Electives form a vital component of the ACJ’s academic programme. Over the year, all students take three elective courses chosen from a wide variety of offerings. In the first semester, all students are expected to submit a list of seven electives, in descending order of preference. Ideally, students will have two electives in semester one and the remaining one in the other. Students may not get all the electives of their choice. These courses, which may be conducted in the form of lectures, seminars, or workshops, are taught by adjunct or full-time faculty members who are experts in their fields and are drawn from both academia and the media. The electives provide students an opportunity to study some of the subject areas introduced earlier in greater depth and to learn certain specialised kinds of reporting.
The list of electives varies from year to year, and subjects may be added if there is sufficient student demand. The following electives are offered for the year 2021-2022.
Critical International Issues
Sudha Ramachandran, Independent foreign affairs analyst.
Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu.
Part I of the Critical International Issues (CII) course focuses on peace and conflict issues. In addition to analysing the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, the Sino-Indian border dispute and the Sri Lankan civil war, the course explores China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s refugee policy and South Asia’s handling of the terrorism problem.
Part II of Critical International Issues focuses on geopolitics and international relations. The course explores the evolution of the international system from the Peace of Westphalia, looks at the major IR theories and discusses the pressing geopolitical issues, from the U.S. role in West Asia, the Israel Palestine conflict, Russia’s resurgent foreign policy to the wars in Afghanistan and the emerging new Cold War.
Making Sense of Politics
A S Panneerselvan, Readers Editor, The Hindu
The party politics of India is a brilliant polyphony. It is not like the cola-choice of the United States and other major western democracies, where the choice is binary between Republicans Vs Democrats or Conservatives Vs Labour or Christian Democrats Vs Social Democrats. Indian political reality is truly multi-party in its construct.
It has multiple representational characters as well as many intrinsic democratic deficits within like lack of inner party democracy and entrenched glass ceilings. The centrality of politics keeps democratic heritage on track and does not permit the army or the judiciary or the executive to trample on the supreme will of the people. Comprehension of the current politics is central to understanding the dynamics of our own growth and developmental models.
The course will explain the broad trajectories of three political strands of modern India: the nationalist, the Left and the reformist. It will explain the salient feature of four phases that define Indian politics: the postindependence euphoria that lasts till the split in Indian National Congress (1947-1969), the distortions and subversions of the institutions between 1969 and 1977, the period of flux between 1977 and 1991, and the contemporary phase of post-Mandal, post-Babri Masjid desecration, post-liberalisation coalition era (1991 to the present).
It will elaborate on the delicate division of powers between the Union and the States that provide the federal balance. It will focus on how the finer elements of an asymmetric devolution that is inherent in the Constitution to address the political aspirations of the people from different regions, for example Article 370 which conferred a special status on Jammu and Kashmir, are undermined by the desire to have an explicitly powerful centre. The course will help students to understand the functioning of the democratic institutions like parliament, state assemblies and local bodies and their relationship with the other arms like the executive and the judiciary. By explaining the existing checks and balances framework, the course will enable young journalists to understand the success and the failures of our political class.
Jayalakshmi Shreedhar, Medical Doctor and Health Consultant
This elective offers an overview of health journalism and trains students to make sense of research reports and clinical studies, examines the pros and cons of public and private health, discusses the coverage of outbreaks and epidemics, explores the recent promotion of ‘packaged’ healthcare and contextualizes the rise of lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. At the same time, poverty-related diseases like malaria, malnutrition, TB, gastroenteritis, and occupational diseases will be covered, along with social issues related to organs’ trade, infanticide, sex selection and HIV/AIDS. The students will learn about the controversies surrounding patent protection and human protection, new developments in medical technology, patients’ rights and government health policies. In addition, there will be information on traditional medicine and on mental health. As part of the course work, there will be article reviews, group exercises, student presentations and written exams.
History of South India
Chithra Madhavan, Historian and writer
The history of South India has unfortunately been virtually neglected by the syllabus-makers at the school and college levels. With a recorded history spanning at least 2000 years, and with monuments still in existence from at least the 6th century A.D., it makes for a delightful and interesting subject.
This course could comprise of many units, beginning from the Roman contact with India with literature, coins, urns and other archaeological findings as authentic evidence from the early centuries of the Christian Era. This corresponded with the Sangam Age of Tamil Nadu about which there is plenty of evidence from Tamil literature and other archaeological data.
What is not taught in schools and colleges is the correlation between North Indian and South Indian history. When Asoka, the Mauryan ruler was in the north, the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas were ruling in the south. The same script was in vogue throughout the country at that time, while the languages were different.
The Pallavas of the present-day Tamil Nadu, the Chalukyas of present-day Karnataka and Harshavardhana of Kanauj were contemporaries. The Pallavas defeated the Chalukyas who had earlier defeated Harshavardhana.
All these political, economic, social and cultural contacts are seen over the centuries between various regions of India. The South in particular was safeguarded from many an invasion and hence many of the ancient and medieval monuments are still in a good condition. The development of temple architecture of South India is a fascinating one which reveals the expertise of the engineers and architects of times bygone. The inscriptions found in the temples are authentic sources which throw light on many interesting details of everyday life, apart from the political and economic conditions of those times. A study of the sculptures also shows the refined technique of stone carving and bronze-making overtime.
This course could consist of a comprehensive study of all the major dynasties of South India- Pallavas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas, Cholas, Hoysala, Kakatiya, Vijayanagara, Nayaka and also many of the smaller dynasties such as the Nolambas, Gangas, Kadambas, etc. Their contribution to various spheres of activity can be the highlight of this course.
— in association with UNICEF —
Anjana Krishnan, Research Associate, ACJ
The elective aims to introduce students to the concept of child rights, expose and sensitise them to the broad range of issues affecting children in South Asia, with a specific emphasis on India, and help them understand how to report on children’s issues responsibly and sensitively.
The course will introduce child rights in a larger human rights context, explore the notion of the child as a potential individual with rights, and examine some of the barriers to the realisation of these rights. It will also explore the various dimensions of child rights issues plaguing children and the exploitation and deprivation children face. With emphasis on both ground realities as well as policy angles, the elective will examine in detail some of the pressing problems in society today, including child labour, unequal and gendered access to adequate education and health care, rising malnutrition, violence and exploitation, and female foeticide and infanticide.
Media coverage tends to focus on the sensational, is often replete with stereotypes, and ignores the array of real problems affecting the young the world over. More importantly, issues are reported with little regard for confidentiality. The elective will emphasise reportage with a human rights approach, and discuss the guidelines for sensitive reporting by professional journalists, as well as the need for accurate representation of children in the media.
Cricket without Borders
V. Ramnarayan, Advisor, The Sanmar Group, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti magazine, and columnist in Cricinfo and Wisden India
This elective aims to provide prospective cricket writers with an understanding of the historical moorings of the game and its practitioners and also take them on a tour of some of the finest writing on the game through the major part of its history right up to the present. There will be anecdotes galore. They will make you laugh sometimes, move you to tears at other times. They will make you think about the way the game has evolved over the last couple of centuries, its commercialization, its troubled present, and the decisions it must make to achieve a smooth transition into the future, satisfying all its stakeholders.
The challenges of cricket writing are many. To start with, it is perhaps the only outdoor sport played in three different formats. And within each genre of the game, seemingly infinite variations are possible, in terms not only of the wide scope for specialisation among batsmen, bowlers and fielders, but also the playing conditions that can change from continent to continent, city to city, and turn a game upside down when the weather changes. Traditionally fought among national sides—mostly England and the former British colonies, to be precise—the game has been reinvented to offer a brand new form of entertainment through the high-octane, hyperbole-driven Indian Professional League. With 24×7 television bringing the game into your drawing room or I-Phone, with expert commentary by some of the greatest cricketers around, writing on cricket after the event has never been a more daunting task. Though recent revelations of skulduggery may indicate that the game is ethically at its lowest ebb, controversies have always dogged the ‘gentleman’s game’. Covering their ramifications as a journalist will need honesty, courage and skill.
Theatre and Performance
Padma.V, Theatre Person and Academician
The course combines practical exposure to the training of theatre, the basic components of theatre and the theoretical concepts of theatre making and practice around the world. The thrust of the course would be to unpack the matrix of aesthetics, politics and performance. It would also posit the emerging trends in inter-culturalism and multiculturalism in the context of globalization, commodification and homogenization. Finally, it would focus on cultural nationalism and the way it appropriates the performative codes prevalent over centuries. Body politics and spatiality would be the realms in which performativity would be elaborated. The linkages with gender, caste, religion and class would be studied. Alternate ways of looking at evolving ‘glocal’ paradigms would form the primary objective of the study. The students are expected to bring to the course their own exposure and responses to the cultural context of their specific region and context.
Covering Women’s Issues
Kavita Chowdhury, Freelance Journalist writing on development, politics, women’s issues, and the visual arts
This elective will focus on actual reporting in the field, taking it beyond the realm of theory, to having a more informed approach when reporting on women’s issues in a developing economy like India.Through the duration of the course, students will be acquainted with a gamut of issues that they are likely to encounter as working journalists. To move away from episodic incident-based coverage requires a multi- pronged approach that is not necessarily confined to the conventional ‘beat system’ of newspaper and television reporting. Therefore, this elective highlights the need for a gender-sensitive outlook when reporting on any issue or story, by not overlooking the woman’s perspective.
The course will guide students on how to grapple with the realities of ground reporting, to steer clear of the usual blame-game narrative while reporting on incidents of violence against women, and to delve into the complex socio- economic dimensions implicit in such issues. The elective will explain how, for instance, women are often subjected to violations that are technically not classified as crimes under the IPC (Indian Penal Code), such as unequal pay and varying degrees of security for men and women in the labour force.
Since understanding of women’s rights and human rights cannot be conducted in isolation, this elective also looks at how women’s issues are framed and reported in the media in other countries. The course will explore topics that are currently being globally debated such as, “Does it make a difference to have women as decision makers in the news room?” Or “With more women engaging with social media, has it in any way overcome the confines imposed by a patriarchal society?”
By the end of the course, students will gain insights into their role as responsible journalists and how their reportage could work towards bringing about a positive change.
R. Nagendran, Professor of Environmental Science & Engineering and an Enviro-legal consultant.
Environment and Development are often mistaken as entities opposing the tenets and sub sects of each other; in reality, they are complementary to each other. The course brings out this feature and highlights the need to incorporate the same in environmental journalism. While elaborating this aspect and thinning the line of separation between the two, the course demonstrates the usefulness of select Ecological, Environmental and Sustainability concepts and principles [e.g., Ecodynamics, Environmental due diligence, Environmental Audit, EIA, EIS, Environmental Economics, Sustainability indices] in strengthening and adding scientific value to reporting.
The societal and administrative reactions and responses to ‘reported‘ stories on environmental matters and issues more often than not lead to knocking of the doors of Courts seeking justice and streamlining processes and procedures. In this context, the establishment of the National Green Tribunal has played a major role in developing Environmental Jurisprudence in India. Keeping this as the nucleus, the course outlines the salient features of Environmental laws [e.g., laws pertaining to industrial citing, infrastructure development, utilization of natural resources, waste management, biodiversity and wildlife protection, forest and coastal management] in vogue and the contribution of judiciary in upholding the environmental integrity in India.
Linking the facts, science and relevant provisions of law adds credibility and authenticity to environmental reporting. The course covers this aspect based on contemporary environmental issues.
Post the course, the reporting will be ‘different’ in the sense that it is muscled with techno-scientific analysis as against arraying facts alone, and open for techno-legal scrutiny to a great extent.
The objective of the course as elaboratred will be achieved through lecture sessions, group discussion, team-research, seminars and physical attendance in the National Green Tribunal during the case hearing followed by group learning exercises based on this experience.
Uma Vangal Shivakumar, Prof & Head, Media & Entertainment, LV Prasad Film & TV Academy
The course is an introduction to film and its understanding. It attempts to provide an insight into the key aspects of film, the ideation, scripting, film language, film grammar, the mise en scene, film technology and film making process. The study of film form in terms of genres, treatments and film craft will enable students to become discerning as ideators, writers, mediawatchers, filmmakers and film aficionados. The study of films via screening, discussion and theoretical inputs will aim at seeing films in all its dimensions – as a business, as a performance art, as a media text and as a popular cultural artefact. At the end of the course, students would be able to read the film text, perceive the nuances of its subtext and perceive the narratives within a global as well as specific cultural contexts within which it is made. From a cultural studies perspective, film is a reflection of its collaborative nature that reflects the society it is made in with specific motifs and themes and it appeals to audiences at various levels.
Desikan Krishnan, former photo editor, The Hindu
The course has been redesigned for online learning.
In this course, the controls of the digital camera, and the terms used to describe them, are explained with visuals.
Besides teaching students how to shoot for news reports, the course will have sessions on picture selection, cropping, and caption writing.
News room discussions on selection and publishing of sensitive photographs form an important part of the course.
Identifying themes and subjects for photo features , standalone photographs, sports, macros, portraits, documentation photography, the development and history of photojournalism — all form part of the lectures.
Photojournalists, expert wildlife, nature, and environmental photographers share their experiences in guest lectures.
The elective emphasises the role of visuals as a powerful communication tool in journalism and its effective display and use.
Identities in a Plural Society
Nalini Rajan, Dean of Studies, ACJ
The idea of what constitutes an “Indian identity” is of crucial importance to Indian journalists. In a country of such bewildering diversity and pluralism, it is important to analyse the social construction of identities. This course comprises discussions around colonial and postcolonial gender constructions, Dumont’s structuralist architecture of caste, Dirks’s colonial construction, and the Dalit backlash, the story of secularism from the 15th to the 21st century, multicultural theory, and finally, Edward Said’s homage to the intellectual identity. This course is designed to give the student an understanding of the dynamics of a pluralist society through the study of texts and lively conversation.
Leading Issues in Economics
Venkatesh Athreya, Advisor, Gender and Food Security, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai
The major objectives of this course are (a) to familiarise participants with the basic features of India’s economy and its key economic institutions as they have evolved since independence; (b) to introduce the students to contemporary issues in India’s development in an analytical-historical perspective; and (c) to discuss the policies of “economic reform” in India in a critical framework.
The broad outline of the topics to be covered in the course is given below:
- Impact of colonial rule on Indian Economy and the economy at Independence.
- The first phase of India’s economic development since independence (1951–66)- The strategy of planned capitalist development – Public sector, import substitution and agrarian reforms – The first three 5-year plans – Building key economic institutions; Progress and contradictions; The economic crisis of 1966.
- The Indian Economy from 1966 to 1980 – Policy responses to the 1966 crisis – “Right & Left” critiques of Indian planning and development strategy – Green Revolution – Oil shock 1973 – Emergency 1975-77 – The Janata Interlude – The crisis of 1979-80.
- The Indian Economy in the 1980s – The 1981 IMF loan – Fiscal expansion and economic liberalization – “Expenditure–led” economic growth – The emergence of fiscal and balance of payments crisis – Developments in the international arena – The “watershed” year 1991.
- Indian Economy under Neoliberal Reforms Phase 1 from 1991 to 2014 – The response to the 1991 crisis – The Diagnosis – IMF & World Bank Loans – Policies of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) – Impact of global economic crisis of 2008 – Trends in Economic Growth, Employment, Poverty and Food Security 1991-2014.
- Indian Economy under BJP rule 2014-2021 – Demonetization 2016 – GST 2017 – Sharp decline in Economic Growth 2018 – 2020 – The triple crises of Unemployment, Agrarian Distress and Demand – Covid19 Pandemic and Policy Response.
- Overall Reflections on Indian Economic Development
KC Vijaya Kumar, Editor, Sports, The Hindu
There is a great demand for good sports writing in India. In addition to theoretical issues concerning the nature of sport and its function in society, this course leans heavily on practical work. A good sports writer has to be, above all, a good writer.
While knowledge of particular sports and games is essential, it is not sufficient to ensure high quality sports journalism. The exercises teach the
The course also considers the market for sports writing — what story to do, and where to place it. It introduces students to the special requirements of sports reporting for various media. Students read outstanding sports writers, including‘non-specialists’ who have written with passion on the sport they love: C.L.R. James, Mike Marqusee, Norman Mailer, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.
Covering Ecology and Environment
Nityanand Jayaraman, independent journalist and social activist
Issues relating to ecology and the environment have received substantial, though not insightful, media coverage in the last decade. The coverage, by and large, has failed to make the linkage between environmental degradation and issues of justice. The effects of environmental degradation are portrayed as affecting all of humanity in a similar manner.
However, an overwhelming body of evidence maintains that the poor, the marginalised and historically oppressed sections of society suffer a disproportionately high share of the ill-effects, while the well-off and politically powerful manage to not just fare better in the face of adverse environmental circumstances, but also benefit from the degradation.
Writing on environment and ecology requires an ability to make sense of social and natural sciences, in addition to the conventional journalistic skills of identifying sources and interviewing. In covering science, the ability to discern fact from conjecture becomes crucial. The role of industry and commerce (corporations), through their control of media and scientific institutions, needs to be understood if one is to tackle the myth that all “science” is science and that “science” is objective. The course will also touch upon some of the critical environmental issues. More importantly, though, it will help students pitch environmental stories and identify environmental angles to mainstream stories. This course will heavily emphasise “environmental justice” (Who gains? Who loses?) as a framework to understand environmental problems, their causes and effects. The course aims to develop research and analytical skills. This elective will be a combination of lecture sessions, field trips, interactive sessions, research projects and role-play exercises.
Music and Freedom
Gowri Ramnarayan, Musician, Playwright and Journalist
This elective looks at three kinds of music – art music, music as communitarian/cultural expression and bonding, and entertainment music. Distinct as these categories are, the lines have sometimes crossed or got blurred. All three have come under fire at sometime or other in human history.
While music is possibly the first art form practiced by humanity, moralists in many cultures have damned music as pandering to the senses and therefore debilitating or downright dangerous. Starting with Plato who excluded music and all other arts in his republic, totalitarian regimes past and present have banned certain kinds of music, fined, jailed and killed songsters and music makers.
This elective will look at the reasons for this antagonism and also devote some classes to understanding art music – specifically Carnatic and Hindustani genres, its role in society, particularly some gender issues about the confinement of women artistes to a certain social class, limited by convention to making only certain kinds of “feminine music”.
Baradwaj Rangan, Editor, Film Companion (South)
This is a class that aims to encourage students to bring to bear on their cinema viewing a unique perspective. Therefore, this will necessarily be a class about watching cinema, which is not the same as leaning back in your chair and stuffing your mouth with popcorn. We will watch a film or two over the semester, analysing it to shreds, with students saying what they “saw” (i.e. how they interpreted this segment with respect to staging, acting, or any other aspect which catches their unique eye). For the midterm assignment, students will present and discuss a film clip of their choice. The finals will involve a written essay
S. Anandhi, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies
Students studying to work in the media are engaged in the business of looking and reporting, seeing and understanding. But one rarely looks and sees innocently. There are ways of seeing which we have inherited from the past and which define vision itself. The gender lens is primary in this context — it frames and naturalises inequality, deprivation, violence, and injustice.
The course argues therefore that gender — as a way of seeing, living and understanding — has to be both unlearnt and re-Iearned, in the interests of equality and justice. To do this, the learner has to implicate herself in what she wishes to analyse, put herself in the middle of her subject of study. This does not mean that the classroom turns into a confessional, but it does mean that the everyday we take for granted be stood on its head and examined critically.
The course demonstrates how we may do this, both conceptually and practically. It begins with an examination of the circumstances in which gender emerged as a category of analysis. It suggests that gender relationships are historically contingent and goes on to demonstrate why and how we might want to deploy gender as a critical category.
The units that follow examine critically those personal, social and public sites where gender routinely ‘happens’: family, kinship, community, work, sexuality, art, and culture. The last set of units is titled ‘Issues in Focus’. This section looks at contemporary concerns using the gender lens: caste and community, political power, poverty, and survival.
Documentary Film and the Investigation of Reality
Nilita Vachani is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, educator and writer of fiction and non-fiction.
She is adjunct faculty at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
With the enhancement of digital technologies, visual documentation is an indispensable part of journalistic practice. The power of the documentary comes from its engagement with the world around us, its social, political and ethical concerns, its exploration of urgent and compelling stories, and the many ways of telling them. Since the birth of cinema, non-fiction film has evolved a diverse range of forms and styles, resisting any simple genre classification.
Through a series of lectures and screenings drawn from world cinema, this course will provide students with a firm understanding and appreciation of the genre’s wide-ranging possibilities, whether realist, political, poetic, ethnographic, cinema verité, observational, essayist, personal, reflexiveor archival. Any documentation is equally about the form as it is about the content. This course will teach students how to look anew and inspire them to think deeply about every representation of ‘Reality’. The aim is to make responsible, reflective, and creative practitioners.
Each student will have the opportunity to research an original story/subject and make a short 1-2 minute single shot film. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that the student have a DSLR or Video camera with a shotgun microphone. REQUISITE: High Speed Broadband if the course is being taken online.
Storytelling for ‘Lifestyle’ Television
– Amrita Gandhi, Lifestyle Television Producer and Media Consultant
In this elective, students will closely examine the narrative structure and story telling techniques used in contemporary Lifestyle television and then go on to create their own original television series idea.
By studying the storyboard of selected Indian and International Lifestyle TV programmes, students will familiarize themselves with a range of TV formats in genres that range from Factual Entertainment to Docu-reality to true life inspired fiction. Some of the shows selected for analysis may
include‘30 days’ on FX ( USA), ‘Satyameva Jayate’ on Star World ( India ), ‘Confessions of an Indian Teenager’ on Channel V ( India), Supernanny on Channel 4 UK among others.
Students will get hands on experience in the step by step process of Creative Development by which they take their own idea from concept to story board to final treatment and ‘pitch ‘ document.
The second half of the elective looks specifically at Food andTravel programming. The shows discussed here may include Highway on My Plate and Band Baaja Bride (NDTV Good times), It Happens Only in India (Fox Traveller) and Project Runway ( Bravo, USA). Here we analyse the evolution of a series over multiple seasons and see how scripts are carved from vast amounts of footage. Finally students create their own food and travel show concept and complete an on-paper script for one episode.
Shubashree Desikan, Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu Editorial.
R. Ramanujam, Scientist, The Institute of Mathematical Science
When you start thinking about writing ‘something’ on science, you are usually stumped for an idea. It is when you get into the practice of writing that you realize that ideas abound – and what you experienced earlier was merely a bottleneck of sorts. There is no dearth of demand on your part! On the other hand, science itself offers a close-to-infinite supply of material. A science journalist sits in a finite space, resulting from the intersection of several such infinities. In this elective, we will define and tap this finite space, bearing in mind that there is lot to build on, over and above this. We will also attempt to provide students with a flavour of what it means to be a science journalist in the present time.
The topics we will touch upon in the course will include:
Practice: relevance of science journalism (SJ); figuring out the simple and the complex in SJ; Finding “your” stories; How to talk to experts; handling uncertainty in the topic you are writing about (covering your back); The role of expertise; towards critical SJ; what is “balance” in SJ?
Philosophy: Aspects of 21 century science and the journalist’s opportunities and predicaments; Where do we come from – a bit of history of science; Indian science – does science have borders? Society and science
All topics will have suggested reading material.
Defence & Strategic Affairs
Manoj Joshi, Senior Journalist & Author
The course will look at the issue of defence and strategic affairs from the point of view of a journalist. The emphasis will be on practical, rather than theoretical issues and the focus will be on India, even though we will discuss issues relating to regional and extra-regional countries. The perspective of the course will be that, for India, the primary goal is that of national construction, or to put it another way, the economic transformation of the country. To achieve this end, it is mandatory for the country to have a peaceful internal and external environment. Defence and strategic policy must follow this imperative. The goal of the country’s military and security services is to provide that peaceful space by their ability to deter those that seek to disrupt it. Government policy must be aimed at resolving contentious issues, if not, effectively managing them at the lowest level of violence and disruption.
The course will broadly look at
- India’s Grand Strategy, its successes and failures,
- Combining hard and soft power to attain the goals set by the grand strategy. This involves a study of military capacity, deterrence capability, space policy, oceans, internet, diplomacy, diaspora and democracy promotion.
- Economic growth looking at harnessing investment, strategic resources, shaping a global economic order that enhances India’s goals
- Shaping internal institutions and processes in government towards the national goal
- multilateral challenges such as climate change, securing water resources, pandemics,
- the issue of internal security, the task of maintaining political unity, combating terrorism, organised crime, cyber challenges.
- Obtaining a benign periphery SAARC and the Indian Ocean
Covering minorities in the South Asian context
Seema Chishti, Journalist & Writer
This should be a no-brainer and not a course at all. The business of reporting a country or the world must naturally be about reporting on that which is under a rock.
But India’s mainstream newsoutlets in recent years seem to just want to respond to what the largest numbers want. Hence, a lot of the reporting ends up focusing on ‘user-friendly’ matters, or what people imagine their readers/viewers want to read and can ‘use’. This could be about traffic, parking woes, tips on how to behave in a party etc. This becomes almost the journalistic equivalent of self-help books – rather than providing a meaningful and robust account of what is unfolding around us and how India’s reality is shaping up and changing.
There is a need for a short but sharp course which drives home the need for reporting on the innumerable social groups in India, who make up its vast diversity. So even if they are not numerous, taken by themselves, India would not be India if all its minorities were to be airbrushed. This course would also aim to provide perspective on how reporting could be done fairly, sensitively and in a way that informs those entirely unfamiliar with them.
These aspects can be discussed across as many sessions normally set aside for elective courses –
- The first session could be one where we drive home what we mean by minorities and why minorities matter to society – framing the issue – in a context beyond India’s.
- How to be mindful of reporting on minorities, the global debates on this, the sensitivity of reporting on a George Floyd, a demand to de-fund the police, or an LGBT protest in Hungary, a pro-abortion rally in Poland, etc
- The nuts and bolts – data and facts in India – how minorities have been defined, who they are, and what their social, economic and educational status is, and why it matters.
- The relationship of ‘minorities’ with the particular politics that dominates India today, how it became controversial. More history and perspective, a down-the-ages account.
- In 2021, what does it look like to be a minority in India?
- How to go out and report on minorities in India, cultivate sources, smell out stories, and tell them to a larger audience, make it relevant to their lives?
Hindu Nationalism and Politics
The last few years have seen Hindu Nationalism lay claim to being the hegemonic vision of Indian nationalism. Consecutive victories of the BJP in 2014 and 2019 — alongside its increasing geographical spread — have made Hindu Nationalism, once a marginal vision, almost the synonym of Indian nationalism in the minds of many.
A keener understanding of the phenomenon — as also the larger battle for hegemony it has waged over a century with secular visions of Indian nationalism — requires an exploration of Hindu Nationalism as an attempt at imagining the Indian nation through the prism of majoritarian religio-cultural categories.
The elective aims at doing precisely this. It seeks to offer an overview of the rise of Hindu nationalism from the late 19th century and early 20th centuries — the Arya Samaj, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the RSS were its key vehicles — to its post-independence phases, leading up to the present times. The formation of the Jana Sangh and its successor, the BJP, will be part of this exploration. The journey of these political parties has seen phases of adjustment with “secular” parties under the rubric of anti-Congressism and phases of a surge around core Hindutva themes that often run counter to the project of secularism in India.
The enquiry would also entail a deep study of the BJP’s caste constituencies and the recent deepening of its social base, with the party shedding its “Brahmanical” tag and tactically reaching out to sections among OBCs and Dalits that were gradually feeling that parties championing social justice hadn’t been able to provide them adequate representation.
How did the BJP emerge as India’s main political party under Narendra Modi? How did it seek to claim a monopoly over nationalism in India?
The elective will intend to provide a multi-dimensional view — with discussions on the theoretical work around Hindutva, the organisational structures of the RSS and its affiliates, and the trajectory of the BJP over the decades culminating in the rise of Modi — of Hindu Nationalism in order to facilitate deeper insights into it.