Mon, March 17, 2008 • 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM • Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118)
Shabnam Hashmi, Managing Trustee and Executive Secretary of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), is amongst the foremost figures in the political battles around secularism and religious fundamentalism in India today. Founded in 2003 in the wake of the Gujarat carnage, ANHAD aims to intervene in the defense of democracy, secularism and justice.With more than 25 years of experience working on issues of religious violence and conflict resolution in India, Hashmi brought together a range of intellectuals and cultural activists in 2003 to found ANHAD as a new experiment in grassroots cultural production and education, especially amongst youth. ANHAD undertakes grassroots level activities with an emphasis on constructive and continuous activity, in order to create and sustain secular and democratic consciousness in an ethnically diverse India.
In 2002, after 58 Hindus were killed by a fire in a train carriage in Godhra, Gujarat, a tide of violence was unleashed in which Hindu extremists killed many Muslims and destroyed countless homes and places of business. Independent human rights groups have estimated that over 2000 Muslims were killed, and over 150,000 victims continue to be displaced even today. Hashmi and ANHAD focused on ground-up mobilization in Gujarat throughout 2006-07 in preparation for the Assembly elections of December 2007. They conducted town and village level awareness campaigns about communal harmony across the state. These field experiences in Gujarat have put Hashmi in a unique position to understand the continued state-wide electoral success of the right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), despite national and international concern over its ideology and policies.
Before starting ANHAD, Hashmi worked on adult literacy, then served as Secretary of SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), formed in 1989 as a platform for creative action by artists and scholars in defense of democratic and secular traditions in India. She is currently a member of the National Integration Council of India's Ministry of Home Affairs and a Council Member of the National Literacy Mission.
As part of ANHAD, Hashmi initiated Youth For Peace (Y4P), a group that has done extensive work with youth in Kashmir, Gujarat and Delhi. Amongst Y4P's most enduring campaigns was "Youth Aman Karavan" ("Youth Peace Caravan") that traveled the length and breath of India in 2004.