A group of scientists and researchers have become the latest community to issue a public appeal to citizens to reject divisive politics. A week ago, more than 100 filmmakers appealed to citizens not to vote for the BJP while on Monday, 231 writers appealed to the people to reject “hate politics”.
A collective of more than 150 noted scientists have appealed to voters to reject those who lynch or assault people and also those who encourage such practices. The collective urged to vote against “inequality, intimidation, discrimination, and unreason and remember the constitutional commitment to scientific temper”. The scientists declare that we cannot endorse politics that divides us, creates fears and marginalises a large fraction of our society.
Describing the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as a ‘crucial one’, the scientist said “the polls ask for a re-affirmation of the most fundamental guarantees our Constitution gives us equal rights to faith, culture, language, association, personal liberty and freedom of expression.”
The appeal was posted on Wednesday on the website of the Indian Cultural Forum, an association of academics, activists, lawyers and scientists. However, the statement was signed by 154 scientists, researchers and academics from various institutions, including the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, the Indian Statistical Institute, Ashoka University and the Indian Institutes of Technology.
The statement’s signatories include many of the country’s research community, including Amitabh Joshi, Gagandeep Kang, Naresh Dadhich, Prajval Shastri, Rama Govindarajan, Satyajit Mayor and Subhash Lakhotia, among others. The document was drafted by Satyajit Rath, adjunct Professor, IISER-Pune, and Rahul Roy, ISI-New Delhi.
The statement appeals to voters to uphold their constitutional rights. It also calls out violence against those fighting superstition. Finally, the scientist community asks the people to remember science as a means to ‘democratic empowerment’ instead of thinking about it solely as a ‘commercial enterprise’. In this appeal, the group also noted that there is an atmosphere in which scientists, activists and rationalists are hounded, harassed, intimidated, censored, jailed, or worse, murdered.
In the last two or three years, scientists have identified many issues during the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule at the Centre that have affected them, particularly the interference of Centre on understanding of research and development, and on education. Others include an apparent bias against fundamental research, low pay for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, bureaucratic intervention in universities, passive abetment of unscientific beliefs and privatization of higher education.
On August 31, 2016, Naresh Dadhich, the former director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, wrote to The Wire that the voices of protest are against the fear and anxiety causing the anguish and discomfort. In this environment, neither is the government doing enough to send a clear signal nor are the people. Many of whom are complicit in having created this unhealthy and disturbing situation. We scientists stand against all this and not specifically to any action and event”.
The appeal from the scientists concludes by calling on all citizens to “vote wisely, weighing arguments and evidence critically. We appeal to all citizens to remember our constitutional commitment to scientific temper.” While the scientists appeal does not refer to any particular party, it highlights concerns raised by numerous individuals and forums about issues under the Narendra Modi government.