A video clip showing IIT Kanpur professor Laxmidhar Behera, who, days ago, was appointed Director of IIT Mandi, speaking about his apparent act of exorcism to rid his friend’s apartment and parents of “evil spirits” through the chanting of holy mantras has sparked a controversy.
Behera, according to the IIT Kanpur website, is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. A PhD from IIT Delhi and a post-doc from German National Center for Information Technology, his areas of specialty are robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
During the Covid-induced lockdown in 2020, he reportedly ran a community kitchen on campus to feed over 800 street children daily. His act of philanthropy was recognised by Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan through a tweet on April 15, 2020.
In the five-minute clip, Behera recounts how he had travelled to Chennai in 1993 to help a friend who was in distress as his “family was affected by ghosts”. He is heard saying that he had started “practising the thoughts and wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita” along with chanting the ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ mantra and had decided to help his friend to “demonstrate the potency of the holy name.”
“So I took two of my friends and reached at 7 pm. He was in a research scholar apartment. After 10-15 minutes of loud chanting we suddenly saw his father, who was a very short…person, absolutely old, barely able to walk, and suddenly his hand and leg was…he was creating such a ghastly dance and his head is almost touching the roof. You could feel that he is being completely devoured by the evil spirit,” Behera says in the clip.
He adds that the mother and wife of the friend were later “possessed by the evil spirit”. It took them around “45 minutes to an hour” of loud chanting to ward off the “evil spirit”, he says.
When asked about the video, Behera told The Indian Express Friday: “I narrated what I said. Ghosts exist, yes.” He added that modern science cannot explain a lot of occurrences or events.
The video was posted seven months ago on YouTube on a page “Learn Gita Live Gita.” Soon after The Indian Express reached out to Behera for his comments, the video’s setting was changed from public to private.
An IIT faculty member said it’s well-known that Behera is a “deeply religious” person.
Behera was selected by a panel comprising IIT Hyderabad chairman BVR Mohan Reddy, government of India’s Principal Scientific Adviser K. Vijay Raghavan, IIT Mandi chairman Prem Vrat, Standing Committee for IIT Council Chairman K. Radhakrishnan, then Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare and Education Minister Pradhan. A member of the committee said Behera’s was a “strong application,” and they were not aware of the video during the interview.