In July 2019, Romila Thapar opened the first chapter of The Idea of the Indian Constitution, a conference for teachers, in Calcutta, with the question: When does a constitution become a requirement? What followed was an explosion of ideas and thoughts from some of the finest minds in the country over three days.

The Idea of the Indian Constitution II, a conference for teachers, now travels to Pune with fresh insights and new voices.

Below is the tentative schedule for the conference.

Takshila Educational Society and History for Peace—An initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts cordially invite you to

The Idea of the Indian Constitution II

3,4,5 January 2020

Venue: Delhi Public School Pune, Nyati County, Vill. Mohammadwadi, Pune, Maharashtra 411060.
Ph.: 020-26970418/26970428

To register, click here

3 January 2020

2 p.m.

Welcome address: Neelam Chakrabarty, Principal, Delhi Public School Pune


2.10 – 2.20 p.m.

Opening address: Meena Megha Malhotra, Director, History for Peace


2.30 – 3.30 p.m.

Keynote address

To be announced


3.30 – 4 p.m. Coffee break


4 – 5.30 p.m.

Secularism in India’s Constitution and History

Neeti Nair

Through an exploration of roughly seventy years of Indian history, this lecture will explore the trajectory of secularism as an aspiration, as a core foundational principle of the Indian Constitution, and as an embarrassing vestige from a more forgiving time. Going beyond the headlines, as it were, this presentation probes the context for these different versions of secularism and argues for the salience of contingency in writing both a history of Indian secularism, and in understanding the making and remaking of the Indian Constitution.



Neeti Nair is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and Master of Arts and Ph.D. in History from Tufts University in the US. Nair has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. She is the author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2011).


4 January 2020

9.30 – 11 A.M.


To be announced


11 – 11.30 Coffee break


11.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.

3 parallel workshops

Critical Understanding of the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression

Sunita Biswas

With two 45 minute lessons for class 9 on Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, this workshop will take a closer look at ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the right to freedom of speech and expression, particularly in the context of the recent internet shutdown in Kashmir. Through an objective interpretation of multiple sources followed by discussion around findings participants will decide whether or not restrictions are ‘a necessary evil’.



Sunita Biswas teaches History at the middle and senior school levels at Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata. She likes to stretch the minds of her students to go beyond the textbook and the syllabus to explore, connect and make critical conclusions for themselves.



Making Sense of a Contested Canon: Developing a Constitutional Sensibility in Grades 11 and 12 in Complicated Times

Sathish Jayarajan

In this workshop, I explore whether an enquiry based approach to the study of the Constitution of India (as a text or primary source) leads to the development of a constitutional sensibility and makes for good teaching practice. The approach involves creating an argumentative classroom that is enabling of active intellectual exploration.

We will actually try and set up an argumentative classroom and run some activities in this workshop. We will then ask ourselves whether a constitutional sensibility is about appreciating the contested and complex nature of constitutional arrangements.



Sathish Jayarajan is Principal and Higher Education Advisor, Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore.



Teaching the Indian Constitution in the School Classroom—an outside-in approach to help children internalize the fundamental rights

Ashwin Prabhu

In this workshop we will explore how the conventional pedagogical approach of teaching the fundamental rights to children using the Indian Constitution as the starting point can be inverted. An outside-in approach, which encourages children to identify and examine social contexts of their choice, and from their lived experience, where they have first-hand felt the need for a robust provision of rights, can enliven the classroom proceedings. An approach like this can ensure that the Constitution itself becomes a natural and logical point of arrival for study stemming from a dialogue between student and teacher that is rooted in the realities of daily existence.

We will look at some sharing which has come forth from students when this approach has been attempted in the classroom, work in small groups on case studies based on real-world news reports where fundamental rights have been denied, and in the process, endeavor to see the need for a teaching practice which relies on ‘relatedness’ and ‘empathy’ as the cornerstones to helping children immerse themselves in Constitutional study.



Ashwin Prabhu has taught English and History at The School Krishnamurti Foundation India, Chennai. His interests lie in educational philosophy, creative teaching practices and constructing spaces for free and open dialogue between educators and students in schools.


1.30 – 2.30 p.m. Lunch


2.30 – 3.30 p.m.

The Idea of the Indian Constitution and the Search for its Missing Mothers

Achyut Chetan

Constitutions across the world continue to flaunt the wisdom of their ‘founding fathers’, exceptional men who participated in august assemblies to draft the charters of their nations. In the Indian context, this is a travesty of truth given the fact that women, though few in number, were important members of the Indian Constituent Assembly. The signatories on the much-adorned Indian Constitution included twelve women who shared a constitutional vision of justice to such an extent that they can collectively be called the ‘Founding Mothers of the Republic of India’.

These women had come to the Assembly, not through patriarchal benevolence, but had earned their rights to be participants in the foundation of a republic. Most of them had a long history of being part of women’s organizations, both national and international, and practiced a form of constitutional politics even prior to their being elected to the Constituent Assembly. This talk highlights the important role they played in the shaping of the Indian Constitution.



Achyut Chetan earned his Ph. D for his research on the ‘The Missing Mothers of the Indian Constitution and the Gender Politics of its Framing’ from Visva-Bharati, the university established by Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan, India. He taught English literature at Visva-Bharati for a year before joining Santal Parganas College, Dumka as an Assistant Professor of English. He continues to teach there with a commitment to pedagogy as a means for social transformation in marginal areas, and with a special conviction in constitutional morality.

He is working on his book on the Indian ‘founding mothers’ about whom he has spoken at several places including Columbia University, New York; University of Texas at Austin, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Presidency University, Kolkata; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. A recipient of Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fellowship and the Charles Wallace Trust India Fellowship, Chetan is involved in a research on ‘Situating Indian Feminism in an International Frame: 1930 to 1950’. Chetan was a Fulbright Visiting Fellow at the Department of History at Columbia University, New York (2011-12) and is presently South Asian Studies Fellow, 2019-20 at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.


3.30 – 4 p.m. Coffee break


4 – 5.30 p.m. World Cafe

Facilitated discussion in groups on the sessions


5 January 2020

9 – 11 a.m.

Repeat of the 3 parallel workshops [with coffee break]

Sathish Jayarajan, Ashwin Prabhu, Sunita Biswas


11 – 11.30 a.m.

Feedback and closing remarks



Please find here accommodation options suggested by the organizers:

S.N. Property Full Address Contact Nos. Booking Website Single Occupancy per night Distance from School
  1  Country Club Kool Undri 2 Undri Road, Nyati County, Pune 411028 020-26804831/2/3/4, 8329148582 Rs. 2500 1 km
  2 Satkar OYO Lodging (64012) 1, Handewadi Chowk, Katraj Saswad Road, Pune 0124-3936776 Rs. 1000 3.5 km
  3 YMCA International Home 382, New Rasta Peth, Pune 411 011 020-26064842/1338 Rs. 2500 8 km



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