as the Economic Times termed it - but was barred by organisers, that newspaper said.

"This is an unscientific thing that's happening here. It cannot continue," Ananya Chatterjee, the chair of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said. The RSS countered that her charges were "politically motivated".

Responding to a petition from the commission, the West Bengal state high court later mandated that organisers present an affidavit and video of the proceedings, which went off as scheduled.

The programme launched more than a decade ago and has spread to several Indian states. It was inspired by a RSS leader who met a woman in Germany more than 40 years ago.

RSS officials said the woman led a post World War II re-population effort in Germany for "signature children" based on the same principles, according to the Indian Express report.

This comment - and its evocation of the legacy of Third Reich era eugenics - prompted immediate backlash on social media, with one critic writing on the Daily O opinion website that this "dystopia in the womb" was "straight out of the Nazi playbook".

The powerful RSS was founded in 1925 as a volunteer organisation to advance the rights of Hindus. Over the years, it has given rise to many of the country's more successful conservative politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

A few of its founders praised in essays and books the totalitarian movements of Nazism and fascism sweeping Europe at the time, scholars have said.

"The original RSS stalwarts found a political validity in racial resurrection championed by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich," Angshukanta Chakraborty, an opinion writer on the Daily O website, wrote, adding, "And even now, a racially pure search for homeland or creation of one along racially/communally pure lines appeals to the RSS and is the heart of its ideology."