Interview

“Schools not enabling students to think for themselves”

Deepak Dhar is a noted scientist, prominently known for his work in theoretical physics. Professor Dhar is an elected fellow of all the three major Indian science academies – the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy and the National Academy of Sciences, India – as well as The World Academy of Sciences. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the apex agency of the Government of India for scientific research, awarded him the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, one of the highest Indian science awards, for his contributions to the physical sciences. Read interview here.

“Struggle is good. It helps us clarify what matters”

Devdutt Pattanaik is a noted author, known for his works on Indian mythology. Pattanaik leverages the power of myth in business, management, and life. He is known for his activism for LGBT+ rights and was one of the rainbow warriors in the legal fight that led to the Supreme Court reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Read the interview here.

“Indian journalism is facing an unprecedented crisis”

Josy Joseph, one of India’s prominent investigative journalists, has catalyzed impactful public debates and contributed to significant policy changes with his stories. His reporting has resulted in several high-profile officials being sacked, triggering the arrest of many others for corruption, as well as federal criminal and military investigations. Joseph’s high-profile investigations, such as those of the Mumbai Adarsh Housing scam and the mishandling of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi have driven the anti-corruption movement of recent times. Read the interview here.

“Aadhaar possesses dangerous flaws.”

Sandeep Shukla is one of the foremost system security experts and scientists in India. Professor Shukla currently heads Computer Science and Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Embedded Systems, and associate editor for ACM transactions on Cyber Physical Systems. He has raised concerns on UIDAI Aadhaar’s security from time to time. One of his confidential studies highlighted the loopholes in Aadhaar but nothing has been done to beef up data security by the government yet, he observes. Read the interview here.

“Manto shows us a mirror to our fears and prejudices”

Nandita Das is an internationally acclaimed Indian filmmaker and actor. Ms. Das, a recipient of ‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’, has served on the jury of Cannes Film Festival. She is the first Indian to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum in Washington. She also happens to be one of first few people in Bollywood to speak against the obsession with lighter skin, her campaign ‘Dark is Beautiful’ garnered international attention to a widespread issue. Read the interview here.

“A citizen is entitled to preserve a “lawless zone” around her for her true organic development.”

Kaleeswaram Raj is the lawyer who successfully fought to decriminalise adultery in India. There are more than 500 reported judgements reflecting his active appearance. Apart from being a busy lawyer, Mr. Raj is also a prolific writer. His book Rethinking Judicial Reforms: Reflections on Indian Legal System, published by LexisNexis, is widely regarded in the legal field. His published works also include The Spirit of Law (2012) and The Commentaries on Marumakkathayam Law (1995). Before his entry into the legal field, Mr. Raj had an active public life in the realm of human rights and environmental protection. Read the interview here[ 2018] and here [ 2019]

“Rewriting history and changing names to suit ideology are worrying”

Swapna Liddle is a historian who has endeavoured to make history and heritage accessible through informative, entertaining and easy to read works. Her focus on 19th century Delhi and a PhD on the subject has led to many years in activism to preserve the historic architecture and neighbourhoods in the capital. For many years she has been associated with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), and is currently the Convener of its Delhi Chapter. Her works include Delhi: 14 Historic Walks (Westland, 2011), Chandni Chowk: The Mughal city of Old Delhi (Speaking Tiger, 2017), Sair-ul-Manazil (edited and annotated; Tulika 2017), and ‘Connaught Place and the making of New Delhi’ (Speaking Tiger, 2018.) Read the interview here.

“Kashmiri women worse off than in the last century”

The author of ‘Lost in Terror’ (Penguin, 2016), Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor has been a journalist and producer with BBC’s Urdu Service in London. Both as a journalist and writer (her book Deshatzadi was published in 2012), she has explored the plight of women in conflict zones. As the chairperson of the State Commission for Women in Jammu & Kashmir, she was in a unique position to study the plight of women. Read the interview here.

“The essence of art is discomfort, questioning, challenging, dissent and reflection. It has power to heal social divisions.”

T M Krishna is a vocalist in the Carnatic tradition. His music renditions and subtle manifestation of music into social activism give him a peculiar space as a public intellectual. Krishna has received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration Award and Professor V Aravindakshan Memorial Award for his extraordinary endeavours. Read the interview here.

“It is an authoritarian and political propaganda to muzzle dissent through vilification like ‘Urban Naxalism'”

Jean Drèze is a Belgian Indian economist and human rights activist known for drafting NREGA and catalysing Right To Information Act. His research interests include rural development, social inequality, elementary education, child nutrition, health care and food security. Jean Drèze is co-author (with Amartya Sen) of Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989) and An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions (Penguin, 2013)”, and also one of the co-authors of the Public Report on Basic Education in India, also known as “PROBE Report”. He has made wide-ranging contributions to development economics and public policy, with special reference to India. Read the interview here.

“I hope India never becomes a socialist economy”

Lord Meghnad Desai is a British economist and parliamentarian sitting in the House of Lords. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, in 2008. Lord Desai, an author of several books on Indian paradigm, is known for his fierce views on various controversies on economics, history and anything else which catches his attention. Read the interview here.

I have had several labels – communists, socialist, liberal, social change singer/songwriter and few others! Hahaha…”

Susmit Bose, a phenomenon in Indo-English music, is known for his unique use of music and poetry to address social issues. His albums ‘Winter Baby’ released in 1973, ‘Train to Calcutta’ released in 1978, and ‘Man of Conscience’ released in 1990 brought him critical acclaim. An experienced film maker, Susmit Bose has produced several TV serials, documentaries and corporate films. Read the interview here.

I am still here, and more determined than ever before to continue fighting for what I believe in: The fight for Human Rights.”

Marius Reikerås is an internationally acclaimed Norwegian lawyer and human rights activist. He was awarded the NCHR/NKMR honorary diploma 2018 for outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement. As a lawyer, Marius Reikerås has always battled against the Norwegian court system, to protect his Human rights. For many years, Marius Reikerås has been at the forefront of the protests and demonstrations against the Norwegian CPS, “Barnevernet”, both in Norway and internationally. Read the interview here.

” I personally think the #MeToo in media moment that made waves in mid to late 2018 was perceived as a thunderbolt mainly because of its high visibility thanks to social media, which is where much of it was concentrated.

Ammu Joseph is a senior Indian journalist who has dedicated her career to gender issues. She is a founder-member of Network of Women in Media, India or NWMI. Author of six books, Joseph also contributed to frame UNESCO’s gender sensitive indicators for media (2012), world trends in the state of freedom of expression and media development (2013) and global monitoring report on the implementation of the 2005 convention on diversity of cultural expressions. She was awarded with the Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy and the UNFPA-LAADLI Media Award for gender sensitivity. Read the interview here.

“We must fight the men of religion.”

ZakiaSoman, the founder of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (an organisation of Muslim women in India), has been the wheel behind the mass movement demanding the law to criminalise the draconian practice of Triple Talaq.Soman, the epitome of pluralistic faith, remained untouched of hatred peddled in the aftermath of 2002 Gujarat violence while her activism brought together thousands of women to stand against religious prejudices, finally resulting into The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019. Read the interview here.