Well-known scientist and founder-director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) P.M. Bhargava has returned the Padma Bhushan award, received by him in 1986, to President Pranab Mukherjee in protest against the direction in which “today’s Government run by the BJP is driving the country”.
Mr. Bhargava sent the award to the President on November 6. Explaining the reasons for his decision to return the award, he said in a letter to Mr. Mukherjee: “it is with much regret that I am, with this letter, returning the award of Padma Bhushan that I had the privilege of receiving in 1986 from the then President of India, Shri Giani Zail Singh. This award has been very dear to me. My returning it to you, for whom I have much respect and admiration, is an expression of my concern at the currently prevailing socio-politico situation in the country. I am deeply concerned that the Bharatiya Janata Party which is ruling at the Centre and several States, has deserted the road of democracy and is driving my beloved country on a path that would make the country a Hindu religious autocracy, somewhat like Pakistan with Islam replaced by Hinduism”.
He said “no one would be more aware than you that, de facto, BJP is the political front of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and functions under the leadership of the RSS that is fully committed to the ideology of Hindutva, which I find divisive, unreasonable and unscientific”.
Referring to the Constitution (Article 51 a(h)), he said that one of the duties of citizens was to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. He said: “Steeped in superstition, unreason and irrationality, much of what RSS and BJP do goes against the grain of scientific temper. An example would be the recent statement of Shri Mohan Bhagwat, who heads the RSS, that marriage is a contract according to which the woman is supposed to be only a housewife and not work outside”.
Dr. Bhargava said “The Dadri incident in which Mohamed Akhlaq was lynched to death in a pre-planned manner (probably by fringe elements that are related to BJP) showed the control that BJP wants to have on what we may eat and what we may not, just as it wants to control what we may wear or whom we may love or what we may read.”
“Incidentally, our scriptures put no bar on our eating beef. Charaka Samhita says: “The flesh of the cow is beneficial for those suffering from the loss of flesh due to disorders caused by an excess of vayu, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue and also in cases of excessive appetite resulting from hard manual work”.
He also expressed his concern that the space for dissent, “which is the hallmark of a democracy is decreasing and intolerance increasing. Minorities are made to feel that they are second class citizens of the country. There are organised attempts to impose Hindutva agenda across the country. Cultural intolerance is a dominant element in the functioning of the present government”, he said.
Stating that he was a professional scientist with an experience of 65 years, he mentioned that he had the occasion of interacting on matters of science with the governments at the Centre since Independence. “I find the present government the least knowledgeable and least concerned about science. The climate of religious conservatism that we have today is a major obstacle in the functioning of science and thus in meeting developmental objectives”, he added.