A Special Lecture on “Science and Freedom”

The Nehru Study Centre, Mangalore University in collaboration with the Department of Political Science, St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru, organised a special lecture on “Science and Freedom”, by Prof. V K Tripathi, Former Professor of Physics, IIT, Delhi on 28 March, 2023.

The session began with a prayer song by the students of II and III BA. Prof. Rajaram Tolpadi, Director In-Charge of the Nehru Study Centre, introduced the speaker of the session, Prof. Tripathi, and also welcomed the gathering. Dr. Rose Veera DSouza, Head of the Department of Political Science, gave a floral welcome to the speaker. The talk was attended by the students of I, II, and III BA Political Science. The audience also had faculty from Mangalore University. 

The speaker Prof. Tripathi began his talk by laying down the significance of open mindedness in exploring ideas in the light of humans becoming slaves of their own thinking. He said that from his experience of reading the sacred texts of various faiths, he has learnt that all of them advocate the same thing— accountability. We must take responsibility for our actions and refrain from doing anything that would cause harm to others. 

Prof. Tripathi gave a timeline of modern science— from Newton’s Law of Motion in 1686 to the invention of the steam engine in 1776. He spoke on how the steam engine led to the emergence of textile mills, and he made a mention of the four essential things a machine required— iron, coal, raw materials, and markets. The speaker referred to historian Adam Jones’s book “The Genocide: An Extended Introduction”, where the author has made an interesting observation that India hadn’t experienced famines for around three centuries prior to British imperialism. He mentioned how the British gained political and administrative control over the country after the Battle of Plassey of 1757, which they won through fraudulent means. With this, they established their textile mills in the country and brought about the ruin of the Indian textile mills, which once topped in the world market. This indicated how science became an instrument of oppression and of hunger. Science was used to further political motives and vested interests; it soon became an instrument of slavery. 

The speaker also spoke about the oil and petroleum developments under the Ottoman Empire, and how after the First World War, the imperialist powers took over their oil resources. Prof. Tripathi stressed on the fact that atrocity committed on any individual, a popular person or a commoner, deserves equal condemnation and response. The speaker cited the example of Congo, which was under the control of Belgium. They had precious reserves of tantalum, which is used in making computer chips. But these mines did not come under the control of the local people even after independence. Congo, despite being the richest in minerals, is one among the poorest countries of Africa, because even today their mines are not theirs. The consequences of all these developments were slavery of people, suppression and enslavement of third world countries.
Prof. Tripathi emphasised the point that comfort in life is a very small part of living, and it is human ambition to attain comfort. But if one shuts one’s mouth and closes one’s eyes, then one shall be paying a heavy price for momentary comfort. Prejudice must not cripple one. Science has enabled replacement of manual power and replacement of memory. 

The speaker elaborated on how he views imperialism in three phases— imperialism in India, neo-imperialism after the Second World War, and sectarianism during the Cold War leading to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of globalisation and free markets. He made a reference to how the British employed the policy of “Divide and Rule” and made use of religious disharmony and casteism that existed in India. Religion became an instrument of prejudice and perpetuation.
Prof. Tripathi then spoke about an interesting observation he made through a study that there has been a sharp hike in the intake of students in higher education in various courses, but this apparent positive change instead of liberating people has actually done the opposite. Educated people are supporting polarisation and it is extremely alarming. He also drew a parallel between the attitude of the natives living in foreign countries earlier and the change that was seen after the 1990s.

He emphasised saying that education and science ought to bring about humility and sensitivity, and must promote humanism. Humility will bring sensitivity which helps in seeing the truth. Science demands objectivity, and one will be able to do experiments better when one forgets about identity. We are in an advancing society, and we should realise that our religion is never superior to our neighbour's religion nor our caste to our neighbour's caste. 

The speaker concluded saying that the students are privileged to be receiving education at good institutions, and they must use the same to develop sensitivity and a sense of understanding that all are equal and deserve respect. The students must realise that education gives them the responsibility of building a better society and country. Prof. Tripathi also sang a ghazal giving the message of humility and sensitivity.

After the talk, Vinola Pinto and Vidhula K L of III BA summarised the special lecture delivered by Prof. Tripathi. This was followed by a Q&A session. Ms. Maria S DSouza, faculty, Department of Political Science handed over a memento to the speaker. Mr. Alwin DSouza proposed the vote of thanks. The programme was compered by Deeksha of III BA.