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.

The Bayes-Laplace legacy:   induction, information, and the quantification of ignorance

 Rajaram Nityanand


About the Lecture

In the late 18th century, the two thinkers in our title planted a time bomb- a model of how we learn about the world, based on deceptively simple probability arguments. Uncontroversially, data plays a key role, but more contentiously, so does our prior notion about what we are seeking. The adjective 'Bayesian' resurfaced in the twentieth century in the context of statistical inference and has driven a deep rift in the community of practitioners and theorists. Prior knowledge underlies Shannon's hugely influential theory of communication of information. His key ideas of coding, compression, and channel capacity lie at the heart of the digital revolution that our fingers invoke daily. In parallel, Bayesian thinking has encroached on the foundation of physics, wherever there is disorder and uncertainty. The talk will go over these developments, including, briefly, my own encounters with such matters.

About Speaker

Rajaram is Mumbai born, with six years including early schooling in Calcutta and then middle and high school in Adyar, Chennai with significant influence of the Besant School and the theosophical movement behind it. A BSc in physics from Vivekananda College was followed by an MSc in physics from the Madras IIT in 1969. After which it was to Bangalore for doctoral work at the National Aerospace Laboratory followed by twenty five years at the Raman Research Institute (RRI). Much of his research work has been theoretical, in areas of physics relating to light and to astronomy and hence involves mathematics and/or computation. Rajaram has enjoyed collaborating with students and colleagues, many of them experimenters, and many outside his own institution. Much of the motivation for what he has done has originated in discussions with them.

Engaging with Uncertainty: Shared Governance in Indigenous Conservation Landscapes

Michael Adams


About the Lecture

The talk examines the trajectories of indigenous land rights and conservation and World Heritage in Australia, and connect this to recent issues in India. It will use this comparative analysis to address questions of knowledge and agency in relation to the significant environmental and social changes of the 21st Century.

About Speaker

Michael Adams is Associate Professor at the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and Indigenous Studies Unit, University of Wollongong, Australia. His research and teaching engages primarilywith two dimensions of human-nature relationships, and the interactions between them: knowledge and governance. He has completed extensive research on shared governance arrangements between government conservation agencies and Indigenous communities in national parks and World Heritage Areas, including direct contributions to policy development. His other research has examined Indigenous and local knowledge systems and how these interact with Western knowledge frameworks. More recent work has focused on the cultural dimensions of hunting, especially around knowledge, respect and sacredness. He has extensive collaborative field research experience with Indigenous and other communities across Australia, in arctic Scandinavia, and more recently in India. Details about his extensive publications are at

Sport and Social Transformation in the 21st Century

Dileep Premachandran


About the Lecture

Sport, at its best and worst, is a microcosm of life. Whether it’s the role that colonialism played in the emergence of a formidable Caribbean cricket team, or the impact of sporting sanctions on apartheid South Africa, it’s impossible to divorce the playing fields from politics and social change. Half a century ago, mostsportsmen were poorly paid serfs. Now, many are multi-millionaires. Sport can unite, as it briefly did South Africa in the 1990s, but it can also cause ructions. In this talk, Dileep Premachandran looks at how sportmirrors societies, and how it can often be a force for positive change.

About Speaker

Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India. Prior to that, he spent a decade at ESPN Cricinfo, where he worked as Features Editor and Associate Editor. He was also Asian Cricket correspondent for The Guardian and Sunday Times (London) for more than half a decade. Dileep started his journalism career at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. He moved to ESPN Cricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and

Policy Engineering: Paradoxes, Pitfalls and Pathways

Nitin Pai


About the Lecture

The talk will examine the question of whether or not we can construct good public policy in India. It will begin with a discussion on the specific constitutional and social context in which policymaking takes place, and highlight some of the fundamental contradictions and tensions in that space. It will then highlight some of the common pitfalls that affect our thinking on public policies and impact outcomes. Finally it will discuss ways to navigate these paradoxes and pitfalls and craft solutions to public problems. 

About Speaker

Nitin Pai is co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent think tank and school of public policy in Bengaluru. Nitin teaches policy analysis, economic reasoning and foreign policy at the institution's flagship Graduate Certificate in Public Policy (GCPP) programme, and is working on research projects in the areas of defence economics, social capital and cyber-politics. He is a columnist with The Hindu and Business Standard and member of the editorial team at Pragati - The Indian National Interest Review. Prior to that he spent more than a decade with Singapore government as a policymaker in telecommunications and broadband internet. He received his Masters in Public Administration degree from the LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He has a bachelor's degree in electricalengineering from NTU, Singapore and is an alumnus of National College, Bangalore.

Global Development Goals: If At All, Why, When and How?

Sanjay G. Reddy


About the Lecture

"Why have global development goals?  What function, if any, might they serve, and under what conditions could they do so successfully? This lecture critically analyzes the push for Sustainable Development Goals in light of these questions".  

About Speaker

Sanjay G. Reddy is an Associate Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research.  He is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Politics Department of the New School for Social Research and a research associate of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University.  He has previously taught at Columbia University, and been a visitor at diverse academic institutions in Europe, India and the U.S. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, an M.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, and an A.B. in applied mathematics with physics from Harvard University.  His areas of research interest include Political Economy, Development; Inequality and Poverty; International Trade and Finance; Philosophy and Economics (including Welfare Economics); Integrative Social Analysis, History of Economic Thought. Besides numerous academic papers in these areas, he has co-edited, A Great Transformation? Understanding India's New Political Economy (Routledge, February 2011).

Ethical Issues in the Mahabharata

Trichur S. Rukmani


About the Lecture

Ethics or moral behaviour is concerned with right behaviour i.e the capacity to decide what is right and what is wrong in any given situation and behave accordingly. However the capacity to decide right and wrong inany situation is not an easy task at all times. In difficult situations when faced with moral dilemmas thedifficulty of knowing the right conduct has preoccupied moral philosophers at all times.  Thus the literature on Moral Philosophy has no closure. Whether morality is something transcendental or empirical or again rooted in an overall ethos of individual societies is something we will never be able to decide. Different cultures have come up with models of behaviour based on their understanding of what it is to be the right behaviour under varied circumstances.  In India the ancient Vedic world view developed a theory of dharma and authors like Austin Creel, P.T. Raju and G.C Pande considered a moral life in the Hindu worldview was a life lived in accordance with dharma. Accepting that definition as the best under the circumstances I examine the lives of some of the characters in the Mahabharata to see whether they fulfilled that criterion.

About Speaker

Trichur S Rukmani is Former Chair in Hindu Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada as alsothe former Chair in Hindu Studies and Indian Philosophy at the University of Westville, Durban S. Aftrica, T.S. Rukmani is Currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, Montreal, from where she retired in July 2012. Her research areas are Advaita Vedanta, Samkhya-Yoga, epic studies, Gender, Gandhian studies and Hinduism. She has written and edited twelve books and has published numerous research articles in reputed journals both in India and abroad.

Reading Indian History (with Reference to Tipu Sultan)

S. Settar


About the Lecture

The talk will discuss the challenges of interpreting events in Indian history. In elaborating this subject, it will engage the recent controversy around Tipu Sultan's historical legacy. 

About Speaker

Dr. S. Settar has been conducting research in the fields of Indian archaeology, art-history, history of religions and philosophy as well as classical literature during the last four decades. He has published several books in the fields of history of art, historiography, religion and philosophy, including Inviting Death: IndianAttitude Towards Ritual Death (Brill: 1989) and Sangam Tamilagam Mattu Kannada Nadu-Nudi (The Sangam Tamilagam And Kannada Land And Language: Reflections On The Early Dravidian Relations, 2007) and Halagannada Lipi, Lipikara, Lipi Vyavasaya (Ancient Kannada Script, Scribe And Cultivation Of Letters, 2014). He has been Professor of History and Archaeology (1970-96) and Director of the Institute of Indian Art History (1978-96) at Karnatak University, Dharwad, and Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, (1996-1999).

Conservation, Crop-loss and Coffee: The Adverse Effects of Banning Customary Practices in an Indian tiger reserve

Nitin D. Rai


About the Lecture

The physical displacement of people is a direct outcome of protected area establishment. The impact of displacement on forest dwelling communities has been documented in some detail. What is less evident is that conservation policy has impacts on forest residents even when it does not involve physical displacement. We suggest that a web of interactions beginning with restrictions that were imposed as part of protected area practice has produced in situ displacement, where people are ‘displaced socioeconomically but not spatially’. The banning of indigenous practices such as early season fires, hunting and collection of forest produce in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve has had a series of effects on not only the condition of the forest, but also on agricultural practice and household income. The lack of fires has resulted in the proliferation of the invasive species Lantana camara. The ban on hunting has increased the population of wild boars, which raid the rain-fed agricultural fields. As a consequence many Soliga adivasi households have switched to cultivating coffee, which wild boar do not consume. Wage labour in largecoffee estates and agricultural plantations are now the primary source of income. Soligas, even as they are displaced in situ, are made available as labour to coffee estates and forest department work. Although proletarianisation of the Indian peasant is an ongoing phenomenon, we argue that conservation policy further exacerbates this process through appropriation of land and forests for conservation.

About Speaker

Nitin D. Rai is a Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). He uses a political ecology approach to understand the implications of conservation practice for people andlandscapes. For the past decade he has partnered with Soliga adivasis to study the politics of conservationin the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve. More recently he has been part of an interdisciplinary team analyzing transformations arising out of state efforts to sedentarise pastoralists, facilitate industrialization and encourage tourism in the Banni grasslands of Kutch district. Nitin is an editor ofConservation and Society and in 2014 was appointed a member of the International Union of Forest Research Organisation’s global panel on forests and food security.

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.