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The Idea of Justice - Chapter 3 | Patna


Updated: Nov 14, 2023

The idea of justice is a fundamental concept that has been debated and discussed by philosophers, legal scholars and ordinary people for centuries.

Much like a homonym, justice means different things to different individuals. Social Justice, Retributive Justice, Restorative Justice, Procedural Justice, Distributive Justice, Divine Justice—a necessity for social order and individual happiness; a ‘virtue’ or ‘moral duty’; a ‘fairness’ to protect individual rights and freedoms and social and economic equities or the ‘capabilities approach’ based on individual abilities to achieve goals and aspirations—the idea of justice—the most fundamental of all human values—is a complex and ongoing conversation, as different groups and individuals continue to debate what it means to be fair and just in different contexts and situations.

From racial and economic inequality to environmental injustice, our young are growing up in a complex and challenging world. It is our responsibility to help them understand these issues and to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to become active and engaged citizens.

The annual History for Peace conference this year in Calcutta engaged with the idea of justice, and injustice, to empower educators to explore this very complex yet pertinent issue of today’s world in their classrooms.

We are now very pleased to bring the conference to the Delhi Public School, Patna in association with Takshila Education Society.

We invite mid-high school teachers and students for participation.

Dates: 2, 3 December 2023

Speakers and workshop facilitators at The Idea of Justice: Chapter 3 are:

Aruna Roy, Marjorie Brown, Pankaj Jha, Shahrukh Alam, Apoorvanand, Suraj Gogoi, Nisha Abdulla, Asmita Prabhakar (@via NewsDidi), Angana Das and Riya Kartha (History for Peace).

Location: Delhi Public School, Patna

Address: Village Chandmari, P.S. Shahpur, Danapur Cantonment, Patna - 801 502


Outstation participants require to arrange for their accommodation. Participation shall be confirmed only after the receipt of accommodation details. Please mail the proof of your travel/accommodation at

Find the registration form here:

Last date for registration: 25 November, 2023

Scroll down for the conference programme.





7.40 – 8.40 a.m. Registration

8.40 a.m. Welcome Address. Delhi Public School, Patna

8.50 a.m. Opening Address. Meena Megha Malhotra, Director, History for Peace.

9 – 10.15 a.m.

Keynote Address:

Aruna Roy (Virtual)

Aruna Roy is one of India’s most prominent activists. She was a civil servant from 1968 to 1975. In 1975 she resigned from the Indian Administrative Service to work with the rural poor in Rajasthan. Along with Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, and several others from the local community in Devdungri district, she collectively formed the MKSS Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Organisation for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants) in 1990. The MKSS played a pivotal role in drafting and advocating for the Right to Information Law which was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2005. She has also worked with campaigns for the access of the poor to constitutional rights for equality and justice- the Right to Work, Food Security and the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties.

Aruna is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award and in 2011, she was named as one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

10.15 – 10.45 a.m. Coffee break

10.45 – 12.15 p.m.

Beyond Ethics: Politics, Pedagogy and Pragmatism of Justice

Pankaj Jha

Scholarly and media discourse pitches justice as an abstract idea that operates at the level of state policy and dispute resolution. This notion of justice frames itself as the burden of authorities who make laws and enforce them. It also poses itself as an ideal that demands sacrifices from the empowered and provides succour to the deprived. Justice thus becomes a matter of exalted moral conduct on the part of the haves, and organised combative struggle on the part of the have-nots. By doing so, it puts justice beyond the pale of wilful and self-reflective intervention by ‘regular’ people. However, the idea of nyāya/insāf is not, ought not to be, and has never been a purely legal, ethical, abstract or instrumental idea.

Once we admit this much, we begin to see how fair conduct is a matter of habit that, like all habits, are historical and cultivated. Because it is historical and cultivated, it is alterable and admits thoughtful intervention by regular individuals. How do we, as educators, practice this in the classroom and beyond? How do we gently usher our young fellow-learners into a conversation about practicing justice, not just demanding it. How indeed can we begin to see and show insāf as a practical panacea for two mutually dependant objectives: personal well-being and societal sanity. To be sure, organised struggles and enlightened laws are indispensable but ineffective when not complemented by a more regular, imperfect, and ongoing conversations about identifying and overcoming everyday forms of injustice.

Pankaj Jha teaches history in Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. The primary area of his research interest is literary cultures of the middle ages. The languages he has worked with include Persian, Sanskrit, Maithili, and Apabhramsa. He is the author of A Political History of Literature: Vidyapati and the Fifteenth Century, Servants’ Pasts, vol. 1 (co-edited with Nitin Sinha & Nitin Varma), and the forthcoming title Vidyapati’s Likhānavalī: A Writing Manual by Vidyapati, translated from Sanskrit into English.

His research articles, in Hindi as well as in English, in peer-reviewed journals have been widely acclaimed in scholarly circles. He is also Managing Editor of The Indian Economic and Social History Review.

12.15 – 1.30 p.m.

Teaching History in South Africa and the Notions of Justice

Marjorie Brown

This talk will draw on Marjorie’s life experiences as a human rights activist, in the context of the Apartheid and post-Apartheid era. It will further engage with the presence and/or absence of related topics in the school history curriculum, gaps within the said curriculum, and the subsequent reactions to this.

Marjorie Brown is a social and educational activist, and currently works as a teacher coach and mentor researcher for the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship. She has worked as an online teacher, and in the classroom for over 25 years in South Africa ( including being part of starting a non-racial school during Apartheid), with two years of teaching in the UK. She encourages learners to engage actively with current affairs and incorporates her own anti-apartheid activism, having been a member of Black Sash and TRAC in the 1980s, fighting forced removals. She worked in the UK for two years.

She is the President of the SASHT – the SA Society for History Teaching and involved in Asinakuthula, a women’s history collective. She is also on the steering committee of REWIND, which aims to forge a global alliance of History teachers to foster critical thinking, justice and democracy in the classroom. She sat on the Roedean transformation committee and Girls Leadership Summit committee for two years. She is an accredited UNESCO Teach SDGs Ambassador, and part of the Jane Goodall Innovation Education project on teaching SDGs to rural communities across Africa. She is also a Climate Action Project Ambassador.

Marj is founder and coordinator of the Phendulani literacy quiz, and recipient of Round Square’s King Constantine medal for community service.

1.30 – 2.30 p.m. Lunch

2.30 – 4.30 p.m. Parallel workshops

  • [STUDENTS] GROUP A: Exploring Ethics and the Idea of Social Justice – Angana Das, Riya Kartha

This workshop aims to engage students in meaningful discussions about the relationship between ethics and social justice. Participants will participate in interactive and reflective discussions to explore questions such as: What does ethics mean to young people? Why is it needed? What is fair and just in different and diverse contexts? Students will be encouraged to reflect on their individual and collective sense of ethics by engaging in discussions on various interpretations of justice. The activities and discussions will encourage students to critically assess ethical dilemmas, empathise with diverse perspectives, and reflect on themselves, their role in their communities, and what they can do to apply their sense of ethos to promote social justice activities.

Angana Das is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her research explores children’s voices on the Happiness Curriculum in Delhi government schools and the social, cultural and contextual factors that influence their happiness and well-being. Prior to her PhD, Angana worked as a researcher on projects related to the Happiness Curriculum, Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act, remedial teaching and school leadership in India. Her research interests include education for happiness and peace, social and emotional learning in non-western contexts, and arts-based peace-building approaches. She holds an MPhil in Education, Globalization and International Development from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Conflict Analysis and Peace Building from Jamia Millia Islamia. Angana is a recipient of the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship and the Cambridge International Scholarship.

Riya Kartha is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. Her current research explores self-knowledge and spirituality as influences in the shaping of teacher identity among ’Soka’ or value-creating educators in the context of education in India. Riya has worked as an educator at the undergraduate level in India, Japan and the UK, and her previous research includes an exploratory study into the implementation of the Arts in Learning (AIL) in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools with a focus on fostering self-expression and safe space in the arts-based English language classroom. Outside of academia, Riya’s work includes the creation of a virtual workshop to raise awareness about nuclear disarmament among students, and facilitating peace-exchanges between students in India and Hiroshima.

  • [STUDENTS] GROUP B: Media As a Tool for (in)Justice? - Asmita Prabhakar (@viaNewsDidi)

Our media consumption is greater than ever before and it has a great impact on how we think, feel and act. The media we engage with (Whatsapp forwards, TV news, Instagram feed and more) defines what we buy, how we view people and even our idea of justice.

Popular media of the day impacts public opinion on who deserves justice and can even create pressure and momentum for delivery of social justice goals.

In our workshops with students and teachers, we explore the relationship between media and justice. Can we use media as a tool to create a more just society? Does the media play a role in furthering injustice too?

While answering these questions, our aim is to:

a) Explore how our media consumptions impacts our personal ideas of justice

b) Misinformation and the role of media in hindering justice

c) Media as a tool to advocate for social justice

Asmita Prabhakar is a graduate in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University and has a Masters degree in Public Policy. She began her professional journey in education as a Teach for India fellow in Delhi, where she taught in a government school for 2 years. Following this, she worked with Shiv Nadar School and went on to start Via News Didi in 2020. Via News Didi is a social enterprise that works on Media Literacy and Journalism education for school students. Through engaging learning experiences their aim is to help students understand how the world around them is changing and how they can change it for the better. Via News Didi was recently incubated as one of 9 start-ups at InnovatED- an incubation program run by Teach for India. Via News Didi brings together Asmita's academic inclinations in Politics & Public Policy and her passion for teaching and learning.

  • [TEACHERS] GROUP A: Teaching Justice – Nisha Abdulla

An interactive workshop for teachers of middle and high school on teaching concepts of justice in age appropriate ways. Here, we will unpack the relationship between justice, power, and gaze.

Nisha Abdulla is a Theatre maker and Educator based out of Bangalore. She is the Artistic Director of Qabila, a collective that centers new writing and the dissenting imagination. She is also founder member of OffStream, a collective that makes and enables anti-caste creative projects and community.

  • [TEACHERS] GROUP B: Resisting Forced Removals and Resultant Social Shifts: A Case Study – Marjorie Brown

The workshop will aim to recreate the Apartheid scenario where the people of a community were forcefully removed from their own lands. Participants will be familiarised with choices of perpetrator, collaborator, bystander and resistor, that people in the community made. This will further allow them to engage with the fracturing of a community due to social engineering, during Apartheid. This shall lead to discussions about the current community and the changes in its structure owing to the resistance. The workshop shall incorporate 21st century thinking skills for the classroom, such as See Think Wonder, Connect Extend Challenge and Circle of Viewpoints.




9 – 10.15 a.m.

The Making of a Terrorist

Shahrukh Alam

One of the tasks that laws perform is to ascribe meanings to everyday acts such that certain actions are collectively recognized as being criminal, and certain others as not. Laws also arrange and organize acceptable forms of violence which leave scope for inequity in the distribution of power between state and citizens. Yet this is tolerable, since there is a presumption of neutrality with the state. It is presumed that the state enforces restrictions only in the larger ‘public interest’, and does so equally with respect to different interest groups. The state is shorthand for nobility of purpose. These are rebuttable presumptions, of course. In a constitutional democracy, laws also provide space for groups / individuals to rebut the supposed neutrality of the state, or to try to shift the meanings ascribed to certain actions. The redistribution of power rests in such pulls and pushes over meaning. Colonial, authoritarian or majoritarian states guard the power to assign meanings very jealously. They are more invested in organizing cognitive abilities in a way that recognizes state excesses not as violence but as nationalism; and correspondingly, all critique as “conspiracy”, “violence” or “terrorism”. This lecture shall be about the shifts in legal meanings of 'violence' and 'terrorism'.

Shahrukh Alam is a constitutional lawyer, a human rights activist and an advocate at the Indian Supreme Court. Alam is also a scholar of Sociology and works within the disciplinary field of Law and Society. Alam’s litigation practice defends Indian ‘prisoners of conscience’ or political prisoners who are arrested on unconstitutional charges. Alam is a graduate of the National Law School of India University in Bangalore and holds an LLM degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Alam's political commentary has appeared in The Wire, The Leaflet, LiveLaw and The Indian Express among others. Alam has also spoken extensively on civil rights in India at national and international fora including the Internet Freedom Foundation and American Society of International Law annual conference 2023.

10.15 – 10.45 a.m. Coffee break

10.45 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Classroom in Times of Violence


Teachers have been suspended, reprimanded for having talked about the violence in Gaza in the US universities and schools. Campuses are on boil. There is a sharp and violent division in the student community across campuses in the USA and Europe on the question of Israel’s war against the people of Palestine.

Violence in the Middle East is impacting classrooms not only in the universities but also schools. But this can be an extreme case. There are violent situations and conflicts which surround our classrooms round the year. We have to teach in a situation given to us which we as teachers can do little to change. Or, this is what we think. In India, we as teachers have been finding it difficult to find a language that can address our class as one voice. Divisions in the society tear apart our classes. Our job is also to alert our students to the biases they carry with them to the schools. It can make us unpopular and can also create situations dangerous for us. The question is therefore as to what are the ways to address this challenge. How do we start conversations within our own community as teachers and with the larger community outside the school.

Apoorvanand is a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi where he has been instrumental in redesigning the department’s academic program. He has worked on the development of Marxist Aesthetics in Hindi Literature. He was part of the core group that designed the National Curriculum Framework for School Education in 2005 and was a member of the national Focus Group on Teaching of Indian Languages formed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). He has worked with the advisory committee on the Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education in India under the chairmanship of Yash Pal. Created by the government of India in 2008, the committee crafted a new vision plan for the higher education sector in India. Apoorvanand has also published two books of essays in literary criticism: Sundar ka Swapna and Sahitya ka Ekant. His critical essays have appeared in all major Hindi journals. Apart from his academic and literary writings, he also contributes columns in Indian newspapers and magazines on the issues of education, culture, communalism, violence and human rights.

12 – 1.15 p.m.

Death, Citizenship and Justice

Suraj Gogoi

An 'examined life' should include in its fold the subject of death. In this talk, I shall treat death as a leader, not a ‘wretched straggler’, but one that offers multiple journeys and is a source of authority for storytelling. Walter Benjamin reflected on the changing nature of death which became more of a private affair, moving away from its public past. COVID-19 gave a new language of looking at death. What of Israeli occupation and violence in Gaza? What about its ‘martyrdom?’ Is death only limited to human beings? Irrespective of these shifts, it still carries with it multiple political possibilities. Death is central to politics, and hence, to citizenship and justice. The dead and the loss that envelops the living, often more meaningful for the latter, can become a source of inspiration that nourishes the virtues of democracy and citizenship. Rohith Vemula and Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd reminded us about the inequality of Dalitbahujans with Brahmins, even in their death. It can push us to speak of plurality with a sense of ‘positive homogeneity’ and make us better political beings. From martyrs to custodial deaths, death always houses the sensibilities of the political. Moreover, in the times we live in, where freedom in public and private life is at risk and shrinking, the only claim to autonomy is to imagine one’s death. Faisal Devji shows us how ‘jihad’ fills the arena of global politics, where death is an elementary aspect. This talk will try to initiate a dialogue about death and its relationship with citizenship and justice.

Suraj Gogoi is an assistant professor at the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, RV University, Bangalore. As a sociologist he is interested in questions of law, state, violence, ideology, nationalism, minorities and citizenship. His academic articles have been published or are forthcoming in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Asian Ethnicity, Critical Asian Studies, Economic and Political Weekly and Borderlines Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. His forthcoming book (co-authored with Manoranjan Pegu) frames the social and political life in contemporary Assam by situating the figure of the tribal in conversation with caste Assamese society (and culture), official language politics and the nature of Assamese nationalism. Gogoi’s current research engages with regimes of citizenship against the backdrop of NRC/CAA and the figure of the minority citizen-subject in South Asia. He is also working on two separate projects involving death/citizenship and food/racism/environmental crisis. His public and collaborative writings on social, political and ethical life in South Asia appear regularly in various national and international forums such as Himal Southasian, Asia Times, The Diplomat,, The Telegraph, The Hindu, The Quint, Hindustan Times, Newslaundry, The Wire and others.

1.15 – 2.15 p.m. Lunch

2.15 – 4.15 p.m. Parallel Workshops

  • [STUDENTS] GROUP A: Resisting Forced Removals and Resultant Social Shifts: A Case Study – Marjorie Brown

  • [STUDENTS] GROUP B: Exploring Ethics and the Idea of Social Justice – Angana Das, Riya Kartha

  • [TEACHERS] GROUP A: The Re-Imagining Media Workshop – Asmita Prabhakar

  • [TEACHERS] GROUP B: Teaching Justice – Nisha Abdulla



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