Jayant Narlikar protests 'intolerance' but refuses to return award

Jayant Narlikar protests 'intolerance' but refuses to return award

Renowned astrophysicist Jayant Vishnu Narlikar on Wednesday joined the eminent citizens condemning the rising sense of intolerance but refused to return the Sahitya Akademi Award that he received last year.

In a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, the septuagenarian physicist said some of the recent events raised deep concerns as to whether the spirit of tolerance—as enshrined in the Constitution—is under threat.

“India opted to be a secular democracy, which was the right decision in view of its long history of tolerance of different ideas, sectarian views and religious differences. While there have been glitches in the past on some occasions, the overall impression of unity amongst diversity has held sway,” said Narlikar, Emeritus Professor at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Not returning award

But unlike many other intellectuals who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, Narlikar said he would not return it because the award carries a “rare dignity reflecting their national character and so should remain above the fracas”.

The scientist won the award for his autobiography “Chaar Nagaratle Majhe Vishwa” (My World in Four Towns) written in Marathi.

Incidents like murder of Kannada litterateur M M Kalburgi are indicative of a deteriorating law and order situation for which the government and not the Sahitya Akademi is ultimately responsible, he said.

“The main burden of public wrath should be directed at those responsible for maintaining law and order and not at the Sahitya Akademi,” he wrote in his letter.

The Pune-based astrophysicist is the second senior scientist after biologist P M Bhargava, who announced returning of her Padma Bhushan award in solidarity with the protesting writers, artists and filmmakers.

Subsequently, a second group of scientists comprising several Padma award-winners released a signed statement in which they asserted “Indian people will not accept attacks on reason, science and our plural culture. We reject the destructive narrow view of India that seeks to dictate what people will wear, think, eat and who they will love.”

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