Sunday Edition

Ssshhhh... koi hai

| | in Sunday Pioneer
Ssshhhh... koi hai

Organisers of the 17th annual UFO conference in Cornwall, to be held early next month, want people to open their mind about UFOs and extraterrestrial beings. Although there have been over a 100 UFO sightings in India in the last one year alone, scepticism around them still exists. The recent UFO sighting in Ladhak has sparked a debate — whether aliens have been visiting Earth since they were first spotted in 1639 over the Charles River in Boston or are they just latest modern-day aircrafts that various Governments have been experimenting with? While astrophysicists deny that there is no scientific evidence that some UFOs are spaceships of extraterrestrial origin, ufologists opine that Extraterrestrial Biological Entities are a reality. SHALINI SAKSENA explores the phenomenon that surrounds these UFOs and why despite widespread doubting, the belief that ‘we are not alone' continues

  • January 26, 2011: A glowing round object making a speedy descent was seen near the West Bengal-Bihar border that left pilots of five aircrafts baffled. The first person to sight the object was a senior Air India pilot who was navigating the aircraft at a height of 34,000 ft during its flight from Kolkata to New Delhi. “The plane was just entering the airspace of Gaya, close to the Bengal-Bihar border, when I first noticed the glowing object, below the aircraft, hurtling down at a very high speed,” Captain Rishi was quoted as saying by the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower at Dum Dum International Airport. He was not the only one to have seen the object. Four foreign airlines pilots had also seen the same object and all of them reiterated that it was going down at a great speed
  • January 1, 2013: Pratyush Gupta and his family at around 10 pm, sighted a flying object in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Gupta said that the object was circular and orange in colour. However, in the photos it appeared purple.
  • January 10, 2013: Bimal Pangli at 1:16 am, allegedly confirmed a UFO sighting near Chandigarh, Punjab. She described the UFO as an elongated cylinder with a focal point at one end. A report was filed with the Punjab Police who has been looking into the matter.
  • August 4, 2013: Indian Army troops in Lagan Khel area in Demchok in Ladakh area reported having sighted a strange flying object in the vicinity. The flying objects were yellowish and spherical that came from a location near the China border. They remained in the sky for several hours before disappearing. Where they went was unclear.

In the last one year, the number of Unidentified Flying Object sightings in India have been on the rise. In fact, over 100 such objects have been spotted along the Line of Actual Control (Indo-China border). The Government and various research institutes in the country have an explanation for these sightings. They believe that the high altitude and thin atmosphere of the Ladakh border allows for objects in the sky to be seen in a different light. Which means that the sightings of UFOs in the sky (on August 4, 2013) are in fact planets Jupiter and Venus.

However, ufologists (researchers who study UFOs) have a different take on it and say that these are just cover-up stories  by Government bodies. “Extraterrestrial Biological Entities or EBTs do exist. There is no doubt about that. The only problem is that not everybody has seen them. Whenever there is talk of a sighting, such people are hushed up. There is plenty of scepticism around these entities. But there is so much that is happening around us that can’t be explained. Even our epics, like the Ramayana talk about udan khatolas. What are these if not flying objects that were there even 5,000 years ago. Or the use of weapons that Mahabharata talks about at Kurukshetra. Obviously, the knowledge came from somewhere — from beings who are more advanced than we are,” Govind Kapoor, who has been studying UFOs and their sightings in the country for more than 20 years, says.

In fact, people who believe that there is life outside the Earth have a valid question to ask of astrophysicists and sceptics. “Why is it that despite no scientific proof of existence of life outside our planet, we continue to look for it? If there are no EBTs why are scientists all over the world looking for them? Why spend millions of dollars in looking for something that scientists say doesn’t exist? Why has a group of British astronomers launched a new mission to search for extraterrestrial life? The scientists have been petitioning the Government for a small part of the UK’s Science Budget — £1 million in annual funding. Why has the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organisation dedicated to investigating ‘are we alone? — awarded NASA researcher Geoff Marcy $200,000 to pursue his search for alien civilisations? Of course, there has to be some truth in it,” Kapoor questions.

He adds that the search for UFOs began way back in 1896 when Nikola Tesla suggested that radio could be used to contact extraterrestrial life. In India, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope has been recently set up for research in the field of radio astronomy. It is also a powerful facility for Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

 Kapoor tells you that UFOs may not necessarily be from another realm altogether. “They could be from a parallel universe or beings who live in patal lok. Our religious books talk about swarg lok and patal lok. While it may be difficult to prove the existence of a swarg, it is probably easy to find some kind of advanced life form at the centre of the Earth. Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Centre of the World written in the 19th century is rather descriptive of what one will find there,” Kapoor says.

Such were the details in the book that Adolf Hitler had a team of scientists working on a way to find this ‘centre’. But these are recent works when it comes to hunt for aliens that have also proved as exciting. The research work questions why it is difficult to believe in the existence of another life form which is highly developed and more advanced than us? How do sceptics explain the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the temples by the Incas? Imagine the strength and the know-how these people would have had to construct these structures? If we say that it was built by man, how can we say that man then was primitive? modern-day ufologists argue in these lines.

“Either man then was primitive or he had the know-how to build such complex structures. If man could build Pyramids or stone temples, that are still standing today, high up in the mountains why has it taken us centuries to take to the skies? The only explanation is that someone was giving this information to the so called ‘primitive man’. And who were these people or beings — EBTs,” Kapoor asserts.

Another ufologist Ramkrishan Vaishnav, an engineer by profession, has made it a personal mission to study and research on the UFOs. Vaishnav’s interest in the flying objects started when he was in Class VIII.

“That there could be life outside our planet fascinated me and things came to a head when in 2008, I saw a flying object. It happened on March 15 around 6:47 pm. Suddenly an object that was shaped like a hat (a disc with semi-sphere on the top) and glowing at bottom (the light was of very high intensity) appeared on the east side of Banswara village in Rajasthan. The object was not like anything that I had seen before,” Vaishnav recalls.

His quest for alien life began and the website www.topalienufo.com came into being which reports sightings from across the country. His only regret, he tells you is that he couldn’t carry out the investigation himself. “Lack of funds make it impossible for me to travel to the place where sightings are reported. I have written many letters to the concerned authorities but the only feedback I have got so far is that there are no such objects and hence funding to authenticate them doesn’t arise,” Ramkrishan says.

His theory why the EBTs are coming to Earth is rather interesting. “Like we are searching for life on other planets, the other beings too could be searching for life. The fact that they have found life on Earth is not only good for them, it is good for us as well. It means that we are not alone,” Ramkrishan says.

He has a rather plausible explanation why UFOs are spotted in isolated areas. “When we go exploring in the space or want to land on the Moon, we choose a spot which is convenient for us. We look for a geological spot that is safe. Why don’t we accept the fact that the UFOs are also doing the same thing?,” Ramkrishan explains. “If they were here to harm us, they would have done so years ago when the first flying object was sighted. They probably just want to see how we live. Or they want to prevent humanity from annihilating itself. It could even be that they are here to impart knowledge,” he states. 

Even as the debate why UFOs are visiting our planet and the scepticism around the sightings continues, people like Major Sebastian Zachariah, an Army officer became a laughing stock with his friends when he reported seeing an unidentified object in June this year. Apart from his wife no one believed in what he saw. “I prefer not to talk about it. It has already caused a lot of embarrassment for my family. Our friends and the media has made a joke of it all. But I know that my husband did not hallucinate seeing the flying object. But now we prefer to put it behind us and move forward,” Divya Sebastian, Zachariah wife says over the phone from Kochi.

After much coaxing she relents and tells you that her husband was on leave at that time when the image was captured. “We were driving to Kannur and my husband who had just bought a new cellphone was clicking photographs when suddenly he said that he had captured an image of something flying. We looked at the sky and in the distance to see if the object was still there. Unfortunately, there was nothing. But the truth is that we can’t deny what was captured. Staring at us was a picture with a flying saucer,” Divya tells you.

Persuade her more and all she has to say is that it was around 5 pm. “There was no indication or noise to alert us of the fact that such a huge flying object was in the air,” Divya recounts.

A similar sighting was witnessed some 3,000 km in Himachal Pradesh by Professor Sunil Dhar a geology professor with Dharamsala’s Government Post Graduate College in September 2004. The professor with 14 other people including  five ISRO scientists, researchers and porters saw a robot-like object one morning descending a hill. “We were looking at the impact of global warming on the glaciers in the region near Chadratal lake. At 16,000 ft above sea level, the area is a cold desert and to expect any kind of life form to be permanently stationed there is impossible. When we saw this white object in the sky  about to land, we were amazed. But the porters started screaming and waving their hands in order to prevent it from landing. The object stopped its descend and started moving towards our tents. It hovered over us for 15 minutes,” Prof Dhar recalls.

The object then turned black in colour and within seconds disappeared. Scared by what they had just seen, the team wanted to rule out the bizarre theory that it was a UFO. But the evidence and the pictures taken, pointed otherwise. “We even thought it was Yeti. But of course, it was nothing of that sort. It was a highly mechanised object, moving at a speed that can’t possibly have been made by man. Was it controlled by EBTs? One can’t say it with certainty,” Prof Dhar says.

Over the next one year, what was witnessed was put under scanner. As usual nothing concrete came out of the investigation. But when the team went back in 2005, the locals told them about how paris (fairies) visit the place. “Of course, they didn’t literally mean fairies but beings that descended from the sky. We have made many trips to the region but have never seen anything like that before or since then,” Prof Dhar states adding that though he is not a believer, what he saw can’t be negated. “We cannot say that we are alone in this universe,” he concludes.

The Scepticism

While ufologists the world over opine that not everything can and has been explained by science, astrophysicist Professor Jayant Narlikar who has spent many years questioning the Big Bang theory opines that there is no scientifically authentic evidence that some UFOs are spaceships of extraterrestrial origin.

“Any heavenly object that can’t be identified is a UFO. Sometimes Venus near the horizon is mistaken for a UFO. In some cases witnesses have lied or given forged photographs,” Narlikar says.

He doesn't want to comment on the UFO sighting of August 4, “I was not in the country at that time" is all he had to say, he does say that most of the sightings that have been probed by experts have some mundane explanation. “The UFO is planet Venus or some optical illusion or that the object is a spy satellite launched by a nation. A third explanation given is that the person claiming to have seen the UFO has a psychological problem and wants to seek limelight this way... So far no UFO studied by experts has turned out to be extraterrestrial,” Narlikar explains.

Despite science denying UFO existence yet people see them, why? “Whatever people see is influenced by ‘perceptual distortion and defense' — our mind is prone to illusions.

“Fantasy plays a huge role, people omit or add important details to objects that they are perceiving and this gives them a false perception that they are seeing UFOs. Second, there is also a class of people who claim to see UFOs in order to be in the limelight. Third, at certain times there also comes up a bizarre mob mentality where people get heavily influenced by what someone claims and they also start seeing similar things,” Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist with Imago-Centre for Self in the Capital says.

But many UFO sightings are by Air Force pilots and the Army and not just the public at large how does one explain that? “The burden of proof is on those who claim visions. Then, it is strange that UFOs are always seen in out of the way places where only one person sees them? If I were exploring a strange planet, I will appear over Delhi or Mumbai where there is a lot of activity,” Professor Jayant Murthy, of Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru, says.

Dr Pulkit tells you that people believe in alien life as they are seeking a connection with something deeper. “People in present age are suffering from a deep existential crisis. They wish to believe that there is something deep — life has a meaning, universe is not a random place, spiritual theories exist and therefore they are convinced about life beyond earth in the universe,” Dr Pulkit states, adding that due to these reasons some people deliberately falsify truth.

Narlikar has a simple explanation for this. “The finding of life outside the Earth and the realisation of us being no longer alone in the universe will bring a new perspective to the human race. If we find extraterrestrials more advanced than us, we may learn from them. Also, we have evidence, circumstantial no doubt, but telling us that we are not alone. Finding complex molecules known to be part of life here and planets around other stars have made life elsewhere more likely,” Narlikar tells you.

This is probably why people want to see them. “People want to see things and whenever they see something they don't recognise, there is a temptation to ascribe it to something supernatural. Often, people claim they see ghosts; others say aliens. In all cases, the common sense explanation holds. In the case of objects in the sky, whether the Moon or Venus, if it appears unusual in any way, it will be ascribed to aliens,” Murthy says. Does this mean that all those people who have seen UFO have a psychological problem. “People who see UFOs are not necessarily suffering from psychological problems or disorders. Normal people can have an illusion, have a need to become famous or get influenced by mob mentality,” Dr Pulkit states. But he is quick to point out that science needs to be open about UFO phenomenon and alien life.

“There are so many things that human beings did not know several years ago. Similarly, there may be things we are unaware of. Life existing outside earth is possible and we need to be open about this. Rather than simply dismissing individual report we should do extensive research,” Dr Pulkit says.




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