Patna: Hours after eminent Indian scientist P M Bhargava announced he would return his Padma Bhushan award and over 50 historians issued a joint statement in protest against the “growing intolerance in the country”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that “manufactured rebellion” is growing at a faster speed now.
Jaitley alleged that those returning their awards were “rabid anti-BJP elements” and that some of them had even campaigned against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his constituency Varanasi in 2014.
“The fact that (the protest) has been stepped up in the middle of the Bihar election I’m now constrained to say that this is electioneering by other means,” Jaitley said.
Eminent scientist Bhargava, who was the founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said on Thursday that religious belief was a personal choice and should not interfere in politics.
“The fear as we see in democracy today… the spread of Hindutva… I believe that (religion) really is a personal matter. It should stay as a personal matter. It should not make incursions into politics as it is doing now,” he said.
The 87-year-old said he also finds statements by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat that women should restrict themselves to doing household chores, as “detestable”.
Bhargava said he will meet the home secretary and give back the award. He also encouraged the youth brigade in the scientific community to come forward and protest.
Meanwhile, over 50 historians on Thursday came out strongly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not making any reassuring statement following concerns over “highly vitiated atmosphere” prevailing in the country.
A total of 53 historians including leading names like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, KN Pannikar and Mridula Mukherjee have, in a joint statement released by Sahmat, raised their serious concerns over recent developments.
“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter-arguments but with bullets,” the statement said referring to the Dadri lynching incident and the recent ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni during a book launch function in Mumbai.
Incidentally, the veteran researcher is one of the scientists who started the online petition on Tuesday, signed by at least 100 senior scientists, addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee against growing intolerance.
(With inputs from agencies)