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.

How would Mahatma Gandhi teach Politics?

Nigam Nuggehalli


About the Lecture

The Gandhian moral tradition is a story about the role of faith in determining our actions. Faith ensures that one understands actions of moral worth to be motivated by certain emotions. These emotions are the emotions of empathy, courage and equilibrium. Clearly, actions are important inGandhi's moral philosophy but these are emotionally motivated actions. For Gandhi, such actions are done through discrete instances of emotional control, i.e., one acts morally because one is motivated by the emotions of empathy, courage and equilibrium, and one actively disregards other competing emotions such as anger, envy, greed and lust.If we are convinced that political morality is constituted by emotions, moral actions can be learnt by attempting to do political actions and by observing and learning about what politicians do. Thepolitics syllabus must be planned to incorporate these two features in its pedagogy. It can have a curriculum that focuses on what politicians (interpreted widely to include public administrators as well) have done in their lives, and not only on models of justice. It must have a practical component where students, in addition to observing politicians at work, actually participate in the administration of justice, however minor or paltry their participation might be. For instance, students interning at the Indian Supreme Court can assist judges in drafting judgments. Students working on the rights of prisoners can assist the administrators of jails in devising prisoner-friendly guidelines.Morality as emotionally motivated action has an activist dimension as well. All of us who are convinced by the emotive aspect of morality must then eschew the obsession with accountability, inpolitics and in our personal lives. We must advocate a political system where we are not so much interested in the intricate modelling of human behaviour but in ensuring we enable individuals to act not only compassionately but courageously and with emotional equilibrium. We must build communities where there are opportunities for observation and imitation of exemplars of compassion, courage and faith as well as the opportunities for people to become exemplars. We are hardwired to think of morality in terms of objective rules and accountability. Our challenge today is to re-imagine the foundations of our shared lives.

About Speaker

Dr. Nigam Nuggehalli teaches in the School of Policy and Governance at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. Previously, he was a Principal Lecturer teaching law and jurisprudence at BPP Law School, London. Before joining academia, he worked as a tax lawyer in New York, and he is a member of the New York Bar and the India Bar (Karnataka). Dr. Nuggehalli holds a DPhil in legal philosophy from the University of Oxford Faculty of Law and a BA., LLB (Hons.) from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.Dr. Nuggehalli's broad research interests lie in the legal and philosophical foundations of development. As a lawyer and as a law academic, he has practised and taught a variety of legal subjects (contracts, commercial law, corporate law, taxation) with reference to the legal regimes in the United States, the United Kingdom and India.As a political philosopher, he has taught courses on jurisprudence to undergraduate law students at BPP Law School (as the module leader for their legal theory course). At Azim Premji University, heteaches courses for post graduate students on political philosophy, law and justice, and the philosophical basis of political institutions. His DPhil thesis at Oxford was in the area of political and legal philosophy and the implications of these fields for judicial reasoning.

August 2015 Accord between the Government and the Nationalist Socialist Council ofNagaland

Khekiye Sema


About the Lecture

The Naga political movement is as old as the Indian republic. Since its inception, the movement has challenged nation building and tested the limits of federalism. The formation of Nagaland, India’s first tribal state, supported by a landmark constitutional amendment failed to resolve the insurgency triggered by theNaga movement. On August 03, 2015, the Government of India and the Nationalist Socialist Council ofNagaland (NSCN/Isak-Muivah faction) signed a “historic peace accord” to settle the political problem. Theaccord is, in fact, a “framework agreement” that provides the broad contours of an acceptable solution to be negotiated in the coming months. But this is not the first “historic peace accord” signed by a Naga organisation. Three past agreements – Nine Point Agreement (1947), Sixteen Point Agreement (1960), andShillong Accord (1975) – failed to resolve the political problem. Will this latest accord, a product of about a hundred rounds of negotiations over eighteen years, end one of the oldest insurgencies and heal the wounds ofthe people of Nagaland caught in the crossfire between insurgent groups and the security forces? Will it help bridge the growing divide between Nagaland and its neighbouring states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur? Will it help fulfill the aspirations of the youth of Nagaland? Khekiye Sema, Pradip Phanjoubam, and Theja Therieh will discuss these and other relevant issues. Prof. Anil Sethi will chair the panel discussion.

About Speaker

Khekiye Sema is Consultative Member, ACAUT (Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation). A retired civil servant, he is a regular contributor to Nagaland’s English newspapers. In his last assignment as a civil servant he nurtured the internationally acclaimed Hornbill festival.Pradip Phanjoubam is the editor of Imphal Free Press, an English daily published from Imphal. He was fellow Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla during 2012-2014. His book written during thefellowship will be published later this year.Theja Therieh is President, Chakhesang Hoho, Kohima and Chairman, Media Cell, Nagaland Tribes Council. He has contributed to public debate on census, delimitation, and affirmative action in Nagaland.Anil Sethi teaches history at Azim Premji University, Bangalore.

An Interaction with Dr. Ramachandra Guha With Photography

Ramachandra Guha


About the Lecture

Dr. Guha will deliver a short talk on the influences on his work, following which there will be a question-and-answer session with students.One of India’s most eminent historians and public intellectuals, Dr. Guha has written on a wide variety of subjects. His books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods, and an award-winning social history of cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field. He has also authored India after Gandhi, and Gandhi Before India, both of which were chosen as notable books of the year by leading international newspapers. Dr. Guha has taught at the universities of Yale, Stanford, Berkeley and Oslo. He writes a widely read syndicated column, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. The New York Times has referred to him as ‘perhaps the best among India’s non-fiction writers’, while Time has called him one of ‘Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chroniclers’. Dr.Guha is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour.

About Speaker

Global Knowledge, Local Insights: Contestations around Maternal Health in India

 Jashodhara Dasgupta


About the Lecture

This talk is a reflection on the last ten years of efforts to reduce maternal mortality in India, starting with the launch of the ambitious National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2005 which was closely followed by the review of the first five years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2005. I argue that the global development expertise generated around the MDG indicators and targets influenced policy making in India to bring down maternal deaths, which were contested by local civil society activists advocating other policy approaches. I will describe how local insights continued to provide a contrary picture to the globally acclaimed results of the NRHM’s approach, and are now substantiated by more scholarly analyses of maternal health data. The question that I raise is around the greater legitimacy accorded to globalknowledge often derived from context-neutral meta-analyses across multiple country settings, to the comparative neglect of context-specific analyses enriched with a more grounded perspective. 

About Speaker

Jashodhara Dasgupta has been working with issues of women's rights in Uttar Pradesh, India for almost 30 years in the voluntary sector, and is currently a policy advocate and researcher on the right to health, with a specific focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Jashodhara was one of the founders of the Indian NGO SAHAYOG in 1992, and for the last 12 years has been heading its work with women's health and gender equality using human rights frameworks. She has served on various academic and government committees on health, including most recently the Lancet-University of Oslo Commission onGlobal Governance for Health (2011-2013), and earlier the High-level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage of the Government of India (2010-2011). She has been part of setting up several civil society platforms, and is anchoring the National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human Rights, as well as the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights for the last five years. 

Bond with the Bard

 Geetha Srikrishnan


About the Lecture

This multi-media event celebrates the life and poetry of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati through song, Bharatanatyam and English renderings of his poems.

About Speaker

Geetha Srikrishnan started learning Classical Carnatic Music at very young age and she continued to learn under eminent Musicians in Chennai and Bangalore. At present she is under the tutelage of Smt. Neela Ramgopal, one of the senior most musicians of Karnataka. She has performed in many events and also enjoys teaching music to young children. The poetry of Subramania Bharati is a particular favourite of hers. Ramaa Venugopalan has been practicing and performing Bharatanatyam for the past two and a half decades. She holds a Master's Degree in Bharatanatyam and its allied subjects such as Philosophy, History and Temple Architecture. A teacher and a choreographer, Ramaa is a firm believer in the depth that classicism of the art form offers. Her focus is on pursuing excellence in Bharatanatyam, exploring the varied possibilities of the art form with conviction and adherence to its traditional richness and depth, Usha Rajagopalan is a writer, translator and environmentalist. She has six books to her credit, of which two are translations of Bharati's poetry. She has won several prizes for writing including thrice consecutively in the Commonwealth Short Story competition and been awarded fellowships in India and abroad. Usha isthe chairperson of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT), the first citizens' group in the city to officially maintain a lake. PNLIT won the Namma Bengaluru Award, 2012.

Doing Theory in Indian Classrooms

 Prathama Banerjee


About the Lecture

This is a set of reflections on what it is to teach theory in our classrooms.  The term ‘theory’ immediately brings to mind names such as Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Deleuze and so on.  That is, theory appears as a particular body of philosophical thought coming from the west, which we are either fascinated by (as something that others do) or turn away from (because our concerns are real and/or local rather than philosophical).  Or we simply take a theoretical framework off the self and ‘apply’ it to our contexts, on the faith that despite its provincial origin, theory is globally relevant because it is ‘abstract’. How do we escape this derivative and alienated relation to theory?  Perhaps we need to recognize theory as simply a distinct mode of thought – a practical skill that can be taught and learnt – rather than approach it as a pre-given body of thought, already thought-out for us by a special category of people called philosophers. We also need to reopen the very question of ‘abstraction’ and interrogate existing forms of the so-called fact-concept relationship. Above all, we need to bring to the table traditions of theoretical thinking other than only the western European.

About Speaker

Prathama Banerjee is Associate Professor of History, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.  She is a historian, trained at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  Her current work is on histories of the ‘political’ in colonial and post-colonial India.  Her work seeks to tell the story of how the political emerged as a distinct domain and/or mode of thought, action, and subjectivity in modern times.Banerjee has published, Politics of Time: "Primitives" and History-Writing in a Colonial Society (2006), which looked at the emergence of the modern discipline of history in colonial Bengal from an encounter with ‘peoples without history’ - tribes, aborigines, primitives - as they were variously called. She mapped this encounter in different discursive and material sites such as that of calendrical reforms, history and geography texts, anthropology, poetry, indentured labour markets, and agrarian credit markets. In addition to history, she is interested in political theory, philosophy, and literature. Along with other colleagues, she is currently involved in an exploration of the history of concepts in modern Indian languages - a project that brings together questions of theory, literariness, language, and translations around the life of concepts inIndia. 

People, Princes and Purifiers: The Holi Festival in Nineteenth-and-Early-Twentieth-Century Punjab

Anil Sethi


About the Lecture

This paper will examine the ways in which the Holi festival was observed in nineteenth-and-early-twentieth-century Punjab.  For ordinary people, social licence, frenzy and pollution were important elements of Holiand the festival marked a symbolic reversal of familial, class and caste hierarchies.  These reversals served to affirm the control of the dominant groups.  Even so, there were limits to this topsy-turvy of social rolesand status.The ‘safety-valve’ upturning of hierarchies was not the only function that Holi served in the nineteenth century.  Ranjit Singh used it in quite another way: as a premier vehicle for the display of monarchical pompand power through an exhibition of the nobility’s corporate effervescence each year that day.In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, purifiers – Sanatani, Arya and Sikh – made concerted attempts at changing the festival, removing elements of revelry (which they thought to be intemperate andRabelaisian) and instituting a pavitra celebration.  The Sikhs also popularized the alternative Hola Mohalla.

About Speaker

Anil Sethi is Professor of History and History Education at the Azim Premji University, Bangalore and was earlier Professor of History at the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi.  He has taught at various universities: Delhi University, Osaka University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, University of North London and, as Visiting Professor, at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.  He has researched the history of communalism, especially its linkages with everyday life.  He has also helped develop a Tokyo-based oral archive on the Partition of India.  His interests include the social and religious history of modern South Asia, the history of the Indian National Movement, and History and Social Science Education.Anil was a Commonwealth Scholar at St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK from where he got his Ph.D. for a dissertation that dealt with religious identities in nineteenth and early twentieth century Punjab.  He has also been a Centre of Excellence Fellow at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, Japan.Anil has helped develop various History textbooks published by the NCERT.  He has written for the current History textbooks for Classes VIII, XI and XII of the NCERT.  He has lectured and imparted training on History Education and Social Science Education including Education for Peace, both within the country andabroad, notably at Seeds of Peace, Maine, USA. He has also led NCERT missions to Sweden and Afghanistan. His publications include School, Society, Nation: Popular Essays in Education (Delhi, Orient Longman, 2005) that he co-edited with Rajni Kumar and Shalini Sikka.

The Democratic Imagination of Lohia

Rajaram Tolpadi


About the Lecture

This talk will attempt to historicize Lohia’s distinctive thought on democratic politics. Focusing on the three distinct phases in his life i.e. his sojourn as a doctoral student in Berlin, his engagement with the freedom struggle in colonial India and his political career after the country’s independence, the talk will track theformation of his political theory of democracy with particular reference to the institutions of caste, language and gender.

About Speaker

Rajaram Tolpadi is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Political Science, Mangalore University. His research interests include political theory, Indian political philosophy, and democratic politics in India. He was Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi between 2003 and 2005. In addition to numerous research articles, he has published a book on the thought of Ram Manohar Lohiatitled, Matte Matte Lohia (Re-reading Lohia, 2011).

Sadvaidyasala: 100 Years of a Healthcare Organization

B.V. Sreekantan


About the Lecture

Sadvaidyasala is one of the oldest organizations manufacturing Ayurvedic medicines in Karnataka. Founded in 1913 by Ayurveda Vidwan B.V.Pundit, it aimed at serving the local community in the field of Ayurveda and health care. It later diversified into the manufacture of tooth powder, which grew in popularity and prominence across South India.  Starting with a small capital of Rs.300 and family support, BV Pundit built on a dedicated work force cutting across barriers of caste and religion. During the Second World War (1939-1944), Sadvaidyasala and its founder gained popularity for the therapeutic properties of their medicine formulated to counter diseases like cholera, malaria and plague.  In 1962, BV Pundit built Dhanvantari Arogyashram, an Ayurvedic Hospital and a charitable trust in Nanjangud, to treat patients with chronic ailments, and provide free treatment to the needy.  This talk will provide an account of the ideals guiding the work of Sadvaidyasala and its continuing efforts at providing affordable healthcare and abide by ethical labour practices amidst the competitive realities of the market.

About Speaker

Dr Sreekantan is currently Visiting Professor at National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru and also Chairman, Gandhi Centre of Science and Human Values of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru. He was Dr Radhakrishnan Visiting Professor in 1992. He was the Director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) during 1975-87 and the Indian National Science Academy Srinivasa Ramanujan Professor during 1987-92. He obtained his PhD from TIFR, Mumbai. He has specialized in cosmic rays, high-energy physics and high-energy astronomies and has published over 200 research papers. He has received a number of professional awards including the RD Birla Award of the Indian Physics Association and the Padma Bhushan. He has held a number of visiting positions abroad. After moving to NIAS, Prof Sreekantan shifted his interests from pure science to studies on scientific and philosophical studies on consciousness and exploration of commonalities and similarities in holistic approaches in modern science and ancient philosophies.Rajesh Sreenivasan is Director, Sadvaidyasala. He has a Master’s degree in Botany from Bangalore University (1990) and a PhD in Biophysics from NIMHANS 1996. 

Himalaya Environment and Development: Experiences of the ‘Chipko’ Movement’

Chandi Prasad Bhat


About the Lecture

Himalayas are the repository of our cultural heritage and the mainstay of our environmental riches and development. Lately, however, they have become prone to disasters – the latest being in 2013. To ensure the continuance Himalayas as the beacon of our environment and development, conscientious policy making and a lot of public awareness is necessary. This talk is a part of such an effort.Alaknanda caused a human-made disaster first in 1970. Forest cover was denuding. Led by women, Chipko (or embrace the tree to prevent it from cutting) movement brought the focus on the need for environmental sustainability in the process of socio-economic transformation.As one of its pioneers, Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt gave the Chipko movement of the 1970s a Gandhian thrust. They believe in the principle that ‘there is a time to confront and a time to construct’.

About Speaker

Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt was born in 1934 at Gopeshwar (Uttarakhand) in a poor Brahmin family. On losing his father quite early in life, he had to start working, as a booking clerk in a transport company, at a very young age. His life changed on meeting Jai Prakash Narayan in 1958. He founded the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sanghat Gopeshwar in 1964 and later led the Chipko movment.Bhattji has also authored half a dozen books. His latest book is on his experiences of walking on river beds and mountains all over the world. It’s entitled Parvat-parvat Basti-basti (Hindi) (National Book Trust, 2011).While Bhattji has won the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1982), Padma Shri (1986), Padma Bhushan (2005), Gandhi Peace Prize (2013) etc., he insists that every activity of his has been the product of collective efforts. At times, therefore, he has successfully insisted that the awards be given to a larger group, particularly theMahila Mangal Dals.