Scientists float group to protect ‘intellectual rights’

Invoking the case of Binayak Sen,four senior scientists have formed a pressure group of “elder scientists” that will take up issues related to “rights of scientists and other intellectual workers”

Written by Adam Halliday | Ahmedabad | Published: June 2, 2012 3:50 am

Invoking the case of Binayak Sen,four senior scientists have formed a pressure group of “elder scientists” that will take up issues related to “rights of scientists and other intellectual workers”.

The group announced its formation in the latest issue of Current Science,jointly published by the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Current Science Association,and invited opinions.

“Some time ago,when Binayak Sen,an eminent health activist and vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties,was sentenced by a Chhattisgarh court to life imprisonment for sedition…,nine former presidents of the three principal Academies of science in India endorsed an appeal by more than 50 Nobel laureates…,supporting Sen and urging immediate release,” the group wrote.

“The initiative to support Sen had been taken by the Human Rights Office of the US National Academy of Sciences and the International Human Rights Network…. Several of us have felt that Indian scientists,especially those belonging to India’s principal Academies,need to form a committee on human rights,which can deal with such matters,” it wrote.

“We have discussed this matter with past and current presidents of these Academies. Most agree that it is necessary to have such a group,but are of the view that the group need not be formally constituted by the Academies. It is preferable to have an open group of ‘elder’ scientists….”

Besides Sen,the other case the group referred to was the arrest of molecular-biologist Partha Roy for his role in an anti-eviction protest in Kolkata this April.

Prof Obaid Siddiqi,former director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore,who is the group’s informal leader,told The Indian Express,“We will take opinions from others in the scientific community and see how we should function. We don’t want to have a thing that is constantly campaigning. But when some serious incident comes,then we want to discuss it and take it up and raise a voice.”

Another group member,Prof M Vijayan,a DAE Homi Bhabha Professor at IISc Bangalore,explained why the group will have only ‘elder’ scientists and those in past positions. He said those currently holding positions might face some “sensitivity” over taking up such matters.

T V Ramakrishnan,Professor Emeritus at BHU,and Dr D Balasubramanian,Director of Research at the L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad,are the other two founder members.

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