Joining the bandwagon of writers and artists, veteran scientist P M Bhargava will return the awards he received from the government of India to protest against “the government’s attack on rationalism, reasoning and science.”
Bhargava, who was the founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said he would return his Padma Bhushan at a time when “Modi government is giving room for communalists and fringe groups to divide the country based on religion.”
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Talking to The Indian Express, he said: “An artist can express his dissent by doing an art work. But I am a scientist. How will I protest through my work? So I had to take the decision to return the award as it is the only way to register my protest.”
Bhargava, 87, added that he will meet the home secretary and return the award soon.
In India, he said, scientists’ fraternity is socially insensitive. “I hope the decision taken by me would at least sensitise them towards the alarming situation in the country. Scientists cannot be silent or ignore things happening around,” he said.
Bhargava said it was the series of murders of three rationalist writers made him upset. “Moreover, there are statements from the fringe groups almost everyday. All these sectarian forces were there in the country for several decades. But now they get more courage to do things under the Narendra Modi government. They could kill people and make statements of hatred. Even yesterday, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said a husband and a wife are bound by a social contract and Women should be housewives. Such statements started arising in the last one and half years because Modi himself is a man of RSS. And BJP is the political front of RSS. Its very very disturbing,” he said.
Bhargava said the Padma Bhushan or any such award will have no value if the government that gives the award stands to institutionalise a religion and hatred against others.
Bhargava’s decision came after 107 senior scientists signed an online statement on Wednesday to join the chorus of protests by other scientists, artists and writers. About 135 scientists had signed an online petition addressed to the President on Tuesday protesting intolerance. It said the Indian Constitution in Article 51 A (h) demands … that we develop 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.