More than 100 scientists speak out against bigotry

Close on the heels of one set of scientists writing to President Pranab Mukherjee on the rising instances of “intolerance, polarisation and communal hatred,” another set of over 100 scientists from India and abroad released a statement online on the current state of affairs in the country “on the issues of reason, tolerance and scientific temper.” The scientists include Padma award winners and current and former heads of several leading scientific and engineering institutions.

The statement begins with a deep concern about the “climate of intolerance, and the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.”

The scientists say: “It is the same climate of intolerance, and rejection of reason that has led to the lynching in Dadri of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi and the assassinations of Prof. Kalburgi, Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Shri Govind Pansare. All three fought against superstition and obscurantism to build a scientific temper in our society. Prof. Kalburgi was a renowned scholar and an authority on the Vachana literature associated with the 12th-century reformer Basava, who opposed institutionalised religion, caste and gender discrimination. Similarly, Dr Dabholkar and Shri Pansare promoted scientific temper through their fight against superstition and blind faith.”

The scientists signing the petition include Dr Ashoke Sen, Padma Bhushan, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Distinguished Professor, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad; Dr Alladi Sitaram, Visiting Professor Chennai Mathematical Institute an Professor Emeritus, Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru (2005-2010); Dr Ashok Jain, Former Director, National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), New Delhi; Dr A Gopalakrishnan, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board; Dr Chandrasekhar Khare, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Professor of Mathematics, University of California-Los Angeles, and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; Dr D. Balasubramanian, Padma Shri, Research Director, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad and former Director Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Dr Madabusi Raghunathan, Padma Bhushan, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Professor and Head, National Centre for Mathematics, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai; Dr P. Balaram, Padma Bhushan, Former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru; Dr P M Bhargava, Padma Bhushan, Former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Dr Satyajit Mayor, Foreign Associate US National Science Academy, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bengaluru; Dr Sharada Srinivasan, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru; Dr Sriram Ramaswamy, Director, TIFR Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Hyderabad; Dr Spenta Wadia, Founding Director and Emeritus Professor, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bengaluru; Dr Vineeta Bal, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, and Dr Vivek Borkar, Institute Chair Professor (electrical engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, among dozens of others.

The statement adds: “The Indian Constitution in Article 51 A (h) demands, as a part of the fundamental duties of the citizens, that we ‘...develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform'. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing instead is the active promotion of irrational and sectarian thought by important functionaries of the government.”

The scientists say that Indian civilisation is truly plural, and that “we have always had many practices and communities that have allowed space for each other.” It says: “We celebrate the festivals and anniversaries of all faiths. This unity and peace has now been disturbed by a rash of bigoted acts, attacks on minorities and Dalits, which show no signs of abating.”

“The writers have shown the way with their protests. We scientists now join our voices to theirs, to assert that the Indian people will not accept such attacks on reason, science and our plural culture. We reject the destructive narrow view of India that seeks to dictate what people will wear, think, eat and who they will love. We appeal to all other sections of society to raise their voice against the assault on reason and scientific temper we are witnessing in India today.”

The scientists’ statement was put at on Wednesday, and according to Prof T Jayaraman of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the group “expects it to be signed by hundreds of scientists from across the country.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:29:08 AM |

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