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India: “The fight for science and scientific temper is tied with the fight for justice and equality”

Tuesday 9 April 2019, by siawi3


“The fight for science and scientific temper is tied with the fight for justice and equality”

Tejal Kanitkar in conversation with Prasanth R

VIDEO here 15:18

April 3, 2019

The Lok Sabha Elections are just a few weeks away and one of the key issues that the progressive sections of society are raising is about the assault on Reason and Science in the last five years. These incidents range from the fatal to the farcical, to the mundane.

In this interview, Tejal Kanitkar discusses some of these issues with Prasanth R.

Science is much more, has been for many, many years about much more than observation, or the documentation of observation; it is not enough simply to see how things appear but also why they appear as they do. And the minute you ask the question of why things appear the way they do in the context of society, you will have women questioning why it is they should stay at home while the men go out and earn and study. You can no longer tell people they are born poor kyun ki tumhari qismat kharaab hai—bad karma has brought you to this pass. You can no longer tell somebody that it is because of the sins of their past life that they are born in a lower caste. You won’t get away with it. We should understand that the attack on science is meant to prevent a scientific study of society. In that context, I also want to make another point—that the attack on society doesn’t come only from the right. Part of the grounds for this attack have been provided by us. Among a lot of people who would not otherwise associate with the right-wing, say, progressive liberal movements, we see a lot of science scepticism, scepticism about technology. Unfortunately, the fight against globalisation, against global capital has somehow segued into a fight against modernity, a fight against modern science, against technology. Technology is seen as being inherently anti-poor. Science as inherently patriarchal, anti-women. These hostile positions are not necessarily taken only by the Sangh Parivar. They exist even otherwise and these are dangerous positions to take. They provide the grounds for the rise of obscurantism.

Read More:
Remembering the Republic, Planning and Science in the Times of Unreason
Straws in the Wind from the Indian Science Congress 2019

Tejal Kanitkar is an assistant professor and the chairperson of the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Studies, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

This is an excerpt from Kanitkar’s Chapter “How People in Power Get Away with Unscientific Statements” in Battling For India edited by Githa Hariharan and Salim Yousufji. Published by Speaking Tiger Books.