Renowned scientist and the founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, Pushpa M Bhargava has said he is returning his Padma Bhushan award to protest the growing intolerance in the nation and curtailment of freedom of the citizens.
According to a report published in The Times of India (TOI), Bhargava said he will return his 1986 award to protest "the government's attack on rationalism, reasoning and science" and hoped that scientists, especially young ones, "too will raise their voice".
The TOI was quoted him as saying, "The Padma Bhushan had a special place in my collection of more than 100 awards for science. Now I feel no sentimental attachment to it when the government tries to institutionalise religion and curtail freedom and scientific spirit.”
Comparing a polarised community to a nuclear bomb close to “criticality”, Bhargava said such an explosion could “drive the nation to utter chaos”.
“We should do everything in our hands to defuse the disparity, and enlighten society in scientific spirit," he was quoted as saying.
"This is an appeal to the government to act swiftly to stop this mayhem which is victimising innocent people for eating beef, sensible people for being against superstition, RTI activists or whistle blowers and many more innocent people with human values." Bhargava told the newspaper.
A day earlier, a group of over 100 scientists and several academicians had filed a petition with President Pranab Mukherjee urging him to take "suitable action" against growing "intolerance, polarisation and communal hatred" in the society.
The TOI has also reported that another group of 107 scientists, including Bhargava, also joined the chorus against the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri, and the killings of noted Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi, and rationalists Narendra Dabhoklar and Govind Pansare.
They also released a statement expressing solidarity with many writers who have returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards as a mark of protest.
"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 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," it added.
Quoting the Indian Constitution’s Article 51 A (h) that calls for development of scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform, these scientists said that the country is instead witnessing “active promotion of irrational and sectarian thought by important functionaries of the government”.