India’s Government Is Becoming Increasingly Antiscience

Feb 6, 2016

Photo credit: Al Jazeera English

By Apoorva Mandavilli

Three murders, a suicide and a rash of political appointments at universities have thrown Indian academia into an uproar against the conservative (right-wing) government. Prominent artists, writers, historians and scientists are speaking out against an intensifying climate of religious intolerance and political interference in academic affairs.

“What’s going on in this country is really dangerous,” says Rajat Tandon, a number theorist at Hyderabad Central University. Tandon is one of more than 100 prominent scientists, including many heads of institutions, who signed a statement protesting “the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.” The statement cites the murder of three noted rationalists — men who had dedicated their lives to countering superstition and championed scientific thought — and what they see as the government’s silent complicity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2014 general elections in India in a landslide victory. The BJP and Modi, in particular, are aligned with the extremist right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. (This unholy alliance is comparable to the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but the RSS is a paramilitary group with more violent overtones than the Tea Party has shown so far.) Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers.

“The present government is deviating from the path of democracy, taking the country on the path to what I’d call a Hindu religious autocracy,” says Pushpa Mittra Bhargava , who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.

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6 comments on “India’s Government Is Becoming Increasingly Antiscience

  • Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers.

    A similar thing happened when Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka, (Holy Island). Previously all the different religious communities had lived together peacefully, but they then began squabbling among themselves as to whose holy island it was.

    And in any case, religious regimes can almost be guaranteed to cause science, reason and evidential knowledge to decrease in inverse proportion to the pressures that their superstitious notions bring to bear on a society.

    And it’s not unknown for a politician to harness their personal religious dogmas to the cart of repression and prejudice in order to serve their own selfish aims; or, as would seem to be the case here, to please their mother.

    “Religion poisons everything.”.

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  • Correction:

    Sri Lanka doesn’t mean “Holy Island”, it means Resplendent Island; I was going on Christopher Hitchens’s mention of it in “God is not Great.”.

    I should have known better than to not double-check; although Hitchens does explain that “… ‘Sri’ simply means ‘holy’ in the Buddhist sense of the word.”.

    I apologize.

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  • People who do not live in India shouldnt be commenting or writing about India just by looking at what Indian Paid Media is talking about. The political parties here are known to take advantage of murder for political mileage. I am an atheist, so I dont care about any religion much, but this article is just wrong on so many levels. The man you see in the photo, Narendra Modi is very much for science, makes use of the technology to lessen corruption and has been a face of progress for India. The article and its author seem to know nothing about India and the author writing about India is like me an Indian, writing about Saudi Arabia or Russia without knowing anything about it, copying whatever other media write in their articles. Get your facts right or make sure that you talk to enough citizens before you start scratching the paper

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  • Narendra Modi is not a supporter of science. As an atheist you should be aware of pseudoscience he’s promoted akshay, like the instance where he stated that an elephant headed imaginary sky friend was the first successful example of plastic surgery.

    The scientific American is a great source to gauge news related to scientific outlook around the world because it sources it’s information from the scientific community and not the ‘paid media’ as you put it.

    It isn’t just modi, rss outlook has seeped into institutes like the IISc where vedic apologists are touting the miracles of quackery like vimanas and vedic nuclear physics. This denial doesn’t change ground reality. As an atheist you should keep your political affiliations aside and oppose these things unilaterally instead of indulging in political apologetics.

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  • Let me guess. One more person who is talking about present India by not being in India? This article talks about how the Indian government is becoming anti science and not about what Narendra Modi believes.Let us accept for once you are right. How many world leaders have talked about gravitational waves within a day after it was discovered? Go through this – . And you talk about my political affiliation. How much do you know about me? Each and every person of Indian origin abroad talks about intolerance and anti science and everything. Being in ground Zero, I know what is happening around. Life hasnt changed in anyway for me or my other theist friends who are from all religions. The scientific community or the atheist community should be talking about the religious stupidity or the scientific advancements around the world, not talk about Politics. Politics is made of a different fabric which none of us can get from where we are. Infact even I dont think i get fully on what is happening in Indian Politics. You believe everything from what you see on Media or what the other parties talk. Let us not join that circus just to put one’s point across. Just like how this article’s author has done

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  • Technical tip: How to use the new @ function

    The new @ function allows you to address specific users, but you do need to be a little careful with it.

    It works here the same way as on Twitter, i.e. you need to use the person’s user name, which may not be the same as the display name.

    To find the user name, let your cursor hover over the name displayed beside any comment by the user in question. A long link like this will appear at the bottom of your screen:[USER NAME]/

    For the @ function you just need the final bit of the link, i.e. the user name – without the / before and after.

    It is important to get it right, as otherwise the notification of your comment will be sent to the wrong person, which they will obviously find annoying!

    The mods

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