FOR THE first time in its over 100-year-old history, the Indian Science Congress (ISC), an event that is on the Prime Minister’s calendar in the month of January, has been postponed.
Anticipating protests from students of Osmania University, where the 105th edition of the event was to be held from January 3-7, the university expressed its inability to host due to “disturbances on its campus and other reasons”.
The ISC’s postponement was conveyed in a communique from the Ministry of Science and Technology, based on information received from Dr Achyut Samanta, General President of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA). The Science Congress is the largest annual congregation of Indian scientists.
It is learnt that security officials anticipated protests from students of Osmania University against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue of Dalits and minorities, and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao over lack of government recruitment in the newly formed state.
“Only last night (Tuesday night) the vice-chancellor of Osmania University informed us that it would not be possible to host the Science Congress on the scheduled dates because of disturbances on the campus… One student has committed suicide and there are some other reasons as well… The news has come as a shock for us. It has never happened earlier,” Prof Gangadhar, general secretary of ISCA, told The Indian Express.
Tempers are running high among students in Osmania University, where a 21-year-old MSc (Physics) student Eramina Murali committed suicide on December 3. Murali wrote in his suicide note that he was unable to cope with academic stress, but students claimed it was a result of the anger and discontent over lack of government jobs after the creation of Telangana.
As the situation continues to be tense in the university, sources said the Chief Minister was informed by security officials that there may be protests during the Science Congress, and it may be disrupted. This was also conveyed to the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
However, when contacted by The Indian Express, the university’s Vice-Chancellor Prof S Ramachandran said he was unaware of the postponement. “Nothing is confirmed yet. Maybe by Thursday we will be able to give a statement,’” he said. He declined to comment when asked if alternative venues were being considered.
ISCA’s Gangadhar said that an “emergency meeting” of the executive council had been called for December 27 to discuss the next course of action. “The university has informed us at such a last moment… Just a few days ago, our team had gone to the university to see the arrangements being made, and everything seemed well on track. But we will now have to find a way,” he said.
On Tuesday, Hyderabad Police Commissioner V V Srinivasa Rao visited the campus to inspect the ‘A’ and ‘C’ grounds where the Science Congress was supposed to be held.
“After the inspection, he was informed about a meeting of Dalit, Backward Caste, Minority and Left students’ organisations in which they resolved to protest the presence of Modi and KCR on the campus. Accordingly, a report was sent to the state and central governments stating that trouble was expected in the campus during the congress,’’ a top official said.
Gangadhar said it was possible to organise the event at another venue anytime before March 31 next year. “These decisions will have to be taken by the executive committee,” he said. The host and venue of the Science Congress are usually decided one year in advance.
Sources said university officials were looking at the Hyderabad International Trade Expositions (HITEX), where the Global Entrepreneurship Summit was held recently, as an alternative location. No decision has been made yet, they said.
“The Osmania University, which was established in 1917, is celebrating the centenary year and if the prestigious Science Congress is held outside the campus it would be not only an insult but also draw a tremendous amount of criticism. So nothing is decided yet. In spite of stiff competition from other universities, it was decided to hold the event this year at Osmania. We cannot shift the venue,’’ an official said.