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.

My Language: Why and How Hindi?

Geetanjali Shree


About the Lecture

About Speaker

Geetanjali Shree is a distinguished Hindi novelist. She has written four novels - Mai, Tirohit, Hamara Sheher Us Baras and Khali Jagah - and two collections of short stories. Three of these novels have appeared in English translation as  The Roof Beneath Her Feet (Translator, Rahul Soni, HarperCollins, 2013), That Empty Space (Translator, Nivedita Menon, HarperCollins, 2011)  and Mai: Silently Mother (Translator, Nita Kumar, Kali for Women, 2000).  Her stories have also been translated into Gujarati, German, Serbian and Japanese. Her novel Khali Jagah has been translated into Urdu in Pakistan and is being translated into English now.  She has published in English Between Two Worlds: An Intellectual Biography of Premchand. She is also involved with theatre in Delhi, mostly with the well-known group Vivadi, devising adventurous scripts, such as on Umrao Jan Ada, the courtesan from Lucknow and on Jaishankar Sundari, the male actor from Gujarat who played the female lead and was hugely popular.  The English translation of Mai was shortlisted for the Hutch-Crossword Translation Award in 2000. She has received the Indu Sharma Katha Sammaan, Hindi Akademi Sahityakar Sammaan and Dwijdev Sammaan for her contribution to Hindiliterature.

The Social Right to Health Care in India: Constitutional, Legal and Health Systems Perspectives

E. Premdas Pinto


About the Lecture

The lecture will deal with the challenges of establishing health care as a fundamental right in India, and the challenges involved from constitutional, legal and health systems perspectives. It will also unpack the challenges entailed in the interface of theconstitutional governance, legal and health systems.

About Speaker

E. Premdas Pinto, Director- Research and Advocacy at Centre for Health and Social Justice, is a Human Rights lawyer and PublicHealth scholar-activist, engaged in processes and social justice issues of the marginalized communities in India for the last 25 years. (  His current engagements include social accountability and health rights with a special focus on processes of participatory community monitoring of health services in India, and coordination of the global secretariat for COPASAH ( which focuses on community centred social accountability practices in health in the global south. He is one ofthe co-initiators and presently the mentor of Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan, the union of Dalit Women agricultural labourers inRaichur district, Karnataka-India ( His writings have covered the areas of political economy ofhealth, public health and ethics, and health policy and law. His interdisciplinary doctoral research work is on ‘health carejurisprudence’ and included an analysis of the intersectionality of public health, human rights, and legal frameworks. His academic qualifications include masters in social work, masters in law, post-graduate diploma in human rights law and a PhD* inpublic health care and law. (Submitted, awaiting award).  He is engaged with several national and local social mobilisations for dignity, justice, and rights that includes People’s Health Movement, Scavengers’ Dignity Forum, Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali and National Alliance of People’s Movements.

An Interface with the Anthropology of Secularism: A Little Scholarly Genealogy and Beyond

Sasheej Hegde


About the Lecture

My lecture is an attempt at forging the basis of a revitalized analytics of secularism, one that takes the very normative question of our secular moral/legal commitments seriously, while juxtaposing the latter against the claims of an anthropology (and history) of secularism.  In perspective, throughout the course of my lecture, is what I am terming a little scholarly genealogy that I hope to complicate through a seriesof traversals in the literature given over to the anthropology of secularism.  Built into the structure of this appraisal is a framework seeking to redeem normative secularity from the genealogical constrictions that define and/or frame it.  Thereflection also implicates a thought about ‘normativity’ as performative, one that could re-orient our reflections about contentious socio-political norms and ideals such as secularism.

About Speaker

Sasheej Hegde teaches sociology at the University of Hyderabad.  His research and teaching has concerned a subject area intermediate between ‘philosophy’, social and political theory, and culture critique: the question, specifically, of the enabling histories with which one works and the conceptual basis of human inquiry and socio-political activism.  More directly, his work has implicated three domains ofinquiry: the Structure and Dynamics of Disciplines; the Interpretation of Modernity;and Research on Normative Political Languages.  He has published fairly extensively in each of these spheres, while invariably retaining a reflective focus and incorporating many epistemological questions and socio-historical settings.  His current work actively negotiates the design of inquiry across disciplinary domains, while also opening up to new questions of law/ethics and constitutional jurisprudence.

Archaeological Places: Negotiations between Local Communities, Archaeologists and the State

Supriya Varma


About the Lecture

In South Asia, local communities most often live near or amidst archaeologicalplaces. Their lives are in many ways framed and structured by these places. At the same time, these places too are impacted by the communities that live nearby. This symbiotic relation is often a result of the high population density in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the Gangetic plain of North India. This story gets further complicated by legislative practices of preservation related to ancient monuments and archaeological sites, as well as the custodianship of antiquities and art treasures.
In order to bring out the complexities of these issues, I will, in my presentation, be focusing on the archaeological site of Indor Khera in the Upper Ganga Plains of North India, which was surveyed and excavated between 2004 and 2010. In the 19th century, the village occupied about one-fourth of the area, which has now expanded over two-thirds of the mound. While Indor Khera merited archaeologicalattention in its own stead, what is usually neglected, particularly in South Asia, are issues related to the current social contexts of archaeological sites. It, thus, becomes imperative to address questions such as (1) local perceptions to the mound, and the daily negotiations of the local residents with the mound; (2) the challenges of undertaking archaeological research at mounds that are still inhabited by local communities and; (3) difficulties and hindrances in enforcing regulations and protection of archaeological places, such as Indor Khera.
There may be many reasons for the preservation of archaeological places in different parts of the world. The most obvious is where the archaeological remnants can be commercialized through tourism. In other cases, there may be an emotional connect between local communities and archaeological sites, where the latter are seen as ancestral places. However, when these factors are not present, localcommunities are often not vested in preserving archaeological sites, and for the state, it becomes a challenge to enforce their regulations. I argue that this is particularly relevant in the case of Indor Khera and many other archaeological sites in the subcontinent. The challenge, thus, lies in formulating ways of involving localcommunities in the preservation of archaeological sites in South Asia.

About Speaker

Supriya Varma teaches archaeology at the Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been the Co-Director of several archaeological projects in India including the Indor KheraArchaeological Project (IKAP) and the Rohana Khurd Archaeological Project (ROKAP). She has also carried out an ethnoarchaeological study of ceramic production in the Upper Ganga plains. She has published articles on themes ranging from settlement archaeology, social archaeology, ethno archaeology, historical archaeology, and early historic urban centres to archaeological practices in India.Her most recent publication includes a forthcoming co-edited book The Archaeology of Early Medieval and Medieval South Asia: Contesting Narratives from the Eastern Ganga-Brahmaputra Basin.

The logic of design: Its role in understanding the antecedents of urban informality

Kiran Keswani


About the Lecture

This paper attempts to study urban spaces that are not part of the formal planning processes, that are generated spontaneously by people as a response to their social, cultural or economic needs. Using the Grounded theory approach, the research shows how urban space is negotiated through theeveryday practices of people. Specifically, it looks at how spatial informality works in the context of a market precinct in Bangalore, India. It primarily looks at the tactics of the vendors and the strategies of the government. It finds thatthe tactics or ‘actions’ of the vendors are preceded by a ‘logic’ and a ‘decision’.In order to develop a theoretical framework, it draws upon the work of Herbert Simon who argues that the interconnectedness of logic, decision and action can be referred to as the Logic of Design. The study suggests how this framework can help understand the antecedents of urban informality in order to address the everyday nature of urbanization and how this may be able to impact urban design and planning scholarship.

About Speaker

Kiran Keswani is an urban design practitioner & researcher based in Bangalore. She has completed her PhD in Urban design from the Faculty of Planning at CEPT University, Ahmedabad. She is currently involved with design, research & teaching that focuses on spatial informality and how it is influenced by theeveryday practices of people. She has taught Open courses on ‘The Everyday City’ at APU and at CEPT. Her recent publications include a co-authored chapter on ‘Territoriality in urban space’ in the book Informal Urban Street Markets (2015) & a paper on ‘The practice of tree worship & the territorial production of urban space in an Indian neighbourhood’ in the Journal of Urbandesign (2017).

The Epidemic of Fake News in India

Pratik Sinha


About the Lecture

"Fake News" - This phrase usually invokes associations with Donald Trump andthe US elections. Not many know that the issue India currently faces predates Donald Trump. The issue seen in India is unprecedented in many ways. In May last year, a rumour was circulated on WhatsApp in Hindi which said, “Suspected child lifters are carrying sedatives, injections, spray, cotton and small towels. They speak Hindi, Bangla and Malyali. If you happen to see any stranger near your house immediately inform local police as he could be a member of the child lifting gang." This message led to widespread fear and ended with the lynching of seven people. About twenty people have since been charged for these crimes. A WhatsApp rumour has killed 7 people and ruined the lives of another 20 people.

Alt News ( is an endeavour to understand this situation, raise awareness about it at various levels from the citizenry to media organisations to government and find means and ways to counter it. This talk attempts to understand why the fake news situation in India is unique from a global perspective, the efforts being made to counter it, and the challenges facingthem.

About Speaker

Pratik Sinha is founder of and member Jan Sangharsh Manch. After graduating from Bangalore Institute of Technology, he worked in various technological companies in India, US and Vietnam. Returning to India in 2013, he has been involved with Jan Sangharsh Manch, a civil liberties organisationin Ahmedabad which works on issues of human rights and civil liberties.

Sustainable Solutions to the Civic Issues of Burgeoning Cities

K P Singh


About the Lecture

Urbanization is a reality of our times. In last 20 years, it has been rather rapid. As a result, the infrastructure to deal with civic issues has seriously lagged, resulting in all kinds of issues - scarcity of potable water, overflowing sewage, mountains of garbage and seriously poor quality of air. All of us must have seen the ad where Sri Amitabh Bachchan says that 13 of the most pollutedcities of the world are in India! We must also have heard about the garbage mountains of Delhi competing with Qutub Minar. We must also have heard about world famous lakes of Bengaluru - the lakes that often catch fire - theBellandur and Varthur lakes. We must also have read that almost 2.5 million people in India died of pollution in 2015 and almost 27% of all the deaths in India are caused by pollution. That NGT, High courts and Supreme court have been pulling up state and central governments on various civic issues is also known to most of us. Our cities indeed are facing serious civic and environmental challenges. Do we have solutions? Doable ones? Fortunately,the answer is - YES. This talk will examine what can be done to deal withthese issues in a sustainable way with example from our very own city, Bengaluru.

About Speaker

K P Singh is a civic, environmental and political activist, living in the city ofBengaluru. He has been active on the issues of Lake protection and rejevenation, rain water management, waste water treatment, solid waste management, traffic and pedestrian mobility issues of Bengaluru, from over 10 years. He has been active participant of his RWA for over 10 years as memberof Managing Committee, General Secretary and President. During this period, he had executed several pioneering initiatives in his residential colony, Rainbow Drive to make it a model, sustainable community. Prior to that he spent over 20 years in telecom R&D and internet security related product development and services. These days, he spends his maximum time in supporting the ongoing movement to secure remunerative prices for farmers and to enable them to become debt and suicide free, through a consortium called All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Commitee ( AIKSCC), of which, Swaraj Abhiyan (led by Yogendra Yadav) is a very important constituent.

A Brief Introduction to the PPST Movement

Sunil Sahasrabudhey


About the Lecture

The talk offers an account of the origins and evolution of the Patriotic and People-Oriented Science and Technology (PPST) movement that was founded in Chennai in 1979. Questioning the presumed universalism of modern science, the PPST movement tried to recover scientific and other knowledge traditions within India It concludes with a discussion of the Lokavidya initiative that emerged out of the third Congress of the PPST held in Kanpur in the mid-1990s.

About Speaker

Scholar and Activist, Vidya Ashram, Varanasi.

Contextualizing Family Change in India

Sonalde Desai


About the Lecture

Economic transformation combined with rising education has wrought changes in family formation around the world. This presentation will compare the Indian experience with that experienced by East and Southeast Asian nations. Explanations focus on structural and ideological changes related to socioeconomic development, cultural factors including kinship system, religion and ethnicity, and public policies. While the impact of rapid modernization and related ideational changes are evident, there are also changes, or lack thereof, that cannot be explained by development and may be attributable to historical and cultural factors that have shaped family norms in the region. Description of the commonalities and divergences between Indian and East and Southeast Asian nations will be supplemented by some analyses of the lifestyles of families in the vanguard of Indian transformation that choose to limit their families to a single child

About Speaker

Sonalde Desai is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland with a joint appointment as Senior Fellow at the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). She is a demographer whose work deals primarily with human development in developing countries with a particular focus on gender and class inequalities. She studies employment, education and maternal and child health outcomes by locating them within the political economy of the region. While much of her research focuses on India, she has also undertaken comparative studies across South Asia, Latin America, and Sub Saharan Africa. She has led the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) since 2003. The IHDS is the first nationwide panel survey in India and designed to trace changes in the Indian society in an era of rapid transformation. The IHDS is in the public domain and is being used by over 9000 researchers worldwide. Sonalde has published extensively in a variety of Indian and international journals and has also served on the editorial board of several journals. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Maryland and underwent post-doctoral training at the University of Chicago and The RAND Corporation. 

Human Rights and the Everyday Urban

Prem Chandavarkar


About the Lecture

While an idealist position tends to assume the notion of human rights is established and axiomatic, our history in the universalisation of rights is very recent, and there is much work to be done on further conceptualisation.  A major disconnect is that human rights are defined and protected at the scale of the nation state but must be negotiated on a daily basis at the scale of thecity. The consequence, particularly in the case of a country like India, is that we assume models of urban planning and governance whose inherent protocols exclude, by definition, substantive portions of our urban population. The fact that we barely perceive this reveals the distance between the ideal ofrights and our imagination of the city.

To build just cities, it is insufficient to literally rescale our models of humanrights from the nation to the city. At the national level, rights are predicated on a definition of citizenship that is held relatively stable by the protocols of immigration, whereas the city thrives on migration and mobility.  Rights at theurban level will need to be based on protocols of recognition and inhabitation rather than a juridical foundation of citizenship. Once one seeks to buildhuman rights on the basis of inhabitation and daily routine, one runs up against a paradoxical relationship between the impulse to form community andthe moral standard of rights.  Both are essential to a healthy society, but community evolves on the recognition of similarity whereas rights evolve onthe allowance granted to difference. The presentation will explore theimplications of seeking to apply citizenship, community and rights to theeveryday urban; and propose some directions to be explored to redefine theurban public realm as a space of human rights.

About Speaker

Prem Chandavarkar is the managing partner of CnT Architects: an award-winning and widely-published architectural practice based in Bangalore, India. He is a former Executive Director of Srishti School of Art Design & Technology in Bangalore and is an academic advisor and guest faculty at Indian and international colleges of architecture. Besides his design practice at CnT, he writes, lectures and blogs on architecture, urbanism, art, cultural studies, philosophy, politics, and education.