An appeal to observe National Scientific Temper Day on 20th August, 2023
Dear colleagues, friends and fellow citizens of India,
The 6th National Scientific Temper Day, NSTD 23, will be observed throughout the country, on the 20th of August 2023. This was the day in 2013, on which Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a renowned crusader for the cause of science and scientific temper was gunned down by terrorist forces of unreason and anti-science. His martyrdom was followed by similar acts of murder of Shri Govind Pansare, Professor M.M. Kalburgi, Ms. Gauri Lankesh, who also were in the forefront of the defence of scientific thinking, reason, spirit of inquiry and humanist values of equality and justice.
Scientific temper is an integral part of the Idea of India and was one of the unifying/ consensual concepts that emerged during our freedom struggle. It now forms a part of the Indian Constitution, being included in Article 51 A(h).
In spite of citizens’ commitment to these constitutional principles, forces of anti-science and irrationality have now occupied a political space that allows them through administrative powers to propagate views that are antithetical to evidence based knowledge and remove irrefutable scientific facts from our text books. In the last decade or so these attacks on rationality were systematically mounted first in subjects related to social science, e.g. history, history of science and now in the area of natural science. The result is that our students will now for example be taught a narrative of history as a glorious past of ancient India that was disrupted by foreign invaders. In addition to such false narratives , divisiveness is now further officially carried forward, by removing from the medieval period of Indian history, developments during the Moghul rule. Further, when it comes to modern science, fundamentals like Darwin’s theory of evolution and the periodic table will no longer be a part of school text books upto 10th standard.
At the broader cultural level , the right to question, to dispute and disagree, which forms the bedrock of science and scientific temper is also being criticized and are termed as anti national.
It is in this scenario that the All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN), in collaboration with the Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) in 2018 made their first appeal to organize the NSTD on 20th August every year. Ever since the first event, the NSTD has generated deep enthusiasm amongst different groups and individuals from different sections of the society and is observed in different ways in most states of India.
Observance of the NSTD begins on 1st August and continues till September. Its main thrust is the “Ask Why?” campaign. This is accompanied by different programmes like rallies, human chains, lectures, debates, drama, song, poster displays, film shows etc. that emphasise scientific temper and the defence of Article 51A(h).
Warnings about attacks on scientific temper have been expressed for several decades by several groups. The present situation is different from the earlier ones in that this attack is now officially emanating as it is from the ruling dispensation itself while paying lip service to scientific temper. In view of this, it is all the more necessary to activate public opinion in broad sections of our population, in defence of science and scientific temper. This process, which begins with the NSTD programmes, is aimed to generate in the course of five to six months, a fresh declaration on science and scientific temper that takes into account the emerging scenario in the country. Scientific temper at a mass level is needed to tackle the urgent problems on the contemporary agenda like global warming, climate change, threat of species extinction, economic disruption, pandemics, ethnic and communal conflict, war and the defence of secular democracy and the values of our constitution.
This appeal invites all sections of our people to participate in the forthcoming NSTD observance. Innovations by different groups and individuals in these programmes will help the message of NSTD to reach a wider section of our people.
We, from the AIPSN, invite you as concerned citizens to sign this appeal and participate widely in NSTD programmes.
Satyajit Rath Asha Mishra Arunabh Mishra
President General secretary Convener
Scientific Temper Desk
All India People's Science Network