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.

An Ethics of Testimony and Naiyayika Reading of Gita 3.21

Stephen H. Phillips


About the Lecture

A prominent classical Indian ethical theory is that ethical principles and standards of right action are inherited through lines of “testimony,” śabda, literally “word,” in the terminology of the philosophic schools. Nyāya, for example, subscribing to this ethical view, elaborates it through analysis of conditions governing successful testimony, both with regard to Vedic testimony and the continual “testimonial” exchanges that occur in everyday life. The philosopher Udayana of the eleventh century blends this view with a reading of the Gītā that salutes creativity in all arenas and solves a puzzle concerning the possibility of ethical reform on the supposition that norms are defined as conventions.

About Speaker

Professor Stephen H. Phillips is Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. A specialist in Vedanta, Nyaya and Yoga, he also teaches courses in Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology and World Philosophy. He is the author of such books as Epistemology in Classical India: The Knowledge Sources of the Nyaya School (Routledge, 2012), Yoga, Karma and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2009), and Classical Indian Metaphysics: Refutations of Realism and the Emergence of "New Logic" (Open Court, 1995 & Motilal Banarasidass, 1998), and numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited volumes. He has also translated parts of the preeminent Navya-Nyaya text, Gangesa's Tattvacintamani (published in 2009 as Epistemology of Perception: Gangesa's Tattvacintamani, Vol. 1) as well as selections from the Upanishads, Kularnava Tantra and Hathayogapradipika.

Community Monitoring of the RTE Act: Impact of a Unique Pilot

Kiran Bhatty


About the Lecture

Under the aegis of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights [NCPCR] – the legally mandated agency for monitoring the RTE, a unique pilot of community-based monitoring was conducted in 2011-2013 across 10 states of India. This pilot developed a methodology and set of tools for conducting a process of concurrent monitoring by the community as well as a social audit of the implementation of RTE.  The pilot that followed roughly the school calendar consisted of a 3 part process consisting of i) a baseline survey of schooling facilities and listing of out-of-school children before the start of the school year; ii) a process of concurrent monitoring through the school year including monthly “shiksha samvads [education dialogues] at the Block office; iii) social audit at the end of the year to review the performance through the preceding year.A first of its kind effort, it turned out be an extremely interesting exercise with many un-intended consequences and outcomes. In this presentation I will share some of the outcomes in terms of the impact on the main stakeholders involved, ie., the community [including the groups that conducted the exercise]; the schools and teachers as well as the government officials as well as some of the lessons learned for future efforts in community monitoring of RTE.

About Speaker

Currently Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, she was the National Commissioner, RTE at the NCPCR when the RTE Act was passed. She set up the RTE Division at the Commission and designed the RTE monitoring programme and activities for the Commission in its first 3 years. She has worked in the area of education for almost 20 years during which time she has been associated with various research projects such as the PROBE report and the FOCUS report.  She was a member of the Bordia Committee that revamped SSA in accordance with RTE and also of the Expert Group that re-wrote the SSA Guidelines. She is currently member of the Advisory Group on Education Management and Information Systems [EMIS] at NUEPA that houses the District Information System for Education or DISE. She has also worked at the UNICEF office in Delhi on issues of social exclusion in education and is also a member of the Right to Food Campaign, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. She has a Masters degree in Economics from the USA and an MPhil in Development Studies from the London School of Economics, UK.

Interaction with Shyam Benegal as part of Open Course on Cinema.

Shyam Benegal


About the Lecture

About Speaker

Mr. Shyam Benegal along with his other illustrious colleagues of Indian cinema pioneered a film movement that drew its artistic principles from the cinema across the world.  Describing the movement in traditional vocabulary coined by uncomprehending film writers as ‘parallel cinema’, ‘middle of the road cinema’ would be to trap him in terms that seem mystifying, vague and clichéd. Deeply influenced by the stylistic and aesthetic elements of the pioneers of world cinema who worked outside the mainstream system including the well-known studios, Mr. Benegal found his calling in telling stories with a different sensibility that eschewed the clichés of mainstream films around him; the style of telling was often at odds perhaps with the mainstream cinema all around.  Besides being a Padma Bhushan awardee, Mr. Benegal was bestowed with the Dada Saheb Phalke award in 2005, the country’s highest award for cinematic achievement. Some of his well-known films include Ankur, Nishant, Manthan, Bhumika, Junoon, The Making of Gandhi, to name a few.

Community Management System ‘Oran’ Conserves Biodiversity and Protects Rural Livelihoods: Experiences from KRAPAVIS

Aman Singh


About the Lecture

‘Orans’ are community forests that act as a store of biodiversity, enable effective water management and serve as a community based regeneration system, which also ensure sustainable extraction of Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFPs) by villagers, in the world’s oldest Aravali Mountain Range and in the Great Indian Desert of Rajasthan (India). There are about 25000 orans in Rajasthan that cover more than 600,000 hectares and provide a much-needed lifeline and safeguard to their respective communities. Until two decades ago, orans have suffered widespread degradation due to neglect and misguided priorities, opposition from hostile actors such as profit-seeking corporations, the introduction of foreign flora and fauna that compromise biodiversity and from a changing climate, all of which led to a marked decline in the condition of orans.  Founded to address the above challenges, KRAPAVIS, an organization of local people, has been working for 21 years to revive orans, both physically and conceptually, in the desert and Aravali regions.  This talk will discuss the various strategies through which KRAPAVIS has contributed to sustainable natural resource management and made a tangible difference to awareness of biodiversity, instilled respect for the land and its multiple uses, and improved thousands of local eco-systems across one of India’s most water-challenged states. It will also demonstrate how the work of KRAPAVIS serves as a model for stakeholder engagement at multiple levels (international, government and local communities) to realize tangible environmental improvements that enable future generations to continue their productive stewardship of the land.

About Speaker

Aman Singh is the Founder of Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS), a voluntary organisation which works towards the betterment of ecological, agricultural and livestock practices, to ensure sustainable livelihoods for pastoral communities in Rajasthan. Its success has led it to be selected as a finalist for the UNDP Equator Prize. Aman has been awarded with prestigious awards include ‘Dalmia Environment and Water Conservation Award’, a state level award for environment conservation and another one ‘Asian Technical Award’. He is an Ashoka Fellow and has received several fellowships from international agencies such as UNDP, UNOCHA, Schumacher College, the Ford Foundation and the University of California. Aman has written extensively on rural ecology and pastoralism, and has presented to international audiences in countries as diverse as Scotland, Nepal, Kenya, Bulgaria and the US. Aman holds an MSc in Environmental Education, is a graduate of the University of California’s Environmental Leadership Programme, and has studied Deep ecology/ bioregionalism at the UK’s Schumacher College.

Caste and Educational Inequality in Colonial India

Manish Jain


About the Lecture

In both popular conception and a larger body of social science literature on caste, it represents a quintessential ‘tradition’. In contrast, the education introduced by colonialism, represented by and institutionalized in the form of school promised and represented ‘modernity’. But did colonialism leave caste unmarked by its presence, power, experience and discourses? If ‘modern’ education was tainted by its association with colonialism, then how did ‘tradition’ of caste intersect and interact with it and how were the two shaped by each other in the presence and context of colonialism along with other vectors of social stratification and inequality?This talk attempts to examine this complex relationship between caste and education in colonial India through following questions. Who accessed education at different historical junctures and what were the regional variations? How did access to education reestablish and/or challenge social dominance? What were the attitudes of colonial officials, missionaries, social reformers, nationalist leaders and dominant castes to the education of the ‘lower castes’ and ‘untouchables’? In what ways did the lower caste groups redefine and challenge the subject positions offered by the dominant powers and discourses? What insights we may gain from these historical contestations to ask questions about meaning of education, educational inequality, public and private, decentralisation and state?

About Speaker

Dr Manish Jain teaches at the School of Education Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD). He previously taught in a school and at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. He has been a member of textbook/syllabus/teacher education reform committees of NCERET, SCERT (Delhi), National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) and MHRD.Manish was awarded doctoral fellowships by Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI) and CSDS, Delhi for his comparative historical study of Citizenship and Civics Curriculum in India and Canada since late nineteenth century. His teaching and research interests run along the triad and intersection of history, politics and sociology of education. They include history of education in colonial and postcolonial societies, sociology of education, educational policies, comparative education, social science and citizenship education and gender and education.Manish writes both in Hindi and English and has published in the Handbook of Asian Education (Routledge), Contemporary Education Dialogue, Economic and Political Weekly, Seminar, Book Review, Social Change, Shiksha Vimarsh and Samayik Varta. At present, he is working on the manuscript of a book tentatively titled, ‘Framing Subject, Making Citizens: Civics and Citizenship in Colonial India’.

Reflections on the Broom: Material Culture, Caste and Development

Rustom Bharucha


About the Lecture

Drawing on my book Rajasthan: An Oral History – Conversations with Komal Kothari and excerpts from the documentary film Jhadu Katha (Broom Stories), directed by Navroze Contractor, I will reflect on the social processes and interrelationships connecting material culture, caste and develop ment, as represented in the most humble and inconspicuous of objects in everyday life: the broom. Outlining some of the central principles of Kothari’s empirical research, grounded in a critical observation of rural material and cultural practices, I will focus on how orality catalyzes new modes of thinking through an interconnectedness of diverse contexts of traditional knowledge systems.  How are these systems linked to both the hereditary and mutant manifestations of caste, and to what extent are the means of livelihood supported by these systems open to social development and new engagements with the market?These questions will be problematized through a sharing of two different kinds of research – one linked to the writing of oral history and the other to the making of a film in which the voices of people are pivotal to the overall narrative. In both cases, ‘orality’ is constructed, subject to the immediacies and political choices of editing and framing.  Within these protocols of different kinds of documentation, how does one tell the stories of the broom in everyday life?  And how do they resonate within the larger political and social matrix of materiality, caste, and development operating in Rajasthan and beyond?In the spirit of a conversation, these questions will be thrown open to the audience for discussion, who will be encouraged to think aloud on how an object as seemingly folkloric as a broom is actually embedded in some of the most pressing contemporary realities of our times, relating to survival, ecology, humiliation, self-respect and resilience.

About Speaker

Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.  He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin and the forthcoming Terror and Performance.

The Recolonisation of the Indian Mind

Peter Ronald deSouza


About the Lecture

In a seminal lecture, subsequently published as "Swaraj in Ideas" in 1929, KC Bhattacharya lamented the impact of Western education on India. In deeply evocative language he wrote', it 'induces certain habits of soulless thinking which appear like real thinking. Springing as these do from a rich and strong life - the life of the west - they induce in us a shadow mind that functions like a real mind except in the manner of genuine creativeness'. In this lecture I will return to the three ideas in this statement (i) the organic link between a cultural life and an intellectual life, (ii)  a shadow mind and creativity, and (iii) resistance to this induction. The issue to be explored is whether we today are faced with a recolonization of the Indian mind  or whether we live in a plural knowledge universe where there are remote possibilities of recolonization.

About Speaker

Professor Peter Ronald deSouza taught political science at Goa University for 16 years and has been with CSDS, Co-Directing Lokniti since 2003. He has written on Panchayati Raj and the 'second wind' of democracy in India, party hopping, and the party system in India, electoral violence and its sources, Dalits and discrimination, trust and political institutions, and freedom from fear and human security. His abiding interest is in threats to freedom of expression in democratic polities and in issues of righting historical wrongs. In addition to numerous articles he has edited two books, Contemporary India: Transitions (Sage, 2000) and India's Political Parties (with E. Sridharan, Sage, 2006). He was one of the three principal investigators of a five nation study on the State of Democracy in South Asia (2006). deSouza has served as an expert for the UGC on political science, for SSRC on a survey of social sciences, and has been a consultant on matters of governance, rural decentralization, equality, and discrimination for the World Bank. He was Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla between 2007 and 2013.