Dr. Narendra Dabholkar


Prabhakar Nanawaty

Suman Oak

Statement of Scientists, Artists and Historians

Statement of Scientists

The scientific community is deeply concerned with the climate of intolerance, and the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country. 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 Dr. M M Kalaburgi, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and Comrade Govind Pansare. All three fought against superstition and obscurantism to build a scientific temper in our society. Kalaburgi was a renowned scholar and an authority on the Vachana literature associated with the 12th-century reformer Basava, who opposed institutionalised religion, caste and gender discrimination. Similarly, Dabholkar and Pansare promoted scientific temper through their fight against superstition and blind faith.

The Indian Constitution in Article 51 A(h) demands, as a part of the fundamental duties of the citizens, that we …develop the 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. The writers have shown the way with their protests. 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 destructive 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.

Alladi Sitaram, Ashoke Sen, Ashok Jain, A Gopalakrishnan, D Balasubramanian, Madabusi Raghunathan, P M Bhargava, P Balaram, Satyajit Mayor, Spenta Wadia, A P Balachandran, Vidita Vaidya, Vineeta Bal, Vishal Vasan, Vivek Borkar and more than 90 other scientists

Statement of Artists

The artist community of India stands in firm solidarity with the actions of our writers who have relinquished awards and positions, and spoken up in protest against the alarming rise of intolerance in the country. We condemn and mourn the murders of M M Kalaburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, rationalists and freethinkers whose voices have been silenced by right-wing dogmatists but whose presence must ignite our resistance to the conditions of hate being generated around us. We will never forget the battle we fought for our pre-eminent artist M F Husain who was hounded out of the country and died in exile. We remember the right-wing invasion and dismantling of freedoms in one of the countrys best known art schools in Baroda. We witness the present governments appointment of grossly unqualified persons to the Film and Television Institute of India Society and its disregard of the strike by the students. We see a writer like Perumal Murugan being intimidated into declaring his death as a writer, a matter of dire shame in any society. While the Prime Minister of the country has been conspicuously reticent in his response to the recent events, the reactions of ministers in his government reveal their ignorance and prejudice. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Culture, has made abhorrent comments about mob lynching and murder. His remarks suggesting that writers should stop writing to prove their point are alarming. Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance, and Information and Broadcasting, has mocked the actions of our respected writers as a manufactured paper rebellion. He asks for scrutiny of the political and ideological affiliations of those who are protesting. To these and other such provocations there is a clear answer: while the actual affiliations of the protesting writers and artists, scholars and journalists may be many and varied, their individual and collective voices are gaining cumulative strength. It is this that the ruling party will have to reckon with: the protestors declared disaffiliation from a government that encourages marauding outfits to enforce a series of regressive commands in this culturally diverse country. The scale of social violence and fatal assaults on ordinary citizens (as in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh; Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir; Faridabad, Haryana) is escalating. The contemptuous comments about the religious minorities and Dalits made by those within the government confirm that there is little difference between the RSSBJP mainstream and supposed fringe elements. The Sangh Parivar and its Hindutva forces operating through their goon brigades form the support base of this government; they are all complicit in the attempts to impose conformity of thought, belief and practice. The ideology of the ruling party has revealed its contempt for creative and intellectual work; bigotry and censorship will only grow. As in the past, we must challenge the divisive forces through varied forms of appeal and protest, articulation and refusal. Our demand can be nothing less than that the entire range of constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country freedom of expression and speech, right to dissent and exert difference in life choices including culture and religion be ensured.A government that does not tolerate difference, that does not safeguard the lives and interests of its marginalised and vulnerable citizens, loses its legitimacyin a democratic polity. We are facing this situation now, already.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Arpana Caur, Balan Nambiar, Gieve Patel, Gulammohammed Sheikh, K G Subramanyan, Meher Pestonji, Ranjit Hoskote and more than 300 other artists.

Statement of Social Scientists

We, as social scientists, scholars, teachers and concerned citizens, feel extremely concerned about the lynch-ing at Dadri, and the murders of scholars and thinkers like M M Kalaburgi, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and others, and wish to register our strong protest. We are not just shocked by Prime Minister Narendra Modis late response, but also by the implications of the victim-blaming statement he made. To say that Hindus and Muslims should not fight each other but should fight poverty in-stead puts the onus for peace and fighting poverty entirely on civil society and communities and absolves the state of any responsibility for both. As Prime Minister, he should have asserted that the state would defend the rule of law. In a country with some 4,693 communities and over 415 living languages, each community is bound to have its own customs, including dietary choices. Individuals may also follow practices different from the ones followed by the majority of their community. Any attempt to impose a uniform belief or practice, on either individuals or communities, is antithetical to the freedom enshrined in the Constitution. It is the states responsibility to ensure this freedom.

Achin Vanaik, C Lakshmanan, Gayatri Menon, Johannes Manjrekar, Kalpana Kannabiran, Lakshmi Subramaniam, Meena Radhakrishna, Mritiunjoy Mohanty, R Nagaraj, Ravinder Kaur, Sasheej Hegde, T N Madan, Valerian Rodrigues, Virginius Xaxa, Zoya Hasan and more than 200 others.

Statement of Historians

Concerned at the highly vitiated atmosphere prevailing in the country, characterised by various forms of intolerance, we, as academic historians and as responsible citizens of a democracy that has greatly valued its inherited traditions of tolerance, wish to express our anguish and protest about the prevailing conditions. Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter-arguments but with bullets. When a poor man is suspected to have kept a food item that certain sections do not approve of, his fate is nothing short of death by lynching. At the launch of a book whose author happens to be from a country disapproved of by certain groups, the organiser is disfigured with ink thrown on his face. And when it is hoped that the head of the 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. When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the 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 our books and expunge statements of history despite the fact that they are supported by sources and the interpretation is transparent. What the regime seems to want is a kind of legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others, with-out any regard for chronology, sources or methods of enquiry that are the building blocks of the edifice of history. We would therefore urge the state to ensure an atmosphere that is conducive to free and fearless expression, security for all sections of society and the safe-guarding of the values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past. It is easy to trample them down, but it is important to re-member that it will take too long and will be beyond the capacity of those who are currently at the helm of affairs, to rebuild it once it is destroyed.

Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, M G S Narayanan, K N Panikkar, Y Subbarayalu, B D Chattopadhyaya , D N Jha , B B Chaudhuri, J V Naik , K M Shrimali , Neeladri Bhattacharya, Rajan Gurukkal , A R Venkatachalapathy, and more than 40 other historians

Courtesy: EPW

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