Veteran scientist P M Bhargava who joined a long list of scientists in signing an online petition addressed to the President against the "climate of intolerance," has attached a detailed letter with his Padma Bhushan award that he returned.
The 87-year-old is best known for establishing the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a research organization in Hyderabad in 1977 and was given India's third highest honour in 1986.
The letter dated November 6, addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee, reads, "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.....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 in situation in the country."
The scientist goes on to add that the BJP "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 also alleges that the BJP government at the centre is just a political front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The letter also quotes the constitution's [Article 51a(h)] and says that one of the duties of the citizens is "to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform."
"Steeped in superstition, unreason and irrationality, much of what RSS and BJP do, goes against the grain of scientific temper," Bhargava alleges.
The letter also talks about the 'Dadri incident' where 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged out of his home in Uttar Pradesh on September 28 by a mob and lynched after rumours that he had killed a calf and stored the meat in his fridge.
The incident "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." the letter alleges before claiming that Hindu scriptures put no bar on eating beef.
The letter goes on to quote the foundational Ayurveda text of Charaka Samhita, which reads "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 labour."
"I find the present government the least knowledgeable and 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," the letter adds.