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Seminar on “Mechanism of Ribosomal Scanning and AUG Selection in Translation: where to begin?”

Dr. Alan Hinnebusch, Program Director and Chief, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, USA, delivered a seminar in the School of Life Sciences.  The event was highly attended by students and faculty, including the Vice Chancellor. The students and faculty also had very productive and enlightening scientific interactions following the seminar.

Protein synthesis (also called mRNA translation) is a key fundamental step for gene expression in all living cells.  Control of protein synthesis is vital for normal cell growth and development, as either the unregulated high-level protein production or inappropriate shutting down protein synthesis in cells often have catastrophic consequences including several human diseases. In this case, the non-coding (5' leader) portion of mRNAs also have large impact on protein synthesis efficiency. But the mechanism of how the regulation of the inititation step of protein synthesis or the various factors required for this regulation have not been understood.

In this seminar Dr. Hinnebusch reviewed a large body of scientific research work that elucidated the mechanism of how the beginning step of protein synthesis is controlled at molecular level (see below for a review article). For these studies, Dr. Hinnebusch's laboratory used a model gene, GCN4, which encodes a master transcriptional regulator in budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae. Furthermore, he presented startling results demonstrating the finesse by which the cellular machinery works, and, in particular, how general eukaryotic translation factor-1 (eIF1) and eIF1A cooperate to maintain a permissible conformation of the ribosomes to enable locating the correct position for initiating protein synthesis.  These findings are profound and fundamental to our understanding of the mechanism of protein synthesis in eukaryotic organisms ranging from budding yeast to humans.

Dr. Hinebusch is a pioneer and a true leader in the research on control of protein synthesis in eukaryotes.  He is a yeast geneticist and a molecular biologist and has published over 150 peer reviewed articles in top scientific journals, and has several recognitions to his credit.  Above all, he is a fantastic mentor and a great human being, and has trained generations of post-doctoral scientists for well over 25 years.

Further reading of the details of his research work: Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. (American Society of Microbiology Press) September 2011 vol. 75, pages 434-467

Krishnamurthy Natarajan
Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences


Conference on: “Living in Peace and Harmony in a Multicultural World: The Risale-I Nur perspective”

The Centre of Arabic and African Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies organized a two day international conference on “ Living in Peace and Harmony in a Multicultural World: The Risale-I Nur Perspective” in collaboration with Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture, Turkey. Risale- I Nur is a 6000 page commentary of Holy Quran written by the great Turkish Scholar and socio-religious reformer Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960) who played a major role in shaping the socio-religious and cultural contours of Modern Turkey. The objective of the conference was to deliberate upon the relevance of Nursi's ideas of peace and harmony, meaning and significance of faith in life, peaceful co-existence, interfaith dialogue etc for multicultural societies like India. The conference was attended by delegates from UK, USA, Canada, UAE, Turkey, Lebanon, and Indian universities and colleges. A contingent of about 30 participants from Turkey especially came to attend the proceedings of the conference. The conference was also attended by a large number of research scholars and students from JNU, Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. They actively interacted with the scholars from India and abroad.

The inaugural session was chaired by Prof. R.N.Menon, Dean School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies. Prof. M. Aslam Islahi, delivering the welcome speech, remarked that JNU has the distinction of being the first institution in India to introduce the revolutionary ideas of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. He further said that true to his name Bediuzzaman was the wonder of the age and that he did not belong to Turkey alone rather he belonged to all people. Dr. Mujeebur Rahman, convener of the conference, briefly introduced the theme of the conference. Guest of Honour Mr. Riza Akcali, former minister and Member of Parliament in Turkey and a much respected figure, spoke highly of the Indian tradition of hospitality and expressed his delight at the reception received in India. He said that our time is marked by explosion of science and knowledge. But the increased knowledge has not solved the problems of humanity. There are endless conflicts, wars and tensions and all kinds of problems. Referring to the author Ian Malcolm he said that perhaps we should turn to Ustadh Bediuzzaman Said Nursi for the solution to these problems. Dr. Ihsan Qasim Salehi a well known authority on Nursi who translated Risale-I Nur into Arabic said that this book offers solutions for the problems of the age. Risale- I Nur is like a panacea for all the diseases and ills afflicting the society. Risale-I Nur addresses entire humanity and suggests solutions to all problems. Similar opinions were expressed by the Dr. Abdul Hakim al –Anees from Dubai. In his speech Abdul Hakim Al-Anees said that Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was very fond of India although he never visited India. He was particularly inspired by Imam Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah Dehlavi. Nursi lived in pain for the sufferings of humanity. Nursi truly was a man of peace and love.

The inaugural address was delivered by Shri Arif Mohammad Khan, Former Union Minister, and a noted scholar and speaker. He began his speech by saying that it was always a delight to be in JNU. He further said that the choice of venue for a seminar on living in Peace in Harmony in a multicultural world was the most appropriate one as JNU was a living embodiment of harmony in a multicultural environment. He spoke at length on the dynamic approach of Bediuzzaman Nursi to the interpretation of Quran. He termed Nursi's magnum opus “Risale-I Nur” as the “Barkat” (Blessing) of Quran. Quoting extensively from Quran he stressed the point that diversity is ordained in the scheme of God. Quran describes this diversity, this pluralism as the signs of Allah. The colours of our skin, the various languages which we speak, they are all signs of Allah. Then are we going to fight against these signs of Allah? The real problem comes when people arrogate to themselves the power of God. With reference to India's tradition of pluralism he said that India is known for its long cherished practice of pluralism since the time immemorial. India has received the Parsis, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The presence of a large number of Sadat (Prophet's progenies) in India testifies to the fact that when these people were persecuted in the Arab world itself, India welcomed them with open arms. India does not just tolerate pluralism rather India welcomes and practices pluralism. He stressed that when this wonderful message of Bediuzzaman will go from this land of pluralism and diversity it will have added respectability and value. Referring to Nursi he said that Bediuzzaman found manifestation of the divine in human cooperation, in mutual love, in coming together of human beings. Indeed these are brilliant thought. He said that religion is for man making but when religion is used for empire making then problem starts. This is what Bediuzzaman has spoken time again in his Risale-i Nur. He concluded his speech hoping that the deliberations of this international seminar will show new light to the world and we will be able to create a better world where we have more understanding, where we are more concerned about each other, where we have the feelings of brotherhood for each other.

Prof. Faris Kaya, Secretary General Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture, delivered the key-note address. Prof. Kaya beautifully elaborated the core aspects of the message of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and he especially highlighted the moral issues and the centrality of morality in the thought of Nursi in the light of his Damascus Sermon. He said that there is a dearth of morality in today's life. Despite advancement in science and knowledge, problems of humanity have not diminished, rather they have escalated. Social crises, violence of various types, consumerism, and problems arising out of modernity, problems arising out of religious differences etc; may be attributed to the neglect of spiritual life. Said Nursi's Risale-I Nur offers solutions to these problems.

Prof. Ravindra Nath Menon, Dean SLL&CS, while delivering the presidential remarks, congratulated the Centre of Arabic and African Studies for organizing such an important seminar and said that throughout history religion has been exploited by people to dominate over others. This has largely happened because of the wrong interpretation of religious scriptures. Against this backdrop the role of Said Nursi is laudable by virtue of his rational and scientific interpretation of Quran in 6000 pages. Nursi emphasizes on values such as love, compassion, humility, non-violence and education. Education rids us of ignorance and transforms us into thinking human beings. We must emphasize on these values because at one level all religions emphasize on the unity of mankind. The inaugural session ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Dr. Rizwanur Rahman of the centre.

In the middle of the session there was a DVD presentation for 15 minutes about the life and works of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. A special Turkish plaque was also presented to Prof. R.N. Menon by His Excellency Mr. Riza Akcali.

The first academic session was on “The Methodological and Educational Aspects”. The session was chaired by Prof. Bilal Kuspinar from Canada. Five papers were presented in this sessions which included “Mecca Medina Paradigm: The Nursi Perspective on Reform” by Prof. Colin Turner of Durham University, UK, “Bediuzzaman Said Nursi” by Prof. Akhtarul Wasey of JMI, New Delhi, “Bringing Faith, Meaning and Peace to life in a Multicultural World: The Risale-I Nur's Approach” by Prof. Farida Khanam of JMI, New Delhi, “ Education and Empowerment through Education: Lessons for Said Nursi for Muslims in India” by Dr. Zubair Hudawi of Kerala and “Bringing Faith, Meaning and Peace to life in a Multicultural World: The Risale-I Nur Perspective” by Abida Kawser of JMI, New Delhi.

The second academic session, on “Modernity, Globalization and Reform”, was chaired by Prof. Colin Turner of Durham University. Four papers were presented in this session. Dr. Sanaullah Nadwi of Aligarh Muslim University spoke on “The Mind Matter Intrigues: Nursi's Critique of Positivism and Materialism; Prof. Hamid Nasim Rafiabadi, Director of S.H. Institute for Islamic Studies, Srinagar, Kashmir, presented a paper on “Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and the Theory of Clash of Civilization: A Critical and Comparative Study”; Dr. Mohammad Ajmal of JNU presented paper on “Globalization and the Thought of Unity in Diversity of Nursi: The Role of Risale- I Nur”; and Dr. Md. Qutbuddin of CAAS, JNU made a comparative study of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Nursi in his paper  “Reform and Education: A Comparative study of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan”. This session generated quite a bit of debate and discussion among the speakers and the audience.

On the second day, there were parallel sessions and the 3rd session in was titled “Human Nature, Faith Youth and Women's Issues”. The session was chaired by Dr. S.A.M. Pasha of JMI. In this session, Prof. M. Aslam Islahi of JNU, Prof. Alparslan Acikgenc of Yildiz Technical University, Turkey, Mr. Abdul Majid Sayem of Kashmir, and Ms. Sneha of JNU presented their papers. The parallel session was chaired by Prof. Shafique Ahmad Khan Nadwi of JMI, papers in Arabic were presented by Prof. Zubair Ahmad Farooqui of JMI, Dr. Ihsan Qasim Salehi of Istanbul, Dr. Abdul Hakim Anees of Dubai, Dr. Ahmad Farhat of Lebanon, and Prof. Ayub Nadwi of JMI.

After the tea break, Arabic papers were continued in the session titled “Contribution of Nursi to change and other issues”. The session was chaired by Prof. Aslam Islahi. Maulana Saeed al Azmi Nadwi, Rector, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama Lucknow, presented his paper titled “The Role of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in the upbringing of new generation in Turkey”. Other paper presenters in this session included Dr. Abdul Majid Qazi of JMI, Ali Katioz of Turkey, Dr. Nasim Akhtar Nadwi of JMI and Dr. Obaidur Rahman of Baba Gulam Shah Badshah University of Rajouri in Kashmir. The parallel session was on “Multiculturalism, Peace and Harmony”. The session was chaired by Prof. Zikrur Rahman, Director India Arab Cultural Centre, JMI. Prof. Thomas Mitchell of USA, Dr. Obaidullah Fahad and Dr. S.A. Kazmi of AMU, Dr. Abdul Quddoos of AUS, Assam, and Dr. Sheikh Jameil Ali of Kashmir presented papers on different aspects of multiculturalism, Peace, Harmony in the thought of Nursi. All the papers were appreciated by the participants and audience and the session generated intense debate and discussion.

The titles of the four parallel session held in the afternoon were “Scholasticism and Comparative Framework”, “Interfaith Dialogue and Pluralism”, “Spirituality, Revivalism and Reform”, and “Dialogue and Co-existence”. Fourteen papers were presented by eminent scholars on different aspects of Nursian Thought and Movement. The paper presenters included: Dr. S. A. M. Pasha of JMI, Dr. Irfan A. Omar of USA, Prof. Bilal Kuspinar of Canada, Dr. Wali Akhtar Nadwi of Delhi University, Md. Obaidullah Qasmi of DU, Dr. Abdul Majid Andrabi of Kashmir, Quamer Shaban Nadwi of JNU, Mahmood Alam Siddiqui of JNU, Dr. Arafat Zafar of Lucknow University, Dr. Md. Akram Nawaz, Afsal Hudawi, Dr. Wasiul Haque and Mohammad Ahmad of JNU.

His Excellency Prof. Burack Akcapar, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to India attended the Valedictory Session as Guest of Honour. Prof. Thomas Mitchell of USA representing the delegates presented the feedback about the conference. In his speech he appreciated the wonderful hospitality, excellent arrangements and the high quality of papers presented and the lively debates and discussions that followed. In his erudite speech, the Turkish ambassador Prof. Burack Akcapar dwelt on the affinities and linkages between India and Turkey. He emphasized that Turkey and India were two leading democracies of the world and shared historical and cultural affinities exemplified by the fact that some 9000 words are common to Hindi, Urdu, and Turkish languages and that the wonder of India, the Taj Mahal, has a strong Turkish connection. He further said that India and Turkey are not only great democracies; they are also big market economies, scientific hubs and are shaping the future of the world. A lot depends on the cooperation between these two countries. India and Turkey have shown to the world that democracy is a global and universal offering and is not exclusive to the west. With regard to Bediuzzaman Said Nursi he said that overlooking the two problematic approaches to religion, religion today is a part of life and this simply cannot be ignored. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's relevance in the pluralistic world is demonstrated by his assertion not on tolerance but on mutual cooperation and acceptance. He ended his speech by thanking the organizers to invite him to the conference.

Prof. Faris Kaya, Secretary General Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture read out the recommendations of the conference which focussed mainly on increasing cooperation between JNU and Turkish institutions in general and IFSC in particular. Turkish Ambassador Prof. Burak Akcapar on behalf of Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture presented a set of books to Prof. M. Aslam Islahi, Chairperson of the Centre.

Mujeebur Rahman, Associate Professor
Centre of Arabic & African Studies, SLL&C


Dr. Girish Nath Jha
Fifth Lecture in the JNU Seminar Series Towards Interdisciplinarity

The School of Social Sciences organized the fifth lecture in the “JNU Seminar Series Towards Interdisciplinarity” on 3 February 2012 at the Committee Room of School of Social Sciences. The Lecture titled “Computational Linguistics, Corpora and Standards: The Big Picture” was delivered by Dr. Girish Nath Jha of Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies. Professor Alok Bhattacharya, School of Life Sciences, chaired the meeting. Professor V.V. Krishna, Chairperson, CSSP, formally introduced the seminar series. This series addresses the challenge of interdisciplinarity. Specifically, it seeks to enable, sustain and nurture dialogues across disciplines. This initiative intends to close the gap between the 'two cultures' within JNU and aims to generate and energize research ideas and ways of thinking about knowledge and scholarship.

In this lecture Dr. Jha briefly introduced the field of Computational Linguistics (COLING) as an inter-disciplinary area of research and application under artificial intelligence (AI). There are two popular approaches to COLING, namely, (a) the grammar based approach where formal models of language analyses are developed and used, and (b) the statistical methods of COLING where large sized annotated corpora are used to train computers to learn linguistic patterns. He also introduced the national and international standards and the necessity to develop resources as per global standards. He highlighted the efforts to develop language technology standards in India under Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

In this context, Dr. Jha demonstrated the progress made at JNU with examples from his projects “Indian Languages Corpora Initiative” (ILCI), and “Developing Computational Tools for Sanskrit and Sanskrit-Hindi Machine Translation”, both funded under the Technology Development for Indian Languages (TDIL) program by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).

The Lecture concluded with Chair's remarks and a vibrant interaction with the audience.

Earlier JNU Seminar Series Towards Interdisciplinarity held the following events:

  • First Lecture “the Unclear Nuclear Future” by Professor R. Rajaraman of School of Physical Sciences on 29 April 2011. Professor Zoya Hasan of School of Social Sciences chaired the session.
  • Second Lecture “Indian Modernity” by Professor Avijit Pathak of School of Social Sciences on 14 October 2011. Dr. Rohini Muthuswamy of School of Life Sciences chaired the session.
  • Third event Panel Discussion on “Science and Globalisation” on 25 November 2011. Professor Rupamanjari Ghosh of SPS, Professor V.V. Krishna of CSSP, SSS, and Professor B.S. Chimni of CILS, SIS were discussants in this event.
  • Fourth Lecture on “Climate Change” by Professor Arun K. Attri of School of Environmental Sciences. Chair: Professor V.V. Krishna chaired the session and Dr. Rohan D'Souza of CSSP, SSS was a discussant.

Anup Kumar Das
Documentation Officer
Centre for Studies in Science Policy, SSS


Fifteenth P.C. Joshi Memorial Lecture

The P.C. Joshi Archives on Contemporary History of Jawaharlal Nehru University organized the Fifteenth P.C. Joshi Memorial Lecture on 28 February 2012 at School of Social Sciences Auditorium. The Lecture titled “Participative Democracy and the Future of Dissent” was delivered by Shri Nikhil Dey, a social activist. Shri Dey is associated with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan (MKSS) and National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI). He has been actively engaged in different grassroots social movements such as Right to Information, Right to Food, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and Lokpal Bill. Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Independent Law Researcher and Activist, chaired the Lecture session.

In this lecture Nikhil Dey lucidly discussed the formation of social movements in the remote areas across India, with the participation of workers of unorganized sectors, agricultural laborers and other marginalized communities. He also pointed out that social exploitation, social discrimination and political corruption of ruling machineries are the major reasons for socio-political dissent across the country. Thus, worker groups have been engaged in mobilizing social movements to achieve their right to livelihoods, and other human rights. In this direction, he pointed out how Right to Information movement brings some sorts of transparency and information flow in the functioning of NREGA. Targeted beneficiaries of NREGA and other national schemes are now better informed about their rights and how to participate in those livelihood schemes. Existence of RTI also helps in minimizing malpractices and corruption as citizens are more vigilant than a decade earlier.

The Lecture concluded with Chair's remarks and a vibrant interaction with the audience.

Anup Kumar Das
Documentation Officer
Centre for Studies in Science Policy, SSS


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