A group of scientists and researchers have issued a statement ahead of the upcoming national elections, urging citizens to vote wisely – “against inequality, intimidation, discrimination, and unreason”. They said citizens must “reject those who lynch or assault people” and those who “encourage such practices”.

The statement said: “The upcoming election is a crucial one. It asks for a re-affirmation of the most fundamental guarantees our Constitution gives us: equal rights to faith or lack thereof; culture; language; association; personal liberty and freedom of expression. These rights, even as they accrue to each of us individually, can only exist if they accrue to all Indian citizens – without partiality or discrimination.”

The statement was signed by 154 scientists, researchers and academics from various institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, the Indian Statistical Institute, Ashoka University and the Indian Institutes of Technology.

The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections will take place on April 11, and will be followed by six more rounds until May 19. The votes will be counted on May 23.

“We cannot endorse a politics that divides us, creates fears, and marginalises a large fraction of our society – women, dalits, Adivasis, religious minorities, the persons with disabilities or the poor,” the statement read. “Diversity is our democracy’s greatest strength; discrimination and non-inclusivity strike at its very foundation.”

The group also noted that there is an “atmosphere in which scientists, activists and rationalists are hounded, harassed, intimidated, censored, jailed, or worse, murdered”.

“We want [youth] to awaken to a country that sees science as a means of democratic empowerment through sceptical, open-minded questioning, rather than just a commercial enterprise,” they said. “We must put an end to the denigration of rational, evidence-based public discourse; only then can we create better resources and opportunities for jobs, education and research.”