Last Wednesday, the students from the Segovia Campus had the opportunity of enjoying the third event planned within the Cycle of Conferences, focusing this year on India, and organised by the IE Humanities Center. This session, entitled “India: Visions from Within” revolved around the self-perceptions of Indians about their country and traditional culture, and the future challenges for Indian society. We were honoured with the presence of Veena Venugopal, writer, journalist and editor of Blink and the Hindu Business Line, and of Prof. Eugenio Luján, Dean of Philology of the Universidad Complutense (Madrid) and Associate Professor of Humanities at IE Business School, and one the most renowned Spanish specialists in India’s religion and culture. Their conversation was moderated by Susana Torres, Professor of Humanities at IE University .
The conversation started by highlighting the vast diversity of languages, ethnic origins and religions of the peoples of India and how each of these factors serves as a personal and social identifier of Indians today. Veena Venugopal stressed the idea that conflict and riots are often used as a political weapon, particularly before elections, in order to gain votes, as well as the high degree of tolerance that is common in Indian society. We then talked about the cast system, and Eugenio Luján explained its origins, deeply linked to religious beliefs, going back to almost 3,000 years, and how is it related to social and economic development in India. It was agreed that the level of awareness of their own cast is more powerfully felt by Indians of lower classes and Ms. Venugopal explained the pros and cons of current policies of cast quotas and the social response to them.
One of the issues that also emerged in the talk was the situation of women in Indian society today, the tension between their traditional roles and their place in current society. There was time to discuss how they are portrayed in modern cinema and television, what the reaction of Indian society, and of women in particular, has been to attacks on women that have made international headlines recently, and how Indian women try to find their own place in modern Indian society and politics.
The floor was then opened to students, who asked about several social and political issues in modern India and gave their own first-hand impressions of some of the questions discussed.