Scientist, others arrested for protesting peacefully

Update 17/4/2012: Partho was released on bail today. The case remains.



UPDATE 16 April 2012: The case is beginning to appear in the mainstream media. One hopes the PM, a former academic himself, takes some interest. Also, see this blog post on Nature. That writer has previously been impressed with Dr Ray’s sense of social responsibility.


Also there is now an official site for justice for Partho.



UPDATE 14 April 2012: Here’s a letter in support of Dr Ray from Prof Mriganka Sur, FRS, an eminent neuroscientist at MIT.


UPDATE 13 April 2012: Apparently Dr Ray and the other activists were not produced in court yesterday, but were sent to jail for 14 days in absentia. [Update 2: According to ToI, the magistrate asked for the defence but was told they had left the building. The magistrate turned down police remand, instead putting the activists in jail custody: one hopes that is a positive sign.]

If Dr Ray is lying about his activities on April 4, then his colleagues at IISER Kolkata — among the brightest scientists in India — are lying too. The government can either let the scientific community be tarnished in this way, or it can step in right now and have these activists released. I’m not sure what the scientific community can do other than make a noise, but a sufficiently loud noise may work: I hope that the seniormost scientists — at the IISERs, at IISc (Dr Ray’s alma mater), at Wellcome-DBT (where Dr Ray is currently a fellow), at the Indian Academy of Sciences (where Dr Ray is an associate), and elsewhere — will make their voices heard to the powers that be.


I received the following from a colleague and trusted friend in Kolkata.

To forestall possible criticisms:


  • You may or may not agree with Sanhati’s philosophy or goals, but that has nothing to do with it. Dr Ray was arrested at a peaceful protest, and subsequently detained on trumped-up charges relating to a day when he was provably elsewhere. This is not meant to handle law-and-order: it is to scare and silence dissenting voices.
  • Of course Dr Ray, and the others arrested with him, are not the first to fall victim to the police state in this manner. Many innocent people are languishing in jail under the “war on Maoism” and they are not less deserving of justice than Dr Ray. My hope is that by highlighting the absurdity of the charges against Dr Ray, the entire machinery will come under a fresh scanner.

Below is the mail I received, verbatim. For updates go to www.sanhati.com. [UPDATE – also consider signing this petition.]

Leave a comment

26 Comments

  1. Bhavtosh Bansal

     /  April 12, 2012

    Nice of you Rahul to post it and summing up the main issue succinctly. Yes it is about intimidation.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

     /  April 14, 2012

    [deleted. You posted four comments by four other people with their real names, from some other place that I couldn’t find via google. That is egregious behaviour. If you have something to say, please do so under your own name. – Rahul]

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  April 14, 2012

      I deleted your comment for reasons above, but I have to say I agree with the gist of it: I did not even bother writing to the IISc director, or the academies, because I have no hope that they will speak up. And their silence is a disgrace. I did write to some other senior scientists in whom I had higher hopes but, sad to say, have had no replies. I only hope something is happening behind the scenes.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

     /  April 14, 2012

    But Rahul Sir, what if they do reply. Please try writing to them once. We have to make everybody aware of this issue, at least everybody from the scientific community. Then only we can raise our voice to an extent where it would not only be heard but also considered.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  April 14, 2012

      I agree. I tried to reach some people on the phone, haven’t succeeded yet. I also sent a few mails, hopefully some of which will elicit replies if not action. I strongly feel that IISc, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and Wellcome-DBT should all make statements that, at the very least, attest to Ray’s character and express concern about the circumstances of his arrest. Being an “associate” of IASc shouldn’t mean they “associate” with him for his publications, but disown him when he is in trouble.

      Reply
  4. Arnab Rai Choudhuri

     /  April 14, 2012

    I am terribly bothered to find what is happening to academics in my home state of West Bengal – to Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray and to Dr. Ambikesh Mohapatra . I am not sure what we academics working elsewhere can do. But if we are too cowardly to raise even our voices in protest, then we shall fail in our duties as citizens of the world’s largest democracy.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  April 14, 2012

      Arnab – thanks for writing. Will mail you privately later tonight.

      Reply
    • knowmics

       /  April 16, 2012

      Arnab & Rahul,
      lone rangers are suffering everywhere and people who can make difference are keeping mum “if we are too cowardly to raise even our voices in protest” yes we are there is no if or but. We always look for funding and award from scientific agencies and their feudal defenders. Unfortunately good scientist and famous scientist are not synonymous in this country thus we keep mum to be a famous scientist coveted with so called awards.
      http://bipedagainstcorruption.blogspot.in/

      Reply
  5. Anindita Bhadra

     /  April 14, 2012

    I think it is a disgrace to the academic community that we are still trying to tread on neutral ground as much as possible, and showing support only after ensuring that it does not hurt us in any way. We need to stand up for Partho, and we need to take a clear stand – either we give him unconditional support, or we keep quiet. Saying that we don’t know what he does when he is not in the lab and so all we can say is that he was in office on the 4th will not help. We have to stick our necks out and say that whatever is happening is wrong, and we strongly condemn it.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  April 14, 2012

      Anindita — while in principle I agree, obviously we cannot claim that every scientist at a respectable institution must be supported no matter what they do. In this case the charges are clearly false and motivated, and I think that should be the focus.

      Reply
  6. Priya

     /  April 14, 2012

    Rahul it is nice that you have posted this on your blog. I think the least one can do is to make more people aware of what is happening and hope that the pressure generated by this will pave way for Partho’s release.

    Reply
  7. PB

     /  April 14, 2012

    Thanks, Rahul for the effort. It is scary to be in west bengal now. Still, we must protest !! Is there any thought how to do it to have the maximum impact?

    Reply
    • Anindita Bhadra

       /  April 15, 2012

      At the moment there is a letter drafted by members of IISER-K to the Governor of WB (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/appeal-for-justice-for-dr-partho-sarothi-ray/), and another drafted by some scientists from Kolkata addressed to the PM that are being circulated for signatures. There is also another online petition addressed to the PM that you can sign: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-honorable-prime-minister-of-india-justice-for-eminent-young-scientist-dr-partho-sarothi-ray. We are trying to get this through to the media.

      Reply
      • Rahul Siddharthan

         /  April 15, 2012

        I saw (and asked to sign) the petition to the PM you mention above. In that petition, it is embarrassing how few senior scientists (say, people over 50) I recognised. Also signed your online petition. And of course there is the petition to the CM in the main post.

        I have to say I’m skeptical of these things. The two things I would want to try for is (a) direct contact with some higher-ups in the WB administration and/or the home ministry; (b) media attention — apart from a few articles in ToI I see very little coverage of this story, and none that focuses on Partho’s case. Even Binayak Sen became a cause celebre only after Tehelka ran a cover story on him, almost a year after he was arrested.

        Reply
  8. PB

     /  April 15, 2012

    I would add two more items. Getting letters from well known people (similar to the letter by Prof. Sur). No guarantee that everybody (or anybody) will write – but we must try.
    Letter to Science and Nature (mentioning its urgency) by a group of scientsts from India.
    Can some of us discuss this over private emails?

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  April 16, 2012

      Feel free to mail me — my address is easy to find.

      Reply
  9. ddsen@yahoo.com

     /  April 16, 2012

    If the said scientist is innocent, he would have some document to prove it. If he was at an IISER that day, he might for example able to show the trail of his emails sent on that day. Other possibility is gate pass from IISER. Has any one of you actually seen any proof or convinced of his innocence just because he is a scientist? Why this hurry to short circuit the whole process? Or all naxal sympathiser or closet naxalites like sen has more right than others?

    Reply
  10. PB

     /  April 16, 2012

    please check the blog of nature india

    http://blogs.nature.com/indigenus/

    Comment on thsi and also circuate this link among your peers.

    Reply
  11. knowmics

     /  April 16, 2012

    Partho is a lone ranger we all lone rangers who are fighting against the system support Partho whole heartedly
    http://bipedagainstcorruption.blogspot.in/

    Reply
  12. Enough is enough! What is going on! Every citizen of India has a right to protest peacefully. It is a democratic right of independent India. According to Partho’s official report, he was not there on that time on the spot. I have a strong feelings that WB Govt. must believe the intellectual scientific community. The people of WB has brought this Govt. with lots of hope and expectation. I am a supporter of the party and a fan of Mamata di. I would request Mamata di to intervene. Please release Partho with due respect.

    Reply
  13. K. VijayRaghavan

     /  April 18, 2012

    I have had a chance only now to have a look at the website of Sanhati and listen to the first part of Partho Ray’s video. No matter whether one agrees with the views expressed or not, his right to express them must be protected. Indeed, those who disagree should be very involved in his support and be brought it. This is not hate speech: Its a socio political view. Such views and others from the entire spectrum of views are necessary and civilized acceptance of the right to express such views are necessary and must be protected: Not only because this is the only way if we are to grapple with our hugely complex problems, but also because it is fundamentally the correct thing to do. I am glad that Partho has been released on bail. By all accounts from IISER, his arrest was a miscarriage of justice, he was not at the site he was said to be. His specific case needs a good lawyer and continued legal help. I am sure his colleagues are taking care of this, but in signing up for freedom of expression we should not slip up on the details of the case. He will need support here too.

    Reply
  1. Nature News Blog: Indian scientists protest at colleagues’ arrests : Nature News Blog

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