“The fascist forces are very organized and gaining ground. It is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people.”
Shabnam Hashmi (born 1957) has worked for more than 20 years to combat communalism in India. She was associated with the creation and running of Sahmat, formed by artists and intellectuals in memory of her activist brother, who was murdered while performing a street play in 1989. After the Gujarat carnage, she understood the need for an outfit to systematically counter fascist propaganda, and the NGO Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad) was born in March 2003. Working voluntarily and without fees and with limited funds, Shabnam has emerged as a single-person pressure group.
For more than two decades, Shabnam Hashmi has worked on a voluntary, no-fee basis on a range of issues-disaster management, women’s literacy, environmental issues, children’s education, violence against women, adoption, Dalits’ rights, and the development of a scientific temper, with a focus on peace and communal harmony. The creative energy that she embodies was unleashed when her theater artiste brother was murdered while performing in the street. The anguish was channeled to create Sahmat, an organization of many of India’s prominent artists and intellectuals. For 15 years, she remained the motivating force behind the activities, ideas, and projects collectively generated by this community. In March 2003, a year after the Gujarat carnage, along with some other intellectuals and activists, Shabnam formed Anhad. The propaganda by fascist outfits had invaded the streets, and Anhad was set up “to wage this battle of the minds”. The organization’s main objective was to prepare a secular nationwide cadre, and to equip working social and political activists, grassroots workers, students, and youth to counter the ideology of hatred. Down the years, Shabnam has been through her share of ups and downs. Both as a child and as an adult, her parents’ life choices and, later, her own did not ensure financial stability. Her persistent and strident criticism of the communalization of politics has won her many adversaries. She has also been physically attacked several times. Through it all, Shabnam has emerged as a single-person pressure group.
Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad)
South Asia | India