In a debate in the Lok Sabha on December 12 about the Sanskrit University Bill, Ganesh Singh, the BJP MP from Satna, Madhya Pradesh, cited studies conducted by some American research institution to claim speaking Sanskrit every day “boosts the nervous system and keeps diabetes and cholesterol at bay”, PTI reported. He also said, “according to a [study] by US space research organisation NASA, if computer programming is done in Sanskrit, it will be flawless.”
Both claims are false.
Ramesh Pokhriyal, the Union human resource development minister, moved the Sanskrit University Bill in Lok Sabha. The Bill will convert three deemed universities into central universities: the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Delhi and the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tirupati.
Reeteka Sud, a neuroscientist at NIMHANS, Bengaluru, wrote about the ‘Sanskrit as programming language’ claim for The Wire in August this year:
… it relates to a paper from 1985 authored by a Rick Briggs, who worked at the NASA Ames Research Center, California. While the author discusses how a natural language could also be useful as an artificial language – a language for computers – nowhere does he assert the sort of thing that the minister has said.
It is more likely that the words in the minister’s speech are inspired by a misinterpreted take on the original article by a Ratnesh Dwivedi, who wrote a few lines on the subject in 2010 for an outlet known only as the “Internet Society” based out of Colorado, as far as anyone can tell. There are additional treasure troves on the internet, found without much difficulty, that make the same claims. One, called sanskritdocuments.org, even intermixes text from Briggs’s paper with sanctimonious praise for Sanskrit. Some of the text from this page matches Dwivedi’s, but seeing as there is no named author or date of publication, who copied from whom is anyone’s guess.
The claims about how speaking Sanskrit “boosts the nervous system and keeps diabetes and cholesterol at bay” can be similarly traced to various websites, but not to any well-defined studies with reproducible results.