Shakil Ahmed

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2002

Citation

This profile was prepared when Shakil Ahmed was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Shakil leads the Nirbhay Bano Andolan (NBA), a one-stop group where the poor and marginalized can go for information and education on their rights. The NBA demands government accountability and offers a hands-on manual for interacting with various arms of the government. Shakil's strategy is to identify an instance of state violence against the common man or woman, publicize it, and solicit public criticism about it from common people as well as from eminent members of the judicial, legal, and political worlds. He then makes sure to keep the story in front of the media and creates opportunities for the community to voice grievances directly to the political representatives of the state. The goal, which is often achieved, is to force responsible authorities to swing into action.
Shakil's mantra is one of encouraging community self-help, telling people about their rights, and equipping them better to fight for those rights. From the queues at the ration shops to complaints at the police station, from emergency services in cases of rape and murder, to campaigns for proper implementation of a government fact-finding report, Shakil and his team of volunteers help the common people in the Mumbai slums demand their rights and exercise their power as citizens, without fearing the police, the bureaucrats, or the muscle-flexing politicians.
Most other organizations working in similar areas provide legal aid, file cases or public interest litigation where it is needed, or fight to create awareness about a specific issue. Shakil helps the NBA in all these areas, which in turn brings a level of self-empowerment to people at the grassroots level. The whole approach is geared to bringing justice to victims and, more importantly, empowering them to fight their battles in a more informed manner. In the process people learn to handle crisis situations and overcome their fear of those in power. This builds community strength both by helping the oppressed help themselves and by identifying potential leaders among the public who can continue working into the future. The NBA does not just fight the battles on behalf of the people; it empowers the common people to fight on their own.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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