Day after more than 10 national award-winning filmmakers returned their honour in protest against the incidents reflecting “rising intolerance” in the country, eminent scientist Pushpa Mittra Bhargava announced he will be giving up his Padma Bhushan, third-highest civilian honour in the country. The eminent scientist alleged that the incumbent BJP-led NDA government has not made enough efforts to reign in the growing intolerance and protect the right to hold dissenting opinions.
The Central government, however, questioned the move of giving up awards and honours.
Dr. Bhargava, who founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, said he will return the award conferred on him in 1986 because he felt the climate in the country was of “very strong fear” and it was “against rationality, against reason and against scientific temper”.
“I have decided to return the award. The reason is that the present Government is moving away from the path of democracy… This is not acceptable… something I find unacceptable,” the 87-year-old scientist told a news agency in Hyderabad.
Charging the Modi government with “not keeping its promises”, Dr. Bhargava said, “returning the award is the only thing I can do as a scientist”.
Bhargava’s decision came even as he joined a second group of scientists who came out with an online statement expressing concern over “ways in which science and reason are being eroded”.
“It is the same climate of intolerance and rejection of reason that has led to the lynching in Dadri of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi and the assassinations of Prof Kalburgi, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and Shri Govind Pansare,” said the scientists and academicians including Bhargava and other Padma Bhushan recipients Ashoke Sen and P Balram.
Earlier on Tuesday, a group of scientists had petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee voicing concern over incidents of intolerance, including the killing of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi, and urged him to initiate “suitable actions”.
On its part, Modi government questioned the artists, filmmakers and the scientists on their move of giving up awards and honours.
“Those returning awards are playing politics by other means. They are rabid anti-BJP elements,” said Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley in Patna adding some of these personalities had even gone to Varanasi to campaign against Narendra Modi in the last general elections.
Rejecting the charge that an atmosphere of intolerance was prevailing in the country, the senior BJP leader said, “I had already called it a manufactured rebellion. I stand by my phrase. And I think the events as they are unfolding only indicate that kind of manufacturing is going on at faster speed.”
Later in the day, over 50 historians came out strongly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not making any reassuring statement following concerns over “highly vitiated atmosphere” prevailing in the country.
“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets,” said eminent historians including the leading names like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, KN Pannikar and Mridula Mukherjee in a joint statement released by Sahmat on Thursday.
(With inputs from the PTI)