Pushpa M Bhargava
Pushpa M Bhargava, noted scientist and founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.Facebook/Dr. PM Bhargava Fan Page

Noted scientist and the founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, Pushpa M Bhargava, will return his Padma Bhushan Award to protest against the growing intolerance in the nation and curtailment of freedom of the citizens.

He decided to return the award, which he received in 1986, on Wednesday to protest against "the government's attack on rationalism, reasoning and science" and hoped that scientists, especially young ones, "too will will raise their voice", according to The Times of India report.

"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," he told TOI.

Just a day before Bhargava made the decision, a group of 135 scientists and several academicians filed a petition with President Pranab Mukherjee urging him to take "suitable action" against growing "intolerance, polarisation and communal hatred" in the society.  

"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... We urge you to take serious note of these developments and initiate suitable actions," The Wire quoted the petition as saying.

"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.

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 MM Kalburgi, rationalist Narendra Dabhoklar and communist Govind Pansare, The Times of India reported.

They released a statement expressing solidarity with many writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards in protest against the several incidents that have taken in the last few months.

"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," their statement said.

"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.

Several filmmakers also joined the protest and returned their National Awards on Wednesday. They wrote a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their protest against "murders of rationalists and writers like Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi", and in solidarity with the protesting FTII students.

The FTII students, who have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as institute's chairman, called off their 139-day strike on Wednesday and decided to resume classes. However, they will continue their protest until the government comes up with a solution.

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