Being a feminist involved with human rights concerns, Nandita faced problems on the ideological front. It was important to create a synergy between the then parallel movements.
In her three decades as a feminist and human rights lawyer, Nandita Haksar (born 1955) has contributed immensely to the development of a rights-based perspective on complex political issues. Her work in exposing human rights violations by Indian security forces in the northeast, and her efforts to bring to the fore the underground Naga movement were pioneering. Nandita has managed to win for political dissidents not judicial pity but a change in the courts’ view of human rights. She was also instrumental in bridging the gap between the feminist and the human rights movements in India.
Nandita Haksar, deeply influenced by the feminist movement of the 1970s, realized the need for a feminist lawyer and set about acquiring a degree in law at a time when there were no feminist lawyers-there were not even that many women lawyers. Her main focus as a lawyer has been on human rights’ violations committed by the Indian security forces in the northeast. Nandita took up the question of the people’s right to self-determination within India. She coedited the Nagaland Files, which brought to the fore the underground Naga movement for the first time. Nandita’s involvement with the issue has been consistent and flexible; at the same time she works with various human rights organizations, has been a defense witness in the Indo-Naga peace process, and worked as secretary of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights in 1987. Nandita also realized that the Naxalites and their ideology were completely misunderstood. Even courts justified the torture of Naxalites. What Nandita wanted from the courts was not judicial pity but a change in its view of human rights. The challenge was to include the Naga insurgents in the negotiations to resolve issues, and to move away from the paradigm that views them as a law-and-order problem alone. Nandita has also been working on refugee law-political refugees, in particular-at the international level. Since her work involved taking on powerful political adversaries, Nandita was under constant surveillance, her telephone conversations were intercepted, and there remains, even today, a threat to her life. She also had to face army raids because she exposed military atrocities in the northeast. The struggle was well worth it, for Nandita’s work has contributed immensely to the development of a feminist and rights-based perspective on complex political issues.
Supreme court of India
South Asia | India