The arrest of an Indian molecular biologist on flimsy grounds has irked the scientific community of the country. Partho Sarothi Ray is under arrest and subsequent detention since April 8, 2012, along with some others for peacefully protesting against the eviction of slum dwellers in the West Bengal state capital Kolkata. He has been charged under a number of sections under the Indian Penal Code, which his supporters say hold no ground.
The arrest of the scientist with an enviable record — his science is rated among the best in this country as evident from the list of publications — has been criticised by eminent scientists, colleagues and friends. The community has written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in the matter and get Ray released. An online petition by a pro-people group had already amassed close to 900 signatures (and counting) from across the world. Mriganka Sur, an eminent professor of neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was a member of a review committee of the Wellcome Trust-India Alliance that awarded Ray the prestigious Wellcome Trust-India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship in 2010, has also expressed concern over the arrest of the young life scientist.
In my personal interaction with Ray after one of his papers got published in Nature, this assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata came across as a scientist with a purpose and sense of societal responsibility. That explains his being involved in the cause for the downtrodden. His interesting work on a molecular solution to the ‘dilemma’ that cells face was featured in Nature India.
We hope the mounting pressure on the government makes it take a fresh look at Ray’s arrest.