Communalism

Scientists Speak Up Against Spread of Communal Hatred in the Country

Following in the footsteps of writers, artists and sociologists – all of whom have voiced their concern in recent weeks over incidents of violence across India – a group of scientists has urged President Pranab Mukherjee to take “suitable action” to stop incidents of “intolerance, polarisation and [the spreading] of communal hatred”  from “taking our country, which has a rich heritage and cultural diversity, backwards.”

Holding that a highly polarised community is like a nuclear bomb close to criticality, they also demanded that “the strictest action … be taken against any such anti-human, anti-civilisational acts and anyone even suggesting such actions must be severely dealt with punishment beyond that reserved for anti- national activity as this is truly worse than that.”

Simultaneously, the Inter-Academy Panel on Ethics in Science (IAPES) also issued a statement on Tuesday voicing concerns over how the country’s scientific temper has been eroded by “several … statements and actions which run counter to this constitutional requirement”. The statement also asked for such “trespassers of reason” to be exemplarily punished.

The petition submitted to the president says: “We, the scientists, are concerned about the recent developments with reference to intolerance, polarisation and spread of communal hatred resulting in the death of innocent people, rationalists”. The petition was signed by the following scientists and academicians:

  1. Naresh Dadhich, Former Director, IUCAA
  2. Prof. G Rajasekaran, Professor emeritus, IMSc, CMI
  3. Prof. A P Balchandran, Emeritus Professor, Syracuse University
  4. Prof. G Baskaran, Emeritus Professor, IMSc
  5. Prof. Varun Sahni, IUCAA, Pune
  6. Prof. Vikram Soni, Emeritus Fellow, JNU
  7. Prof. T R Govindarajan Emeritus Professor, IMSc, CMI
  8. Prof. Partha Majumdar, SINP and Vivekananda University
  9. Prof. Tabish Qureshi, Jamia
  10. Prof. Anjan Ananda Sen, Jamia
  11. Prof. Suresh Govindarajan, IIT Madras
  12. Prof. Dawood Kothwala, IIT Madras
  13. Prof. Sudipta Sarakar, IIT Gandhinagar

“We urge you to take serious note of these developments and initiate suitable actions,” they said, addressing the president. In a separate petition to the Centre, state governments and people at large, they appealed for an end to “the spread of communal hatred and polarisation in society,” pointing out that India had been a plural country where communities allowed space for each other.

“A highly polarised community is like a nuclear bomb close to criticality. It can explode any time and drive the nation to utter chaos. This is a highly unstable atmosphere and we should do everything in our hands to defuse the disparity, and enlighten society in scientific spirit,” it said.

“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.” It added:

“The literature fraternity is the first to act and return their awards in protest against the current events. The scientific community however seems to remain passive. But scientists are also part of society and it is times like this that call upon them to be conscientious citizens and voice their concern. This is to start a campaign for scientists in India to wake up .. This may be followed by stronger actions akin to the award winners of Sahitya Akademi.”

The IAPES statement was much less explicit in its demands, and simply called for the country’s leadership as well as the people to exercise “rationality, rights and responsibility” in equal measure while referring to the aspirations described in Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’. The IAPES panel is constituted by India’s three science academies: the Indian National Science Academy, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. The full text of the IAPES statement reads:

When we became an independent republic, our founding fathers adopted the Constitution of India which demands that its citizens abide by and uphold reason and scientific temper. Scientific temper encompasses rationality, rights and responsibility in equal measure.

It crystallises what Tagore wanted India to be, namely, a nation

Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom;
let my country awake.

Yet, we note with sadness and growing anxiety several of statements and actions which run counter to this constitutional requirement of every citizen of India. It is important that exemplary punishment be given to such trespassers of reason and rights. We also appeal to all sections of Indian society to raise their voices against such violated acts, so that they are nipped in the bud.


This is the full text of the petition submitted by scientists to the central and state governments, followed by the complete list of signatories, numbering 130 as of October 26, 2015:

Indian civilisation is a truly plural one which unifies faiths and distils the wisdom of many streams of thought. There have been many practices and communities that have allowed space for each other and have lived together in peace and harmony for centuries. We celebrate the festivals and anniversaries of all faiths. This unifying threading of social and cultural fibre brings to bear the greatest civilisation strength and stability. It is this which is being threatened by a rash of sectarian and bigoted acts that have recently escalated.

A highly polarised community is like a nuclear bomb close to criticality. It can explode any time and drive the nation to utter chaos. This is a highly unstable atmosphere and we should do everything in our hands to defuse the disparity, and enlighten society in scientific spirit.

The literature fraternity is the first to act and return their awards in protest against the current events. The scientific community however seems to remain passive. But scientists are also part of society and it is times like this that call upon them to be conscientious citizens and voice their concern. This is to start a campaign for Scientists in India to wake up and and make a statement. This may be followed by stronger actions akin to the award winners of Sahitya Akademi.

In a fractured world, we have to keep the plural faith that defines our civilisation. As true adherents of science and its method, it is also our duty to help people at large to take informed and rational decisions, and particularly so in these volatile times. This is an ethical issue of great concern and import – a dharma – as enunciated by Buddha and Gandhi, and the question is how well we measure up to it. On the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Relativity – one of the greatest feats of human thought, let’s also pay fitting tribute to the exceptional man who stood for ethical and societal values and peace by speaking out for peace and harmony.

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. It is not just victimising innocent and enlightened people but killing them.

This is totally unacceptable. The strictest action must be taken against any such anti-human, anti-civilisational acts and anyone even suggesting such actions must be severely dealt with punishment beyond that reserved for anti- national activity as this is truly worse than that.

We strongly condemn the atrocities and join the protest of litterateurs in awakening people and the central and state governments to the dangers of not acting.

  1. Naresh Dadhich, IUCAA, Pune
  2. G Rajasekaran, IMSc, Chennai
  3. Aiyalam Balachandran, India
  4. Vikram Soni, JNU, Delhi
  5. Tabish Qureshi, Jamia Millia
  6. Govindarajan Thupil, IMSc, Chennai
  7. Parthasarathi Majumdar, SINP, Kolkata
  8. Suresh Govindarajan, India
  9. Ganapathy Baskaran , India
  10. Varun Sahni, IUCAA, Pune
  11. Vasantha Mani
  12. Ram Ramaswamy, JNU, Delhi
  13. Sumathi Rao, HRI, Allahabad
  14. Ashoke Sen,  HRI, Allahabad
  15. Ajit Srivastava, IOP, Bhubaneswar
  16. Pravabati Chingangbam, IIAP, Bangalore
  17. Debashis Ghoshal, JNU, Delhi
  18. Amber Habib, Shiv Nadar University
  19. Suman Bala, Pune, India
  20. Kakoli Bagchi, Pune, India
  21. Mehedi Kalam, India
  22. Qamar Usmani, Jamia Millia, Delhi
  23. Machchhindra Gophane, India
  24. Laxman Katkar, India
  25. Sucheta Koshti, India
  26. Prasad Basu, India
  27. Ninan Sajeeth Philip, India
  28. Manzoor Malik, India
  29. Main Pal, India
  30. Shantanu Rastogi, India
  31. Priya Hasan Hyderabad, India
  32. Prasad Subramanian, India
  33. Shabbir Shaikh, Pune, India
  34. Sheelu Abraham, India
  35. Pradip Mukherjee, India
  36. Mohammad Shoeb, Aligarh, India
  37. Rajeshwari Dutta, India
  38. Aparna V, Grand Forks, ND, United States
  39. Narayan Banerjee, India
  40. Tejinder Singh, India
  41. Nimisha Kantharia Pune, India
  42. SK Hossein, India
  43. Anirban Saha, India
  44. Remya Nair, India
  45. Pankaj Singh Rana , India
  46. Debasish Borah, India
  47. Prof. Farook Rahaman, India
  48. Surajit Chattopadhyay, India
  49. Koushik Chakraborty, India
  50. Ramesh Nambiar, India
  51. Tahseen Hassan, India
  52. Susmita Chakravorty Cambridge, MA, United States
  53. Charles Jose, Pune, PR, United States
  54. Fazlay Ahmed New Delhi, India
  55. Dr. Safiqul Islam, India
  56. Shaista Ahmad, Delhi, India
  57. Mira Dey, India
  58. Dilip Kanhere, India
  59. Sudipta Sarkar, India
  60. Nipanjana Patra , India
  61. Shashikiran Ganesh, India
  62. Atanu Nath Kolkata, India
  63. Anver Aziz, India
  64. Satish Abbi, India
  65. Iftikar Hossain Sardar, India
  66. Nita Dilawar, India
  67. Niladri Paul, India
  68. Verita Fernandes, India
  69. Krishnamohan Parattu, India
  70. Khabbab Zakaria, India
  71. Vasudha Bhatnagar, India
  72. Sharanjit Kaur, India
  73. Swagata Duari, India
  74. SK Islam, India
  75. Manju Bhardwaj, India
  76. Abdul Aziz, India
  77. Christy Mathew John, India
  78. Tanwi Bandyopadhyay, India
  79. Wali Hossain, India
  80. Najam Hasan Hyderabad, India
  81. Amit Das, India
  82. Naveen Gaur Delhi, India
  83. Sharad Lele Bangalore, India
  84. Pahai Kuo Toronto, Canada
  85. Subhankar Chakraborty, India
  86. Gopalakrishna Panicker Changanacherry, India
  87. Amim Ansar London, India
  88. Annie Hasan, India
  89. Prantik Saha, India
  90. Vijayalakshmi Kodati, India
  91. Mohammad Zahid, India
  92. Khaliq Mohiuddin, India
  93. Parthiv Mehta Mumbai, India
  94. Shouvik Datta, India
  95. Archana Pai, India
  96. Mousumi Das, India
  97. Sudipta Das, India
  98. Dawood Kothawala, India
  99. Syeda Zubeda , India
  100. Sowgat Muzahid State College, PA, United States
  101. Anjan Ananda Sen, India
  102. Premanand Mishra, India
  103. Akshay Kulkarni Redmond, WA, United States
  104. Naveen Kumar , India
  105. Ramki Ramakrishnan Tiruvananthapuram, TN, India
  106. Venkatesh Athreya Chennai, India
  107. Sahasranamam Padmanabhan, salem, India
  108. T.R. Udaya Kumar, India
  109. Ansntha Sayanam, India
  110. Srinivasan Nandagopal, India
  111. Venkat Loganathan, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  112. Zahoor Ahmed
  113. Ahmed Ali
  114. Kadirvelan Suryanarayan
  115. Donepudi RaviTeja
  116. Anil Kumar Avulappa
  117. SA Rajendran
  118. Devinder Kaur
  119. Ranjit Balakrishnan
  120. Md. Sabir Ali
  121. Karthikeyan Vivekanandhan
  122. Praveen Kumar,  Chennai    Tennessee
  123. Tina Matthews ,  Portland   Oregon
  124. Vijay Kumar, Mysore
  125. Rama Krishnan
  126. Alok Bhattacharya,  Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
  127. Madhan Mohan
  128. Anirban Kundu
  129. Sourav Bhattacharya
  130. Salmi Imran, Ringwood, New Jersey

With inputs from PTI.

  • Shamsul Islam

    It is a commendable and timely initiative The Hindutva organizations which are spreading communal poison through words and criminal actions are doing these led by an ideology of hate propagated by the RSS. These are not aberrations by some loud-mouths. The RSS organ ‘Organizer’ in its issue on the very eve of Independence, dated 14 August, 1947, rejected the whole concept of a composite nation (under the editorial title ‘Whither’) in the following words: ”Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on
    that safe and sound foundation […] the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations”.
    The Hindutva hate-mongers swayamsevaks have been fed with an ideology of hatred in RSS shakhas and ‘boudhik’ sessions. For these swayamsevaks books like ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ penned by Guru Golwalkar (described by prominent author Ramchandra Guha as ‘guru of hate’) are must read and hold the status of Gita which declare Muslims as ENEMY NO ONE and Christians as ENEMY NO TWO. (chapter XVI titled as ‘Internal Threats’). Moreover this book preaches for promulgation of ‘Manusmriti’ as constitution of India and demands India for Hindus. Unless such hateful literature is countered India will continue witnessing RSS cadres destroying a
    democratic-secular India from within.

  • NARAYAN RAO

    I wonder when this government will wake up.

    The creative fraternity has spoken , first the writers , now the film makers.

    The scientific community is speaking now.

    Will the country have to wait till 2019 ? Or will the BJP supporters even then claim that the people of the country have been misled ?

    Surely it is clear who is being misguided.

  • NARAYAN RAO

    The statement explicitly states the following :

    1. Indian civilisation is a truly plural one

    2. Indian civilisation unifies faiths

    3. Indian civilisation distills the wisdom of many streams of thought

    4. There have been many practices and communities that have allowed space for each other

    5. There have been many communities that have lived together in peace and harmony for centuries

    Are you saying that all of the above are false , because our society still allows untouchability ?

  • Someblah

    The statement from scientists showing support for pluralism is welcome! I only wish they spoke 50 years ago. Said that, I also wish this was an apolitical movement and not one with their political biases.

    Also, I wish scientists also spoke about pseudo-secular hypocrisy of UP, Bihar and West bengal government where they engage in acts like giving money to Madrasa teachers while thousands of state teachers remain unpaid for lack of money.

  • delta1980

    Maybe The Wire isn’t an appropriate forum for your views and the Organiser is.

  • Sunder VS

    How do I become a signatory to this petition? I have been saying for the longest time (see my blogpost http://differentstrokes-vss.blogspot.in/2015/01/the-king-is-naked.html) that scientists, and in particular the three science academies, do not speak when they need to – when there was an attempt to introduce Astrology into the curriculum of universities, for instance ! I would gladly be signatory to this petition!

  • Anisetti Thammayya

    These scientists should show some suitable actions to stop intolerance instead of asking President to take suitable actions. India is divided by British colonialists into Pakistan and India on the basis of religion. There is intolerance in Pakistan but no intellectual come out to protest against it. In India, there are many religions. But, we find that only Christians and Muslims raise their voice quite often on some issue or the other. Some one put a comment in these columns demanding division of India into two, the north for Muslims. There are reservations on the basis of religion not on income. We find mediocre people manning our institutions where intellectual work is carried out. Most of the Government institutions have become mediocre as they follow secularism and reservations. No power on the globe can stop intolerance among the people as long as the people follow religious and racial diversity life..

  • NARENDRA M APTE

    (1) Even as eminent
    citizens protest against government inaction about hate campaign of some
    organizations of Sangh Pariwar, BJP leaders and even ministers are criticising
    the protesters’ action. (2) Union
    minister and senior BJP leader Mr. Arun Jaitley has every right to express his
    disapproval of action of writers & scientists who have returned awards. But
    funnily, those who are protesting and returning awards are being termed as anti
    BJP elements. They may or may not be rabid anti-BJP but is that important?
    Citizens wish to know why the NDA government and BJP are directly or indirectly
    encouraging individuals and organizations to take law into their own hands. (3)
    Here fundamental question is who represents the vast majority of the Hindu
    population? No one has a monopoly to represent the entire Hindu community. It
    is one thing to propagate cause of cow slaughter ban and it is quite another to
    brand all those who eat beef as anti-Hindu (and even anti-national as some Hindutva
    leaders are saying). (4) It is worth remembering that great revolutionary V D
    Savarkar and one of founders of the Hindu Mahasabha regarded cow as a useful
    animal but he was never against slaughter of cows if it was necessary. To say
    that beef eating is anti-national is a sinister propaganda of organizations
    like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and such propaganda should be rejected straight
    away.

  • http://revathikumaran.wordpress.com Revathi

    I draw attention here to another petition, made online, by another group of Indian scientists.

    Apart from the stray comments of people in power, is there any evidence that science and reason are being eroded? Indeed, the question is: is the tradition and practice of Science in our country so vulnerable that it can allow unreason to prevail? A few stray comments do not warrant the overarching comment that “we are witnessing the active promotion of irrational and sectarian thought” almost as a matter of state policy.

    It is important, also, to delink the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi from the assassinations of the rationalists. The first, a crime against an individual, is inhumane in its conception and execution. The other three crimes appear to have been executed against a belief system that is at odds with that of the perpetrators of the crime. However, it is important to bear in mind that the criminals are yet to be brought to book and their motivations, exposed. Till such time that this is done, who is responsible for these crimes can only be conjecture born of gut feeling. It is also important, in this context, to recall that a recent news reported the finding of the dead body of one of the suspects alleged to have killed Prof. Kalburgi: the former had himself been killed under
    mysterious circumstances, which now has further complicated the investigation.

    As for pluralism, it continues to be felt on the streets of India, in the markets, in every means of public transport, and in every place where masses gather to either have their opium or their caffeine and nicotine. To superimpose a drawing room or conference room perspective of conflict on to the society at large and claim that “unity and peace has now been disturbed by a rash of bigoted acts” speaks of the disconnect of the intelligentsia with the real India.

    “Assault on reason and scientific temper”, once again, is a hyperbolic sentiment. It is, in fact, a reiteration of an unsubstantiated claim already made several times over in this rather short letter. Redundancy does not add value to a claim. And repeating a claim does not make it any more true than what it is worth. A few stray incidents are being blown out of proportion to make it seem as if there is a war against right-thinking individuals by right-wing individuals or groups. What people should wear, think,
    eat and love have always been subjects of debate. Lumping them together as is done here only seems to be a tactic to give an impression of a crisis where no such thing exists. Consider this: when someone asks the masses to question superstition is
    it not as much about telling people how to think and what to practice? When an unwritten dress code exists in each of
    our public and private spaces, in institutions, at events and gatherings are we not already outsourcing our sartorial sense? As for eating: sciences of health, medicine and nutrition have more or less taken over our lives and public policies in this regard are impacted by multiple agencies. Midday meal programmes in schools that includes eggs and milk or porridge and biscuits are definitely not tailored to individual tastes or cultural practices!

    The letter ends by saying “views expressed in the statement are individual and do not reflect views of the institution a signatory is affiliated to.” I find this disclaimer hypocritical: Courage of conviction demands that the individuals delink their names from their positions. Unless an individual feels that in order to draw attention to one’s views it is necessary to use their institutional
    affiliation as a crutch!

  • LieX

    I am a scientist myself, though now settled in West. I wish there was also a movement that disapproves of such tendencies of politicising the atmosphere through other means. In Europe scientists are busy convincing government against Brexit as indeed it would affect science funding and societies, in India they are more concerned about “threat to secular fabric” which is neither defined precisely nor is supported by any data. This is worst form of science one can imagine!