The Azim Premji University regularly organizes seminars, webinars and colloquium lectures involving members of the faculty as well as academicians, activists, artists and other distinguished personalities from a wide array of fields. This section consists of video recordings of  major events conducted at the Azim Premji University.

Data, Surveillance, Privacy & Liberty

Murali Neelakantan


About the Lecture

The talk will aim to cover the many instances where government, directly or through private parties, collects data, and in all cases, these databases are linked to Aadhaar, a unique identifier. Using various rules and regulations, mostly of dubious constitutional provenance, the government now has the ability to identify and track the activities of all individuals through email, phone number, PAN, bank account, insurance, vehicle registration, driver’s license, Director Identification Number, health records, DNA, Video and voice capture. This should be a concern in itself as it is clearly an invasion of privacy, a fundamental right. It is important to understand the harm that these acts of invasion of privacy cause and why “if we have nothing to hide, we should not be worried” attitude is ill-informed and naïve. The various proposed uses, especially of (i) the National Health Stack, the repository of all health data, (ii) Ayushman Bharat which is meant to provide universal healthcare and the (iii) DNA Bill, which legalises the collection of DNA material, and its storage and use in databases need to be carefully examined to understand the threat to the lives of everyone. The risks associated with these projects, as demonstrated using a few scenarios and illustrations should be of concern to everyone.

About Speaker

Murali Neelakantan is a dual qualified (English solicitor and Indian advocate) with over 2 decades of experience in advising on international transactions in a wide variety of sectors. He was previously a senior equity partner at Ashurst in London and subsequently a senior partner at Khaitan & Co. He joined Cipla in 2013 as its first Global General Counsel and subsequently was Executive Director and Global General Counsel at Glenmark. He is currently Principal at amicus where he provides legal and policy advice. He has recent written a series of articles on the national health Stack, DNA Bill and healthcare policy for BloombergQuint. 

Migration & Urbanization in India: The Past, Present and Possible Futures

Chinmay Tumbe


About the Lecture

Is India really urbanizing at a rapid pace? What do we know about the migration of labour and capital? How does migration shape the contours of urbanization in India? And which cities are likely to grow rapidly in the coming years? This talk attempts to address these questions by providing an overview of the migration and urbanization dynamics of India over a hundred years. It highlights the Great Indian Migration Wave, remittance urbanism, transnational business, masculine urbanization and demographic divergence as some of the critical issues driving Indian migration and urbanization in the 21st century.

About Speaker

Chinmay Tumbe loves to laugh and learn. He is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) and was the 2018 Alfred D. Chandler Jr. International Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School. He works on migration, cities, firms and history and is the author of India Moving: A History of Migration (Penguin, 2018). He has previously been associated with TISS-Hyderabad, European University Institute in Florence, LSE, IIM-Bangalore, Ruia College Mumbai and Rishi Valley School. He also chairs the IIMA Archives initiative and coordinates IIMA’s History Internship programme.


Love at Sites of Contested Narratives

Avni Sethi


About the Lecture

The talk will revolve around the notions of ‘love' and their relationship with contestation, alongside inquiries such as: Is it possible to dance in forms of joy, protest, endurance, separation, and the everyday? For those who cannot hear the music, is there a possibility of such a dance? How does love manifest in different publics? These conversations will be one such attempt to list and index the forms of love Avni’s work and its cosmology makes available to spectatorship.

About Speaker

Avni Sethi is an Ahmedabad-based interdisciplinary practitioner whose work explores the relations between culture, memory, space and the body. She has conceptualized and designed Conflictorium, a participatory museum on the theme of conflict in Ahmedabad. She studied Interdisciplinary Design from the Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology, Bangalore and pursued a Masters in Performance Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is interested in exploring the relationship between intimate audiences and the performing body.

Talks on Mahatma Gandhi and discusses on the book " GANDHI: THE SOUL FORCE WARRIOR who Revolutionized Revolution and Spiritualized it

Pascal Alan Nazareth


About the Lecture

About Speaker

P. Alan Nazareth is a distinguished diplomat. He has served in India’s diplomatic and consular missions in Tokyo, Rangoon, Lima, London, Chicago, and New York and as India’s High Commissioner to Ghana & Ambassador to Liberia, Togo, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala & El Salvador. He was Director-General of ICCR.  Mr. Nazareth’s first book ‘‘Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership” was released at New Delhi on March 21st, 2006 by former Prime Minister of India Dr. I. K. Gujral. It has been translated into 12 Indian and 23 foreign languages. Mr. Nazareth is a founder and Managing Trustee of Sarvodaya International Trust which is dedicated to promoting Gandhian ideals. He received the prestigious U Thant Peace Award 2007.

Highways and Byways: Infrastructure Making in India between Modernizing Agents and Peasant Households During the Great Depression

Stefan Tetzlaff


About the Lecture

The talk looks at the ways in which the coexistence and competition of motor cars and bullock carts in early 20th century India shaped networks of transportation more generally. The findings strongly suggest that the transformative effect of modern transport on India’s agrarian space was over-emphasized by those who advocated for and protested against motorized transport in India. Instead, the talk argues that bullock carts continued to be of prime importance in the transport sector at a time when automobile traffic grew exponentially. In the detailed analysis, the talk focuses on understudied actors and transport technologies placed in non-metropolitan, rural parts of central and western India during the Great Depression. The region saw a growth in the road transport network and motor vehicle use along with economic and social distress of large parts of the population during this period. The paper highlights, on the one hand, the ways and means by which the road-motor lobby of state and commercial interests attempted to upgrade modern road infrastructure. Faced with numerous challenges in making modern roads, these interests identified bullock carts as the main culprits in destroying new road surfaces in the modern age and side-tracked them to allow the smooth flow of motorized transport. On the other hand, the paper shows how peasant households reacted to newly available technological devices. Filtering into their daily lives in numerous ways, local peasants and representatives of Gandhian ideas often rejected modern technologies outright as they arguably clashed with opportunities for subsidiary income from bullock cart hire.

About Speaker

Stefan Tetzlaff is a historian of South Asia and its connection with the world.  His research broadly examines the impact of trajectories of capitalism on historical formations while investigating how imperialism, colonialism, and postcolonial formations shaped broader global structures and local manifestations. His specific interests in the history of mobility, technology and business practices were shaped during his formative training at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen. Stefan's first book project "The Motorization of the Mofussil" analyzes the arrival of the automobile in rural and small-town India during the interwar period. It argues that automobiles and asphalted roads brought about certain shifts in modern India’s political and economic sphere, as these became significant for an array of social actors, from business tycoons and local entrepreneurs down to farmers and road laborers. During his postdoctoral career since 2015, Stefan has held positions at different academic institutions in Asia, Europe, and the US. These include positions at the Centre for South Asian Studies in Paris (CNRS-EHESS), the German Historical Institutes (GHI) in London and Washington, D.C. and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO) in Berlin. During 2019, Stefan is also an Arts and Humanities Visiting Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi and a Senior Research Fellow in Business History at the Godrej Archives (Mumbai) that attempts to instill the study of Indian business history. During this time, he commenced research on transnational economic and technology exchanges between India and western nations during the Cold War. 

Elites in India's Digital Age: Saviours, Bystanders or Villains?

Ipshita Basu


About the Lecture

As India has entered into an advanced neoliberal, digital age, the constitution of the elites who drive policy and political agendas has changed. Altering the contours of the old military-bureaucracy-business complex are 'data elites' - IT consulting firms, think tanks, social media designers, mobile operators and so on. These elites are elusive, moving laterally across different professional circles but they are increasingly being recognised as key drivers of change. From elections to urban policy agendas to cleaning up the bureaucracy. Does the new elite composition signify a scope for emancipatory change or not? Looking at a whole range of forces: smart cities, digital election campaigns, border conflicts, and governance reform I explain what the new structures of elite power in India are and how they operate.

About Speaker

Dr Ipshita Basu is Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Westminster, London. Her research focuses on identity and policy processes in South Asia. She is the author of Elite Discourse Coalitions and the Governance of Smart Spaces Political Geography (2019, Vol. 68). She is the co-editor of Politics and Governance in Bangladesh: Uncertain Landscapes (Routledge, 2017).  She led publication of the first and influential State of Cities report (2011, BRAC and IDRC). Her forthcoming book is on the Politics of Social Justification and Democracy in Jharkhand, India. Ipshita is a publically engaged scholar and has worked with BRAC in Bangladesh, NGOs in Sri Lanka and on projects funded by the IDRC, UKAid and World Bank.  She was invited to the House of Commons in January 2018 to give evidence on DFID's work on Bangladesh, Burma and Rohingya Crisis. She holds a PhD in International Development from the University of Bath (2010), an M.Res in International Development (Bath, 2004) and an M.A. in Sociology (Warwick, 2002). Previously, she was Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in International Relations at the University of Surrey (2012-2015) and Head of Research at BRAC'S Institute of Governance and Development (2010-2012). 

Promoting Sustainable Development in Thar Desert: Experiences from URMUL

Arvind Ojha


About the Lecture

In the harsh and inhospitable regions of rural Rajasthan in the Thar Desert, URMUL Trust has been innovating models for inducing community-driven developmental changes by devising programmes, strengthening them, sustaining and handing them over to communities. Urmul’s work is guided by the spirit and trust placed in people’ s capabilities to bring about the much-needed social change with their own efforts. Most of the work is focused on vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society. Following the integrated development approaches, Urmul works on all the Sustainable Development Goals with over 1000 villages focussing on the issues of health, education, livelihood, environment, Animal husbandry, food, fodder, water security, disaster mitigation, women’s socio-economic empowerment, capacity building, improving access to basic services, early childhood care & development, child right issues including child marriages and child protection. Urmul along with community participation and support, has innovated, designed and demonstrated various vital and successful models in diverse developmental themes, to name a few- barefoot doctors; Formal & Non- Formal Education Centers, Balika Shivirs for adolescent girls with the collaboration of Shikshakarmi and Lok Jumbish programmes; long term constructive campaigns for gender equality, Child Rights and Livelihoods. Urmul led non-farm livelihood initiatives in the region are now full-fledged enterprises and are successfully ensuring sustained income to thousands of families in the Thar desert. Urmul has been supporting and training the community cadre, to help strengthen efforts with villages like Community Health Workers, Anganwadi workers, Youth forums (Kishori Prerna Manch and Bal Manch, Prerak Dals), Village Health & Sanitation Committees (VHSCs), School Monitoring Committees (SMCs) and SHGs.

About Speaker

Arvind Ojha is the co-founder and CEO of URMUL, one of the most successful NGOs in India. Arvind has been working in the desert of western Rajasthan for more than three decades on the issues of rural development focusing education, health, livelihoods, climate-change, promotion of people’s intuitions in the region. He is a leading advocate for ending child marriage and ensuring gender equality. He presently chairs the Girls not Bride-Rajasthan Alliance. He is also the executive member of several government committees concerning rural development and has responsibility of many other development agencies as Trustee. He has been State advisor to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), India and also sits in the Rajasthan State Crafts Council. Arvind was pioneer in initiating and promoting rural tourism with the focus of community development in the Thar Desert. His concern for desert issues and advocacy urged him to promote a research-based initiative called Desert Resource Center. Arvind brings in over 40 years of sectoral experience, knowledge and values.

Making a Difference: On Becoming a Professional Today

Rajesh Tandon


About the Lecture

In common parlance, it is assumed that a professional is one who has completed certain qualifications in a profession—a formal degree does not alone make a competent professional today. How we acquire and use our expertise in making a difference in the world we live in are also important considerations in continuing to become ever-so-competent professionals. How do we make a difference in the world we live in, as a professional?

About Speaker

Dr. Rajesh Tandon is founder-president of Society for Participatory Research in Asia, New Delhi (PRIA He is also Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education since 2012. The UNESCO Chair grows out of and supports UNESCO’s global lead to play ‘a key role in assisting countries to build knowledge societies’. He was appointed member of the Subject Expert Group on Curricular Reforms and Educational Institutions Social Responsibility under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA). A pioneer of participatory research, Rajesh Tandon has given new meaning to academic research by redefining the relationship between the researcher and the researched. He has championed the cause of building organisations and capacities of the marginalised through their knowledge, learning, and empowerment, contributing to the emergence of several local, national and international groups and initiatives to promote authentic and participatory development of societies. Dr. Tandon has authored more than 100 articles, a dozen books, and numerous training manuals. He was honored with the prestigious Nehru Literacy Award for 2015 by the Indian Adult Education Association (IAEA).

Panel Discussion: General Elections 2019

Sarayu Natarajan


About the Lecture

About the Panel:

Title: Key Electoral Trends in the Southern States (Sarayu Natarajan)

The talk will examine the five southern states - Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka - to highlight relevant trends in the 2019 General Elections. From looking at the state elections in TN, Telangana and AP, to the the fall out of the recent Assembly elections in Karnataka, this talk will explore a few relevant factors state-wise such as incumbency, coalitions, caste equations and underlying social trends.


Title: The Oppositional Politics under the Second-Dominant Party System
The rise of the BJP in 2014 and its subsequent victories in many states of India indicates the onset of the fourth party system. As the BJP continues to occupy the centre-right ideological space of Indian politics, the centre-left space is undergoing a massive churning. This talk will focus on the predicament of the Congress and the other opposition parties in 2019 and beyond. Drawing on the pre-poll surveys, the talk would provide a peek into the re-organisation of competitive space in key states.


Title: King in the North? The BJP’s Prospects across the Hindi Belt and Beyond (Gilles Verniers)

The talk will look at the contest in the Hindi Belt and the state of oppositions and alliances across Northern India, starting from recent state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It will focus on some of the significant developments in electoral politics post-2014, such as the resurgence of traditional elites via the rise of the BJP and their consequences for state governance. The talk will then focus on the prospects of the BJP to compensate nearly certain losses in the Hindi belt by expanding its hold over other regions, particularly in the East. 

About Speaker

About the Panelists

Dr. Sarayu Natarajan is the Founder of Aapti Institute that does research at the intersection of technology and society. Her doctoral work examined the relationship between political intermediation and housing, and used that to explore the ways in which the BJP is growing in urban India. She co-hosts a podcast called Ganatantra, which is running a special series for the upcoming elections. 

Rahul Verma is a Fellow at Centre for Policy Research. He is also a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, and his doctoral dissertation examines the historical roots of elite persistence in contemporary Indian politics. His book, Ideology and Identity: The Changing Party Systems of India (OUP: New York, 2018) co-authored with Pradeep Chhibber develops a new approach to defining the contours of what constitutes an ideology in multi-ethnic countries such as India. His research interest includes voting behavior, party politics, political violence, and media. He is a regular columnist for various news platforms and has published papers in Asian Survey, Economic & Political Weekly, and Studies in Indian Politics.  Before starting his PhD at Berkeley, Verma completed his MPhil in Political Science from Delhi University, MA in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a BA from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University.


Gilles Verniers is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University and Co-Director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data. His research interests include mechanisms of representation and participation in India, state politics, democratisation in South Asia, sociology of elected representatives, controversies and problems in India's democracy, ethnic and post-identity politics, minority politics, and political parties. He completed his B.A in Economics, Social and Political Sciences from the University of St. Louis, Brussels in 2000. He earned his M.A. in Political and Social Sciences from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium in 2004. After finishing his M. Phil in Comparative Politics and Societies with a specialization in Asia from Sciences Po in 2005, he completed his Ph.D. in Political Science from Sciences Po, affiliated with the Centre for International Research and Studies (CERI), Sciences Po. He has been a visiting scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley and a part of several research projects including a project on the visuality of Democracy funded by the Alliance Program at Columbia University, co-coordinator on a project on the sociology of Representatives in India conducted jointly by Sciences Po, LSE, King's India Institute, JNU and Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He is the co-editor of a forthcoming book on the sociology of elected representatives in India, with Prof. Christophe Jaffrelot and Dr. Sanjay Kumar, CSDS, New Delhi.


The Play: In Search of Dariya Sagar (Duration: 120 minutes)



About the Lecture

About the Play

In Search of Dariya Sagar is a meditation on memory, loss, exile and the elusive idea of home. At a time, when the world is witnessing unprecedented migration, the biggest moral conundrum that confronts the world is that of giving safe refuge to these ‘outsiders’. To give them a home, away from home. But can you ever re-create home? Can home be ever retrieved? Does it become more elusive as time passes and hence more vivid? Does home mean different things to different generations? These are the questions at the heart of this narrative, an attempt to turn the pages of history to understand the scars it has left in the present. And like most narratives, this one too is a journey of self-discovery, where the self is inextricably bound to the larger Self of the community and where redemption lies perhaps in recognizing the same.

Synopsis of the Play

Jatin is a tour guide at the Gateway of India. He has just one problem. He is a Sindhi. Something he hasn't come to terms with all his life and so leads an isolated existence in a dingy room at Colaba Causeway, away from his privileged family house. Till a strange vision, almost an epiphany of sorts, descends on him at the very shores of the Gateway of India while giving a tour, a destination, where most Sindhis landed from Karachi in ships, leaving their hearths and homes behind and carrying dreams of a better future with them. Tina is a teacher in an international school. She teaches Language and Literature to her students with a deep social conscience. She moans the loss of her language and identity and her access to the lost world. Jatin and Tina know each other since they were kids. They studied in the same college too. But haven’t ever been able to sustain a conversation beyond a point. Their journeys are in the opposite direction, one wanting to retrieve her heritage and language, while the other wanting to disavow it. Till a certain mystery behind Jatin’s grandmother’s property, which she left behind to be decoded, brings them together. And there begins a fresh voyage into the past, where more secrets, memories, unlikely stories are discovered, giving some perspective on the fractured present and rottenness which Jatin feels lies at the heart of the ‘deterritorialized’ community.

About Speaker

About the Blind and The Elephant Theatre Group

Having worked in theatre for the past several years, Gerish Khemani, founded his own theatre group,The Blind and the Elephant, in 2015, which is dedicated to creating original work based on solid research, searching for forms to tell stories that emerge from their cultural context and that continue to shape us, and in raising fundamental questions about the self and its relation to community in this increasingly alienated world of ours.  An extensively physical approach to creating work, using the collective imagination in the room and a constant playfulness to develop a strong ensemble and crafting a layered visual universe lie at the core of our work.