Sahba Husain speaks about Gautam Navlakha

Sahba Hussain discusses Gautam Navlakha’s life and the state of Indian democracy.

Gautam Navlakha is a Delhi based writer and democratic and civil rights activist. He was born in Kolkata in 1952 and after primary education, finished his schooling from Scindia School, Gwalior. He did his graduation from St. Xaviers college in Kolkata and Masters from University of Stockholm, Sweden.

He joined the civil liberties movement in 1978 as part of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR) founded by Jayprakash Narayan in 1976. He became one of the founders of People’s Union for Democratic Rights that came out of PUCLDR and since then has remained one of its active members.

Professionally, Gautam has worked on the editorial board of the  Economic and Political Weekly, from 1980 to 2012. Most of his writings, starting 1980 to the present,  have been carried in the Economic and Political Weekly. He has always defended the right of the media because freedom of expression and speech also carries the obligation to submit to public criticism. Therefore, he chose to remain silent even when some sections of the media became vituperative, believing instead that his work would the speak for him.

Post demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 he was made convenor of a civil society initiative in Delhi called People’s Movement for Secularism which focussed attention on the need to uphold the secular values enshrined in our Constitution and to bring the culprits to book.

He was a founder member of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and  Democracy (PIPFPD) which was established in 1994 and sought to  promote people-to-people contact and dialogue between the two countries. He was a part of the Investigation and Research team of The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in India Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons which published the seminal report, Structures of Violence: The Indian State and Jammu and Kashmir, in September 2015. He has actively fought for constitutional freedoms in Kashmir and for demilitarisation.

On legal immunity for Armed Forces of the Union in ‘Distrubed Areas’, Gautam has critically examined, from democratic rights perspective, the Indian army’s Doctrine of Sub-conventional Operations” 2006 and has written extensively on the armed conflicts taking place within India (North East, Kashmir and Central India). Lastly, he has remained steadfast in his espousal of a democraic political solution, to bring  an end to armed conflicts within India. At the time of his arrest in April 2020 in the BhimaKoregaon case, he was working at Newsclick, a digital news portal, as a consultant/columnist. At present he is lodged in Taloja jail in Maharashtra along with 14 other ‘accused’ in prisons in the BK case.

Books authored by Gautam:

  1. Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion: Based on his first hand experience, this book is a critical account and analysis of the Maoist movement and its history. It examines the role of both the Government and the Maoists in Bastar, Chattisgarh. Publisher: Penguin India. Year: 2012.
  2. War and Politics. This book attempts to understand and examine the place and meaning of war within our society, and critically examines the Maoist Protracted Peoples’ War. Publisher: Setuprakashan, 2014.

Sahba Husain is a Delhi based author, independent researcher and women’s rights activist. From 1999 onwards, her work has focused on the social consequences of armed conflict and militarization in Jammu & Kashmir with special attention to women. As a founding member and research consultant at Aman Public Charitable Trust, she conducted extensive research on ‘Gender, Conflict and Mental Health’ in Jammu & Kashmir to assess the psychological and human cost of conflict, which included an investigation of mental health issues and its social and economic implications for ordinary, unarmed civilians in a conflict situation.

Her earlier research focused on problems of working women in the organized and unorganized sectors and how development policies impacted women’s social, political and economic status. This led to several research studies, including an in-depth study of families of bonded labourers in four districts of Andhra Pradesh, rights training workshops for landless women agricultural workers in selected districts of Karnataka, women’s role and status in the garment export industry in Delhi and documenting the lived experience of zardozi workers of Varanasi, silk workers of Karnataka and midwives of Bihar.  

From 1999-2003, as a senior consultant with Oxfam (India) Trust, she conducted field research in different parts of the country, including Gujarat, Bihar and Orissa to examine the causes and effects of communal and caste violence. Later, her work focused on conflict mitigation in JK, the causes and effects of violence on communities, particularly on women, youth and children. A detailed study was also undertaken during this period to assess the impact of migration/displacement of Kashmiri Pundit families, both in Kashmir as well as in the migrant camps in Jammu.

As a member of the South Asia Women’s Regional Network, she travelled (as part of a team) in the border districts of Jammu (2011/12) to document the gendered impact of militarization, including cross-border firing/shelling and the devastating consequences of mine blasts on civilians, including women and children.

 Books authored:

‘Love, Loss and, Longing in Kashmir’- Zubaan Publishers Pvt Ltd, November 2019.

In 2011, she translated an Urdu book into English, ‘Prisoner Number 100’ – published by Zubaan. It is an account of a Kashmiri woman political activist’s experience of spending five years in Tihar jail in Delhi under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

 

 

 

 


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