The Idea of India – Conference programme

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14, 15, 16, 17 August, 2017 . ICCR and Tollygunge Club, Calcutta 

This conference is dedicated to the memory of PeaceWorks friend and patron Kozo Yamamura (1934 – 2017).




In Conversation: Romila Thapar and  Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. [6.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m.]

 Romila Thapar is an Indian historian whose principal area of study is ancient India. She is the author of several books including the popular volume, Early India, and is currently Professor Emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, and is author of The Post-Colonial Critic, Death of a Discipline, Nationalism and the Imagination, among others.


Registration and Coffee [10.15 a.m.]

Opening remarks: Naveen Kishore, Managing Trustee, The Seagull Foundation for the Arts [10.45 a.m. to 11 a.m.]

In Conversation: Romila Thapar and educators from schools. [11 a.m. to 1 p.m.]

Tina Servaia has taught for twenty years at various school and college levels and currently teaches History and Theory of Knowledge in the A’Level and IB curricula at the Calcutta International School, where she strives to use a variety of techniques to make students independent thinkers. She has co-authored History and Civics Textbooks for classes 6 – 8.

Amita Prasad has over 30 years of experience in teaching and administration at various schools in Kolkata.She is the co-author of History and Civics text books for Classes 3 to 8 published by Oxford University Press.  She is currently Dean, Research and Development at The Heritage School, Kolkata.

Alok Mathur has been a teacher for over 35 years in the Krishnamurti Foundation Schools and has also served as an administrator at the Rishi Valley School. He is currently the head of teacher education at the Rishi Valley School. He is interested in participating in the creation of nurturing educational environments.

1.30 p.m.- 1.30 p.m. Lunch

History Textbooks and The Idea of India [1.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.]

Krishna Kumar, Hari Vasudevan, Manish Jain

Krishna Kumar is an Honorary Professor of Education at Punjab University. For most of his career, he served the Central Institute of Education, Delhi University. Between 2004 and 2010 he was Director of NCERT. His books include Politics of Education in Colonial India, Prejudice and Pride (a study of history textbooks in India and Pakistan), Battle for Peace, A Pedagogue’s Romance, and Education, Conflict and Peace. A Padma Shri awardee, he also has an Honorary DLitt from the Institute of Education, University of London.

Hari Vasudevan is Professor at the University of Calcutta and former Chairman, Syllabus Committees and Textbook Development Committees for Social Sciences, NCERT. He is a specialist in European and Russian History.

Manish Jain is an Assistant Professor at the School of Education Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD). Before joining AUD, he taught at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and has a decade long experience as a school teacher. His teaching and research interests lie at the intersections of history, politics and sociology of education. His doctoral research was a comparative study of citizenship and civics curriculum in India and Canada. He has been awarded various fellowships for his research on textbooks including the Otto Bennemann Grant for Innovative Methodological Approaches in International Textbook Research at Georg Eckert Institute, Braunschweig (Germany).

3.30 p.m. – 3.50p.m.Coffee break

Discussion with the audience, following the themes of the afternoon presentation [3.50 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.]

Facilitated by Anjum Katyal and Meena Megha Malhotra, using Mentimeter.

Anjum Katyal is an editor, translator and writer with a background in education. She is the author of Habib Tanvir: Towards an Inclusive Theatre and Badal Sircar: Towards a Theatre of Conscience. She also writes poetry and sings the blues.

Meena Megha Malhotra is Director, PeaceWorks—An initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts.

Mentimeter is a cloud-based solution that allows large groups to engage and interact with each other in real-time. It is a polling tool wherein questions can be set and participants can give their input using their mobile phones.

Presentation on Dealing with the Past in History Education, a EUROCLIO project [4.30p.m. – 5.30 p.m.] 

This project involves a core group from across eight regions worldwide who experience, through study visits, what history education can contribute to conflict prevention and transnational justice and identify ways to overcome the practical challenges related to dealing with conflicting memories and narratives, dealing with emotional and difficult histories, dealing with uncertainties and sensitivities.The result of this exploration will be the documentation of existing practices and practical recommendations that can be used for local and cross-regional implementation and joint advocacy on global, regional and national levels.

This presentation will focus on study visits conducted in South Africa and Colombia.


Opening remarks [9.30 a.m.]

The Un-equivalence of Violence: The Communal Question in Janam’s Plays [9.45 a.m.-11. 15 a.m.]

An illustrated talk by Sudhanva Deshpande

From Hatyare (1979, about the communal riots in Aligarh) to Achchhe Din (2016, on Modi’s shenanigans) the Delhi-based street theatre group Jana Natya Manch (Janam) has done a large number of plays on the communal issue. This talk will trace the evolution of the communal question with examples from Janam’s plays. In particular, the presentation will focus on the difficulties and challenges of portraying situations of asymmetrical violence.

Sudhanva Deshpande joined Jana Natya Manch in 1987, motivated and inspired by Safdar Hashmi. Over the past three decades, he has been involved in the creation and direction of dozens of street, proscenium and other performances. As an actor, he has over 2,000 performances to his credit. He has led workshops all over the country, and in Palestine, South Africa, and in several countries of Europe and North America. He has co-directed two films on Habib Tanvir and Naya Theatre, and has edited two volumes of essays on theatre and politics. He’s involved in the running of Studio Safdar and the May Day Bookstore in New Delhi, and works as editor at LeftWord Books.

11.15 a.m.-11.30 a.m. Coffee Break

How to draw histories? Art as Method [11.30 a.m.- 1 p.m.]

A presentation by T. Sanathanan

The Sri Lankan civil war that came to a violent end in 2009, in a way was a product of ideological fix and the methodological limitation of the written history of the Island. In the post-armed conflict context, historical narratives of dominance have been further strengthened by monumentalization/ memorialization projects of military victory. In the process of narrating the victory, the history of civilians who carried the burden of the war was completely erased.

This presentation discusses four of my art projects created since 2004: ‘History of Histories’ (2004), ‘Imag (in) ing Home’ (2009), ‘The Incomplete Thombu’ (2011) and ‘The Cabinet of resistance’ (2016) that dealt with the memory of the civilians caught in civil war. These works employed art as a tool of collecting, archiving and narrating the experience of war through ordinary and mundane material.

T. Sanathanan  is a visual artist living and working in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His work has been exhibited widely in Sri Lanka and at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver; Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane; Museum of Ethnology, Vienna; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi, Asian Art Archive, Hong Kong; Kochi Art Biennial; among others. His artist book projects include ‘The One Year Drawing Project’, ‘The Incomplete Thombu’, and ‘A–Z of Conflict’ (forthcoming). He holds degrees in painting from the University of Delhi and a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Art History, Department of Fine Arts, Jaffna University and co funder of Sri Lankan archive for contemporary art, architecture and design.

1 p.m.- 2 p.m. Lunch

The Camera as Witness [2p.m. – 3.30 p.m.]

 Joy Pachuau and Ryan Lobo. Illustrated talk.

Visualizing Mizo History through Photographs- Joy Pachuau

The paper will address the importance of looking at photographs as a source in studying Mizo history. By doing so, the paper will investigate the larger question of photographs as a historical source and look at the implications of the lack of visual representations of the Mizos. One of the most important consequences of the project was the gathering of photographs from personal collections/family albums, thereby creating a vast resource of ‘local self-representations’, rather than a mere colonial repertoire of photographs, a common enough scenario in the Northeast. The paper will also try and analyze the nature of photographs, coming as it were from three sources – colonial, missionary and the local populace suggesting that a particular narrative embodies each category of images.

A Million Mutinies and Udanta– Ryan Lobo

As the saying goes, ‘History flows in our blood and is not written in our books’. For many in once ‘remote’ areas of India, regional talent shows and the Internet have become stages for the sharing of performance and stories. ‘A Million Mutinies’ are photographs of a semi rural troupe of performers at a ‘talent show’ in a small Indian city, the Bir Khalsa group. Captioned from Sikh mythology and in the words of the performers themselves.

In ‘Udanta‘, I attempt a contemporary revelation of our times, an exploration of a ‘wounded’ civilization grappling with its past and attempting to create a future, using photographs of symbols and museum visitors, conscious of the fact that whole iceberg floats on, relentless and regardless, thus captioned with extracts from mythology, as myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world, more potent than mere history.

Joy LK Pachuau is Professor of History at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her research interest thus includes the history of Portuguese expansion in Asia especially in relation to religion but also other socio-cultural aspects. More recently she has been working on the history of Northeast India with a focus in the history of identity formations. She is also interested in the visual history of the region. Dr. Pachuau’s recent publications include Being Mizo: Identity and Belonging in Northeast India, (OUP, 2014), The Camera as Witness: A Social History of Mizoram, Northeast India (with Willem van Schendel, CUP, 2015) and Christianity in Indian History: Issues of Culture, Power and Knowledge (eds with P. Malekandathil and Tanika Sarkar, Primus 2016).

Ryan Lobo is an award winning film maker and photographer. He has co-produced the 2011 Sundance film festival award winning film ,’The Redemption of General Butt Naked’, the story of Joshua Milton Blahyii, also known as General Butt Naked, a former African warlord who terrorized a country for many years with his child soldiers. The film won for best cinematography and was nominated for best feature length documentary film. He owns Mad Monitor Productions, a film and photo production company based in Bangalore and has worked as a producer and cinematographer for more than 70 film projects for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, OWN and other networks, including shooting undercover for the Emmy-nominated film Child Slaves of India.

3.30p.m. – 3.50 p.m. Coffee

Biography as History [3.50p.m. – 5.15 p.m.]

Jerry Pinto

How do we understand history? Is it the story of the doings of kings and parliaments? Or is it the histoire, the story of the doings of ordinary mortals? And how ordinary can that ordinary be? Jerry Pinto will talk about the use of Dalit biographies in the creating of a more balanced picture of our histories.

Jerry Pinto is a poet, award-winning novelist and translator who lives in Mumbai. His translations include Daya Pawar’s Baluta, reputed to be the first Dalit autobiography in Marathi; Mallika Amar Sheikh’s I Want to Destroy Myself, the memoir of a poet who was married to Namdeo Dhasal, the founder of the Dalit Panther movement; and Vandana Mishra’s I, the Salt Doll, the autobiography of a Konkani-speaking woman who went on to become a star of the Gujarati and Marwari stages. Currently he is at work on translations of Mang activist Eknath Awad’s Strike a Blow to Change the World and Swadesh Deepak’s I Have Not Seen Mandu.


Keynote address [9.30a.m. – 10.30 a.m.]

Prof. Vijay Prashad- India in the Ruins of the Present

Vijay PrashadProfessor of International Studies at Trinity College, is the author of more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third WorldThe Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South and No Free Left: The Future of Indian Communism. He writes regularly for Frontline and The Hindu (India), BirGün (Turkey) and Alternet (USA). He is the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books.

10.30 a.m. – 10.50 a.m. Coffee

Facebook/ Twitter/ WhatsApp and The Idea of India [10.50 a.m.- 11.15 a.m.]

Radhika Bordia

The impact of social media—particularly Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp—being our go to source for current events.


A television journalist for more than 20 years, Radhika Bordia is Senior Features Editor, NDTV. She has worked on several docu-style series, such as 24 Hours, Witness and India Matters, each of which has looked at issues through the combined lenses of current affairs and culture.

Social Media and The Idea of India


Student’s Perspectives


[11.15 a.m.- 12.15 p.m.]


Suhasini Das Gooptu, Class XII, Modern High School for Girls


Nikhat Khatoon, Student, Class XII, Future Hope Foundation


Shrijit Dasgupta, Student, Class XII, Calcutta International School


Followed by a discussion on the importance of media literacy


Moderated by Gulan Kripalani


Gulan Kripalani, Transformational Leadership Development facilitator and Development Communications professional and member, Advisory Board, History for Peace

Presentation: Social media as Primary Source for Future Historians [12.15 p.m. – 1.30 p.m.]

Ed Summers [ON SKYPE]

Ed Summers is Lead Developer at the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities. He has helped create the Twitter archiving application that has archived close to 500 billion tweets at the Library of Congress and the Chronicling of America project on the digitization of newspapers. Ed likes to use experiments to learn about the Web and digital curation.

1.30 p.m.-2.30p.m. Lunch

Conference review: The Idea of India, the conference [2.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.]

Abeer Gupta is Assistant Professor, School of Design, Ambedkar University and member, Advisory Board of History for Peace.

3.30p.m. –3.45 p.m. Coffee

Concluding Keynote-The Idea of India [3.45 p.m.– 5.15 p.m.]

Ravish Kumar

Ravish Kumar has been in the television industry for more than 20 years. He is a news anchor, columnist, blogger, fiction writer and storyteller. He writes more than 2000 words everyday and also publishes his own podcast—Radio Ravish on SoundCloud. Ravish has received many awards, but returned none.

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