Flutter around "Muslim" activist's exit from top NGO, whose foreign funding was cancelled by Modi govt

Shabnam Hashmi
By Our Representative
There is a huge flutter in India’s top civil society circles around the sudden resignation of a 'Muslim' rights activist, Ovais Sultan Khan, from a highly acclaimed campaign voluntary organizations, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), founded by well-known social worker Shabnam Hashmi. Formed in the after the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, it was supported, among others, by top bureaucrat-turned-activist Harsh Mander and leftist historian KN Panikkar.
The flutter follows an open resignation letter of Khan as managing trustee of Anhad, published in Milli Gazette, which calls itself India’s “leading Muslim newspaper”, alleging “discrimination” because he attempted to “speak as a Muslim.”
Running into about 2,600 words, the letter, even as calling Hashmi “eminent human rights and minority rights activist”, says that those at the helm of affairs in Anhad sought to paint him as “a fundamentalist and an autocratic.”
Refusing to go into the strong allegation, Anhad, in an short rejoinder released on Facebook, signed by its trustees – Aban Raza, Amrita Nandy, Harsh Mander, Mukhtar Sheikh, Shabnam Hashmi and Shubha Menon – said, how in June 2017 its “founding and senior trustees” decided to move out and hand over the running of Anhad trust to the next generation, as a result of which the managing trustee's post went to Khan.
A year later, however, “many friends of Anhad felt that it would be good for a few of the founding trustees to rejoin the Trust, at least for a while, to ensure continuity of Anhad’s values along with change.” As a result, “A meeting of the trust was convened by the new trustees, which all except Khan attended, despite notice and consent.”
Ovais Sultan Khan
Anhad is one of the NGOs, which the Narendra Modi government barred from receiving foreign funds in December 2016 alleging that it was involved in "undesirable activities against public interest". Other NGOs whose foreign funding license was cancelled around the same time included Gujarat-based Dalit rights organization Navsarjan Trust, Sabrang Trust run by another senior woman human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, and the international environmental NGO Greenpeace.
Khan, says the Anhad rejoinder, “did not abide by the unanimous decision of the remaining trustees and, instead, three hours before the trust meeting unilaterally appointed two other trustees, whose names were never discussed either in the trust.”
This led the trustees to decide to not allow Khan to continue as managing trustee, though asking him to continue as a regular trustee, the rejoinder asserted, adding, following this, “Khan went public with his resignation” providing a “long and factually incorrect public statement, which diverts from the real facts of what led to his exit from Anhad.”
Khan, in his open letter, claims that under his young leadership Anhad expanded its wings as never before. “I attempted to heterogenise and humanise the protests for more deep engagement with those new non-activist people who want to join us but they fear”, adding, during the one year he was managing-trustee, Anhad “reached to those nameless marginalised Muslims, Dalits, women and OBCs who have never had been contacted.”
However, he regrets, he was made a subject of ridicule for highlighting the cause of the Muslims. “I told them that their problem is my Muslim identity”, he says.
Among the activities he recounts included his “solidarity visit” to the Aligarh Muslim University during the protests on the issue of attack on former vice-president Dr Hamid Ansari; and the Insaaf Yatra from Delhi to Muzaffarnagar-Shamli to “build pressure on local administration” not to withdraw criminal cases of those involved in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal violence and release of innocent juveniles jailed in alleged cases of cow slaughter.

Comments

manan said…
Muslim identity never was not a problem with ovais but he diverted from core values of Anhad which is equality social justice and human rights. Anhad refused to accept narrow idea of justice.#IStandWithAnhad