Now, historians rise against 'intolerance'

Scientist Bhargava to return Padma award

Now, historians rise against 'intolerance'

After writers, scientists and filmmakers, more than 50 eminent historians, including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and M G S Narayanan, have now come out in protest against what they described as a “highly vitiated atmosphere of intolerance in the country.”

Expressing anguish over the “prevailing situation”, the scholars said the government must ensure an atmosphere conducive to free and fearless expression.

“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets. And, when it is hoped that the head of government will make a statement about improving the prevailing conditions, he chooses to speak only about general poverty; and it takes the head of the state to make the required reassuring statement, not once but twice,” a joint statement issued by the historians stated.

The statement comes in the backdrop of octogenarian biologist P M Bhargava’s decision to return his Padma Bhushan award in solidarity with the protesting writers and filmmakers as he accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to turn India to a “Hindu religious autocracy.”

“The ruling party today, is deviating from the path of democracy and is on its way making India a Hindu religious autocracy and I object to it,”  Bhargava told Deccan Herald.

He received the Padma Bhushan in 1986. Bhargava, founder-director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), is one of the signatories of another statement from scientists in which they asserted that “India will not accept attacks on reason, science and our plural culture. We reject the destructive narrow view that seeks to dictate what people will wear, think, eat and who they will love.”

Over a 100 senior scientists from across the country have signed a petition addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee against growing religious intolerance. The infamous Tandoor murder case brought CCMB into limelight for matching victim Naina Sahni’s DNA.

Union  Minister Arun Jaitley described the surge in protests as “manufactured rebellion”, while he dubbed the scholars and intellectuals returning their awards as “rabid anti-BJP elements”.

Jaitley said not only are those returning the awards electioneering against the BJP in the Bihar Assembly polls in a way, also some of them had  visited Varanasi to campaign against Narendra Modi in the last general elections.

The finance minister wondered if the conscience of protesting scholars and intellectuals had pricked when corruption and scams to the tune of lakhs and crores of rupees were taking place in the UPA era. The historians, however, took on the Modi government, saying, when writers were returning their awards in protest, no comment was made about the conditions that caused the protest.

“Instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise  writers to stop writing. This is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest. This is particularly worrying for us as historians as we have already experienced attempts to ban books and expunge statements of history despite the fact that they are supported by sources and the interpretation is transparent,” they said.

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