On the climate of intolerance

Scientists from across the country, through a press statement, respond to the climate of growing intolerance, highlight pressing issues like the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri, and the assassinations of rationalists and cultural activists like MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare by Hindutva groups. They also highlight the need to develop scientific temper in the country and invoke Article 51 (A) of the Indian Constitution which demands the same. They assert that the scientific community will not allow such attacks on reason, science or India’s plurality.

Reproduced below is the entire text of their press statement:

October 28, 2015

The scientific community is deeply concerned with the climate of intolerance, and the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.

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 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 Indian civilization is a truly plural one. We have always had many practices and communities that have allowed space for each other; 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 views expressed in the statement are individual and do not reflect views of the institution a signatory is affiliated to.)

Dr Ashoke SenPadma Bhushan, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Distinguished Professor, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Dr Alladi Sitaram, Visiting Professor Chennai Mathematical Institute; 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, Government of India
Dr Chandrasekhar Khare, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Professor of Mathematics, University of California-Los Angeles, USA, and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Dr D. BalasubramanianPadma Shri, Research Director, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, & former Director Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad
Dr Madabusi RaghunathanPadma Bhushan, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Professor and Head, National Centre for Mathematics, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai
Dr P. BalaramPadma Bhushan, Former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Dr P. M. BhargavaPadma Bhushan, Former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad (one of the original signatories to the 1981 Scientific Temper Statement)
Dr Rama Govindarajan, Professor, TIFR Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, 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 R. 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.
Dr Vivek Borkar, Institute Chair Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai

The statement will be available online from today at http://www.submissiononline.in and we expect it to be signed by hundreds of scientists from across the country.

Issued on behalf of signatories by Amit Sengupta, D.Raghunandan, Satyajit Rath, Sabyasachi Chaterjee, T. Jayaraman