If you have a communal mindset, you got it all wrong. It is not because my name is Gauhar Raza and you think I am a Muslim, and therefore I am a natural BJP hater. No, I am a scientist, a rationalist, I don’t believe in any God and do not follow any religion. But if you are infected by the RSS virus, then you will not understand what I am saying.
I will not vote for BJP because Narendra Modi, his government and his entire party, over the past five years, have made an all-out effort to crush scientific temper, science and rationality. They have left no stone unturned to break the consensus which was built around the idea that our future generations will imbibe scientific temper and excel in science. Instead, this government has tried to dismantle the infrastructure that was painstakingly constructed after Independence.
The assault on scientific temper was part of the training that Modi had undergone in RSS shakhas. Groomed among the Babas, some of whom are in prison for rape and other heinous crimes, he was trying to corrupt the young minds by making outrageous statements even before he became the Prime Minister. While addressing a gathering of school students, in response to a question posed by a young one about global warming, he explained that people grow old and cannot tolerate heat or cold and, therefore, blame the seasons. He declared that there is no climate change happening.
As soon as he became the PM, the assault on scientific temper crossed all limits. He addressed a gathering of medical experts in Mumbai and said that Lord Ganesha is proof that we had mastered plastic surgery in ancient India and that the birth of Karna is evidence that we practised reproductive genetics thousands of years ago. Clearly, there were two messages in his statement. First, from now on, religion would be mixed with scientific facts; and secondly, the boundary lines between science and myths or superstitious beliefs would blur. The speech was a frontal attack on the scientific temper.
It was a clear signal to the policymakers and funding agencies to support projects that ratify myths and superstitions and establish causal relationships between scientific facts and mythical stories. It was also a ratification, instigation, encouragement and approval of past and future outrageous anti-science statements by his ministers, BJP MPs, party leaders, bureaucrats, media channels and, even, judges. What followed and continued for five years is a torrential rain of such idiotic anti-science statements. A chief minister said that we had Internet, satellite and rocket technology.
The HRD minister wanted to drop Darwin’s theory from the teaching courses. Another one said that Indian cows exhale oxygen. Sita became evidence of test tube baby. And let us not forget that in a session of Science Congress, all kinds of ridiculous claims were made. One paper claimed that during the time of the Vedas, ancient Indians had invented ‘two-hundred-foot planes that could fly forwards, backwards and sideways, hover in mid-air’. They politicised religion and repeatedly attacked scientific rationality.
Such statements made in public by the political leadership of the largest democracy, are not mere slip-ups. Each one is well thought out. A scientist may laugh at such assertions, rejecting them as idiotic attacks on scientific temper and rationality. But they are not naive statements made by mistake. They constitute the bedrock of religious nationalism, on which fundamentalist and terrorist organisations are formed with a purpose to killing rationalists like Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh.
But they did not stop there. No, I will not vote for any BJP candidate, because, in the past 70 years, there was no government which mortgaged the future of our younger generations by reducing expenditure on science and technology, forced IITs and other institutions to conduct pseudo scientific research and sold off interests of public institutions. I will not vote for those who have tried to kill HAL so that Ambani is benefitted and I will not vote for those who stifled CSIR, DRDO, ISRO and TIFR to the extent that some of these organisations were unable to pay salaries to their scientists and staff.
I will not vote for the government which shamelessly reported in Parliament that during its tenure, publications of Indian scientists have reduced significantly. Before 2014, our scientists had made noteworthy contribution in international journals and had left Italy and Spain behind. This government has pushed us back to pre-2000 era.
We were respected for non-violence and for our culture of science all over the world. Our scientific community had earned international respect. The past five years will go down in our history as years of disgrace. My nationalism forbids me from voting for Modi and his cronies.
(The writer is a scientist and a leading poet)