Neelabh Mishra, founder and editor-in-chief of National Herald, and former editor of Outlook Hindi passed away last month. Mishra started off his over three decades of journalistic career as a reporter with Navbharat Times and later moved to Rajasthan. Throughout his career, he was associated with human rights movements in different parts of India, especially the movement for right to information spearheaded by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, and was closely involved in the revival of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was also a part of the process of the World Social Forum for building an alternative global movement from the largest democracy in the world. In 2016, Mishra steered the re-launch of National Herald as a digital news website.
We are deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Asma Jahangir, renowned lawyer and women human rights defender. A founding member of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), co-founder if Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and co-chair of South Asia Forum for Human Rights, she was recognized both nationally and internationally for her contribution to the cause of human rights, and was the recipient of major human rights awards. She served as the UN Special Rapporteur in the fields of summary executions, and freedom of religion or belief. She leaves behind an invaluable legacy of initiating and building people to people solidarity in South Asia, as part of a peoples initiative towards forging peace, especially between India and Pakistan. At the time of her passing, she held the position of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.
55-year-old Gauri Lankesh was murdered by gunmen outside her Bengaluru residence on the night of 5th September, 2017. She was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly and was a fierce critic of hard line Hindu groups in Karnataka. She was widely regarded as an independent and outspoken journalist and activist.
She came up against the establishment in multiple ways, as she sought to bring Naxalites to the mainstream, take up the cause of Dalits and farmers, raise consciousness on the creeping influence of Hindutva groups and give moral support to progressive campaigns. As an uncompromising journalist who was never afraid to speak the truth, her death seems to have only amplified her voice around the world – but also signals a well-orchestrated backlash that seeks to silence voices like Dhabolkar, Pasare, Kalburgi and now Lankesh.
Vijay Nagaraj, human rights activist, grassroots worker and researcher, and friend to a large number of people, died in a car accident on August 25, 2017, in Sri Lanka at a young age of 44.
With his passion for work, wider political understanding, meticulousness in research and irreverence to structures of power, he was ahead of many in his generation. He began his work on the right to information campaign with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan, moving on to become the India Director of Amnesty International, followed by Deputy Director at TISS, Mumbai, and as a researcher on human rights based earlier in Geneva and then in Colombo. In his public life of 2 decades, his work spanned many geographic spaces, thematic concerns, engaging withplayfulnessand compassionthat won him many hearts.
The sudden and untimely demise of Preet Rustagi, professor at the Institute for Human Development (IHD), on 21 August 2017 in New Delhi came as a shock to many after a brief illness leading to a multiple organ failure. She was to shortly join the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), in New Delhi.
Preet distinguished herself in her scholarship, with significant contributions in economics, women’s studies, employment and labour. Preet served for some time as the joint director of IHD, also served at the Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), in various capacities. She is missed not only for her work but also for her warmth, gentleness and smile that endeared her to academic and activist networks she was associated with.
We are deeply saddened by Justice Leila Seth’s demise. She will always be remembered for her contribution to gender justice through her work with the Justice Verma Committee and her writings about legal recognition and non-discrimination to same sex desiring persons. She donated her body to science and has been an exemplar of human rights through her personal and professional contributions.