Jenny Rowena is a Professor at Miranda House, Delhi University and Hany Babu’s partner. Her research focuses on issues like caste, gender, Indian modernity and secularism. In the following interview, she discusses his arrest, the Bhima Koregaon case 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:
- 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.
- 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.
‘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).
Fr. Cedric Prakash belongs to the Gujarat Province of the Society of Jesus in India. He is a well-known human rights, reconciliation and peace activist, with a focus on advocacy; also, a prolific writer on subjects related to justice, peace, environment, contextual spirituality and the Constitution of India. On 2 October 2001(birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) he founded ‘Prashant’ the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice & Peace (he was its Director till January 2016).
Beginning 27 February 2002, Gujarat was engulfed in what is commonly referred to as the ‘Gujarat Carnage’. Fr. Prakash has been one of the voices that has championed the cause of the Muslims, who were victims of fundamentalist forces in this carnage. He has since been involved in a relentless campaign for the rights of the victim-survivors together with several other groups and networks and particularly with the ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’. (In June 2002, he testified before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington, on the reality of the Muslims of Gujarat. He is currently engaged in Advocacy work related to Fr Stan Swamy and other human rights defenders incarcerated under the UAPA and other draconian laws.
Fr. Prakash is a visiting faculty in several Colleges, Seminaries and Universities both in India and abroad. Currently, he is engaged speaking to, animating and training several groups throughout the country on issues related to human rights, justice and peace. For his work in advocacy, human rights, justice, inter-religious dialogue, communal harmony and peace, Fr. Prakash is a recipient of several national and international awards / honours; which include: Mother Teresa International Award for Social Justice by the Harmony Foundation in 2013;The Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic, for life-time commitment to the defense and the promotion of Human Rights in India in 2006 ;The Kabir Puraskar Award by the President of India – for promotion of Communal Peace and Harmony in 1995; the National Minorities Rights Award by the National Commission for Minorities in 2006 ;A few months ago, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delhi Minorities Commission. In 2003, the Indian Muslim Council (USA) (now the Indian American Muslim Council -IAMC) awarded him The Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for humanitarian work in India.
He is also deeply involved in the Ecumenical Movement. He spent over a year with the Ecumenical Christian Community of Taizé in France helping to prepare the World Council of Youth. For several years, he was the convenor and the spokesperson of the Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights (GUCFHR). He is today an active member of the world-wide group of Jesuit Ecumenists.
For three years (2016-2018), Fr. Prakash was based in Beirut, Lebanon in the Regional Office of the Jesuit Refugee Service (Middle East and North Africa Region) as the Regional Advocacy and Communications Officer/Advisor, working with refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. In collaboration with St Joseph’s University, Beirut he headed and in September 2018 completed a path-breaking research study, ‘Journeying Together’, on the situation of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In October 2018, the Loyola Press Chicago published a brilliant coffee-table-style book ‘Sharing the Wisdom of Time’ (https://www.sharingwisdomoftime.com/ ) by Pope Francis and friends. One of Fr Prakash’s real-life stories is featured in it. Pope Francis has written a warm personal response in the book to Fr Prakash’s testimony.
In the following interview, Father Cedric Prakash discusses coal mining in Jharkhand, Adivasi rights, the Indian constitution, faith, justice, Elgaar Parishad, the Bhima Koregaon Case and Father Stan Swamy.
You can read more about the Bhima Koregaon case here:
Aakar Patel is the Director of Amnesty International India since 2015, he is also a senior journalist, author and a syndicated columnist. He ran a media services business in Mumbai from 2006 to 2010 and also collaborated with UNICEF including for projects like the Mid-day Meal scheme. He had a decade long stint in journalism working cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad as well as a regional daily – Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat. He is the author of the recently published book ‘Our Hindu Rashtra: What it is. How we got here’ and his upcoming book ‘Price of the Modi years’ will be out October 2021.
In the following interview, Aakar discusses his tenure at Amnesty International India including engaging with the State, raids by law enforcement agencies, the shrinking space of civil society and human rights advocacy in India. In September 2020, Amnesty International India was forced to halt its operations after the government froze its bank accounts without notice.