Father of first Indian woman in space denouces sexual violence in Indian society

Published: February 3, 2013


Bansi Lal Chawla, father of Kalpana Chawla, presents the Excellence Award to Femina Miss India Vanya Mishra during the 9th Kalpana Chawla in New Delhi in May 2012. K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images

Banarsi Lal Chawla, the father of the first Indian woman to reach space,  has strongly denounced sexual violence and superstition in the orthodox Indian society. On the occasion of the 10th
anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster that killed seven U.S. astronauts, including
Kalpana Chawla on Feb. 1, 2003, he said that Indian society needs to adopt a scientific and progressive outlook towards life instead of sticking to outdated values.

Born in a male-dominated Indian society, Kalpana made it to NASA with the support of her father. During a special interview with Radio India, Chawla condemned ongoing sexual violence against women in India.  He is particularly upset with the trend of female infanticide, another example of gender discrimination.

“How can you think of killing unborn girls, ¬†who are our future mothers?”¬†Chawla¬†said, adding that girls are¬†assets of the society and should never¬†be seen as liability. “Look at me. Kalpana made me a proud father.”

In the same breath, he¬†criticized superstition and blind faith in India despite scientific progress and development. He pointed out that many¬†devotees¬†who often go to¬†pilgrimages die in accidents, yet nobody has a courage to question¬†ritualism and irrationalism. Chawla asked what’s the point wasting money on¬†building temples, mosques or gurdwaras when the Indian society needs to move forward and bring an overall development?

“I encourage youngsters to enlighten themselves in science instead of exhausting their energy on religious and spiritual matters.”

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