Srinagar, Jan. 27: A region caught in violence, sectarianism and a geopolitical tug-of-war is gearing to celebrate reason and the universal language of science.
Trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir will next week host the annual Indian Science Congress for the first time in the event’s 100-year history.
Around 8,000 scientists from the country and abroad are expected at the February 3-7 conference at Jammu University.
Among the participants will be former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and Nobel laureates Y.T. Lee of Taiwan and Ferid Murad, an Albanian American. Lee had shared the 1986 Chemistry Nobel and Murad the 1998 Medicine Nobel.
“This is the first time we (Jammu and Kashmir) will host Nobel laureates (at an official function),” said M.K. Jyoti, head of the Jammu chapter of the Indian Science Congress Association.
“Jammu and Kashmir has made contributions to science,” he said, referring to quality research in the state, but rued that “unfortunately there is no recognition” of this fact.
Jyoti hoped the event would provide exposure to the state’s scientists and encourage students to take up scientific research.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the event, whose theme is “innovations in science and technology for inclusive development”.
There will be 14 brainstorming sessions in addition to a plenary session, a science communicator meeting, a science exposition, a women’s science congress and a children’s science congress. Authorities are making elaborate security arrangements.
The first Indian Science Congress was held at Asiatic Society, Calcutta, in 1914 under the presidentship of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee. Calcutta also hosted the centenary congress in January last year.
Jyoti said the reason the Indian Science Congress had stayed away from the state so far was the absence of facilities at Jammu and Kashmir’s universities to “accommodate such a big gathering”.
But official sources said the state’s troubled past too had proved a deterrent, although parts of Jammu have largely remained peaceful over the years.
Last year, though, was one of the most turbulent periods in Jammu’s recent history and was marked by a spate of attacks by Pakistani troops or infiltrators.
An Indian jawan was beheaded in Poonch while a twin suicide attack on police and army camps left 10 soldiers and cops dead. Jammu also witnessed intense border skirmishes last year.