voicing dissent

Here is why India's leading scientists are also speaking up against intolerance

Some have returned awards and almost 700 have signed an online statement condemning 'the assault on reason and scientific temper'.

Scientists have now joined filmmakers, sociologists, historians, artists and writers in issuing statements and returning their awards in an effort to draw attention to growing intolerance in the country.

Some of the country’s foremost scientists, including Ashoke Sen, recipient of the world’s most prestigious award for physics, Pushpa Bhargava who founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, former director of the Indian Institute of Science P Balaram, former president of the Indian Academy of Science, D Balasubramanian and around 100 others issued a joint statement.

Many are recipients of Padma Bhushans and Padma Shris. On Thursday, Bhargava announced that he would return his Padma Bhushan.

“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,” the statement said. “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 Prof Kalburgi, Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Shri Govind Pansare.”

While around 100 scientists had signed the statement at the time of its release, they have now uploaded the document as an online petition. At the time of publication, in less than two days, 631 of a targeted 1,000 people had signed the statement.

“Scientists have not been known to articulate opinons in public,” said Amit Sengupta, a signatory of the statement and national convenor of the People’s Health Movement. “We have of course private opinions, but it shows the extent of concern that people who do not normally respond to socio-political issues are speaking up.”

The statement of normally reticent scientists lends weight to hundreds of writers, artists, historians and academicians, who many had accused of having ulterior political agendas when they began to return their awards.

“The writers have shown the way with their protests,” the scientists’ statement said. “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.”

Why they protest

Scientists had many reasons for speaking up, but foremost was a perceived deterioration in reason and debate.

“Discussions being mocked now passes as acceptable social behaviour,” said Vineeta Bal, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology. “People are getting away with saying that this is what they want and that there can be no argument. Many scientists may not have political opinions or support parties, but when academic rigour is infringed, they will take a stand.”

Scientists, Bal pointed out, were also in a way more dependent on government funding than artists and writers, which might also make their protest have a different meaning to the government.

“Natural scientists have more direct contact with the government because of funding,” she said. “It is not a better or worse thing, just different. To encourage rationality, it is important to have the freedom we are talking about.”

Even so, scientists are unlikely to take the streets, Sengupta said.

“If you look at the community of scientists, the overall majority might not be concerned enough to speak,” he cautioned. “But it is a trend that some of the best minds in the country are speaking out.”

T Jayaraman, a retired physicist now teaching at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, added, “We have no illusion that we are a decisive voice, but we had to stand up and be counted. We could have spoken up for [Narendra] Dabholkar, but there is a tipping point and this was it.”

Jayaraman acknowledged that such statements might be easier for established scientists to endorse, as opposed to younger scientists working as temporary faculty or in institutions directly under the government.

Hundreds of voices

The flurry of award returns and statements of dissent began a month ago, when Hindi writer Uday Prakash returned his Sahitya Akademi award to protest the organisation’s silence about the killing of writer MM Kalburgi. A day later, writer Nayantara Sahgal returned her award and then former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi.

Soon, more than 300 writers had returned awards or voiced their dissent with the atmosphere in the country, so much so that for a week in October, not a day went without another writer publicly voicing their condemnation of the murders of Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.

So many statements have been made in the last month and half that it is beginning to be difficult to keep track of them all.

In Bengal, 163 intellectuals wrote a joint letter to the President on October 14, to highlight their concern about growing intolerance in the country.

On October 17, 73 sociologists issued a statement condemning the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri.

Two days after that, on October 19, theatre actor Danish Hussain, also known for his roles in Ankhon Dekhi and Dhobi Ghat, returned his Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

When Gulzar spoke on television on October 25 about growing intolerance, he was duly attacked on social media. The musician had said that he, “Never thought that a situation like this would come where a person's religion is asked before his name. It was never like this.” Several on social media thought that he was a Muslim and began to target him accordingly, until they realised he was a Hindu after all.

On October 27, 300 artists signed a statement condemning social violence against ordinary citizens in places such as Udhampur, Dadri and Faridabad.

A day later on October 28, as FTII students returned to classes keeping a strike running for 139 days, 12 filmmakers returned their National Awards.

The scientists’ statement ended, “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.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.