A 3-day workshop on ‘Re-conceptualizing Indian Academia’ was held at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham from 4th to 6th January 2019. It was mentored by Dr. Sufiya Pathan and Dr. Dunkin Jalki of CIRHS, SDM PG Center, Ujire, Karnataka. The workshop included six sessions which involved reading, analyzing and discussing selected textual material. In the workshop, the mentors have highlighted a common yet largely overlooked occurrence in the learning process: while reading, the reader would assert one’s own background knowledge on the text and approximate a meaning. Needless to say, this tendency hampers the learning process with anecdotal interpretations and biases.
The first exercise of the workshop was unlearning such methods and understanding a text from the author’s perspective, through an exercise called ‘learn to read’, aimed at reading between the lines. The workshop commenced with a survey among the participants, where several cases were showcased and the participants had to identify the communal ones. Then, the participants were asked to define communalism. The survey has revealed the difficulty in defining communalism accurately and the participants found it challenging to identify cases of communalism as there was no consensus.
In her academic sessions, Dr. Sufiya Pathan has read extracts from “Communal Road to Secular Kerala” by George Mathew, W C Smith’s “Modern Islam in India” and an article on “Communal Politics” by Paul Zacharia. Critical reading of these texts involved understanding what the authors’ definition for ‘communalism’ and ‘secularism’ were and how they arrived at such definitions and conclusions.
Caste System in India was the topic of Dr. Dunkin Jalki’s discussions and he began his analysis with a BBC article on the subject. This was followed by reading of extracts from several texts by multiple authors, on Caste System as perceived by the Greek traveller Megasthenes. The participants were guided on critical reading. For better scrutiny of the writings, the authors’ idea of Megasthenes’ writings were tabulated and compared with the original. Megasthenes’ account of India was taken by an extract from Strabo, which was another document studied in the session.
The final session analyzed a recent article published by Business Standard on caste-based atrocities in India, specifically towards the SC/ST communities. As the article used NCRB data to support its claims, the mentors guided a study of caste atrocities for the participants using NCRB data of the past ten years. The workshop effectively conveyed how one can understand popular narratives regarding communalism, secularism and casteism in India and aided individuals with technique to dig realities out of them by proper reading and research.
The event was organized by Amrita Darshanam, International Centre for Spiritual Studies and AYUDH, Amritapuri chapter in association with Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHS), SDM PG Center, Ujire.