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Taking science to the masses in the local language

John Babu Koyye writes of an attempt to create awareness on a range of issues among the Kashmiri village folk through skits and puppet shows in Urdu and Kashmiri

Advancements in science and technology have revolutionised all aspects of human life, particularly in cities. However, communication of scientific advancements becomes difficult in grassroots areas because of language issues. Kashmir is not only famous for its cultural heritage and traditions but also for science, literature and multiple languages.

The Jammu and Kashmir Official languages Bill 2020 declares Kashmiri, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi and English as the languages to be used for official purposes in the Union Territory. Promoting science in these official languages is a must, and institutes of higher education in the Valley should assume the responsibility of doing so. Meanwhile, the National Education Policy 2020 has emphasized the use of mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction till Class 5 while recommending its continuance till Class 8 and beyond.

With an aim to familiarising village people and school students with scientific innovations and discoveries, the Department of Convergent Journalism (DCJ), Central University of Kashmir organised a traditional media puppet-show and science skit in May at the Government Higher Secondary School, Wangat Village in Ganderbal District of Kashmir under the ScoPE (Science Communication Popularization and Extension) Project funded by Vigyan Prasar, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, in collaboration with Kashmir University. The field trip was supervised by the writer with the support of faculty member Akther Bhat and supervised by Prof Shahid Rasool, dean, School of Media Studies and project coordinator of SCoPE and Arif Nazir, head, DCJ.

DCJ students translated the script written by the author into regional languages – Kashmiri and Urdu – and staged the puppet show to highlight the importance of scientific thinking in day-to-day human life. It aimed to debunk the myths related to the COVID-19 vacation in Kashmir. It also showcased how the cloning technology could benefit changthangi or changpa goat rearing, and revive the pashmina wool industry in Kashmir, an important industry which has brought Kashmir global recognition but is now on the verge of extinction due to the drastic fall in the number of changthangi goats from which pashmina wool is obtained. (Noori, the first cloned pashmina goat was born on March 9, 2012.)

The university students also performed a skit aimed at creating awareness about environmental degradation and the importance of protecting nature. The main causes of environmental degradation were explained and the steps that could be taken to save the earth. Later, the university team visited a nearby village to record on camera the living conditions of the tribal people.

(The writer is senior assistant professor, Department of Convergent Journalism, School of Media Studies, Central University of Kashmir, Ganderbal.)

July – September 2022