All India People's Science Network (AIPSN) expresses deep grief at the passing away of Professor Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, Professor Yash Pal and Prof U R Rao
Professor PM Bhargava the founder-director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) died on August 1. He was 89. Condoling his death, the All India Peoples Science Network issued a statement remembering the life and contributions of the professor. Professor Bhargava was well known scientist and a guide to many in the country, who are committed to the promotion of science and scientific temper amongst our citizens. He was the first scientist to return his Padma Bhushan award to the government, after the nation was shocked at the killing of Prof. M M Kalburgi and lynching of Akhlaq Khan. As we know, such atrocities have gone unabated since then.
In defence of India's scientific sovereignty, many scientists of Professor Bhargava's generation took an active role in the 1950's and 60's in the Association of Scientific Workers of India (ASWI). Professor Bhargava was also one those who promoted the idea of incorporating Article 51 A-h in our constitution that exhorts “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform.”
One of the early signs of an organised attack on India's composite culture and a scientific approach to her history came in 1977, when under pressure from the RSS, the Janata Party government of the time decided to ban some of the NCERT books. These were early omens and some of the scientists and intellectuals under the leadership of P N Haksar, Raja Ramanna and P M Bhargava released the document on scientific temper in 1981. This document generated intense debates at that time. The same question was revisited in 2011, at a time when the attacks had grown multifold, and the Palampur resolution on the subject was released.
The idea of scientific temper always remained a passion for Professor Bhargava. In 2000, when the NDA government of A B Vajpayee introduced astrology in the curriculum of Indian universities, P M Bhargava took the initiative to challenge it in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and later in the Supreme Court of India. Both the courts refused to admit these writ petitions.
It is unfortunate that in the last two weeks India has lost three prominent scientists, Prof. U R Rao, Prof. Yash Pal and now Prof. P M Bhargava, who as institution builders, had contributed in building science in the country and had also led the campaign for the promotion of scientific temper. The AIPSN had close association with all three of them.
Prof. Yash Pal was one of the prominent scientists of his time, who reminded the Indian State of its societal duties and contributed his energies towards creating platforms from where the message of scientific temper could be spread. Professor Yash Pal passed away on July 24 in New Delhi, on the same day when his one time colleague, Prof. U R Rao passed away in Bengaluru. Both these stalwarts shared in their heart the love for their fellow citizens, and respect for the pluralistic, composite cultural ethos of India, which is now being threatened with the rise of divisive, hedonistic, majoritarian attacks.