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Harsh Mander shortlisted for Nobel Peace Prize 2022

27 September 2022
Human rights and peace activist, writer, and lecturer Harsh Mander has been shortlisted by the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize 2022, for his ongoing fight against identity-based violence in India. Mander obtained his PhD degree in 2019 at the Athena Institute and is director of the Centre of Equity Studies in India, a longstanding partner of Athena.

Dr. Mander worked for the Indian government for many years. After the outbreaks of violence in Gujarat in 2002, he dedicated his time to social activism. Ever since, Mander campaigns for the rights of religious minorities in the country, opposes all forms of extremism and violence and promotes interreligious dialogue, helping to keep the long Indian history of religious tolerance alive. In 2017, he launched the campaign Karwan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love) to combat growing intolerance in India by showing solidarity with the victims of identity-based violence.

Centre for Equity Studies
Through his work at the Centre for Equity Studies, an autonomous research centre engaged in advocating issues of social justice and longstanding partner of the VU Athena Institute, Mander seeks to enquire into the nature and causes of social injustice and inequity. Moreover, the centre aims to collectively, through research and action projects, find methods of moving towards a more equitable and humane world. By engaging in issues of social injustice, the aim is to influence and shape public policy and law in favour of India’s most disadvantaged communities through a range of work, primarily spanning research, grassroots engagement for alternative laws and policies and policy design and advocacy.

Through the implementation of research and advocacy projects alongside the operation of homeless shelters, health and recovery clinics, the Centre for Equity Studies aims to create feasible and sustainable long-term solutions toward the care and protection of the underprivileged section of society thereby progressing our society into one that is more humane and just in its nature.

PhD at the VU Athena Institute
Mander defended his PhD on 'Vulnerable Populations and Policy Development in India: Designing State Interventions for Ending Hunger, Urban Homelessness, Destitution and Targeted Violence' in 2019 at the Athena Institute. In this study he drew the academic implications from his involvement in the National Advisory Council, a high-level committee which provided policy suggestions on various pressing issues to the Prime Minister of India. As a member of NAC, he convened the working groups making national policy on food security, land acquisition and rehabilitation, child labour, urban poor and homelessness, disability, bonded labour, urban slum etc.  He was Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India in the Right to Food Campaign case that has resulted in ensuring food security for millions of poor on a daily basis. Moreover, he contributed substantially to Dr. Harry Coleman’s PhD research, titled The homeless are not a constituency: serving health needs of the inadequately housed in India’, that analyses the transformation Dr. Mander and colleagues managed to realise for meeting housing and health needs of those in a situation of homelessness.

Nobel Peace Prize 2022 Award Ceremony
For his ongoing fight against identity-based violence in India, Harsh Mander has been shortlisted by the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize 2022. The prize will be announced at a press conference on Friday 7 October 11:00 am (CEST), at the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

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Background of Harsh Mander
Harsh Mander worked in the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh for almost two decades. In 2002, he retired in protest against the role of the state in the communal massacre in Gujarat. From 1999 to 2004, he served as Country Director at ActionAid India, a development support organization. From 2005 to 2017, he was special commissioner to the Supreme Court of India in the Right to Food case, and from 2010 to 2012, he was a member of the National Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, mainly on social policy and legislation.

Mander has founded and been a member of many campaigns and initiatives on issues such as homelessness, secularism, peace, reconciliation and legal justice, for example the campaign Aman Biradari and the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information.

As a lecturer, he has taught at, among others, the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex and at MIT in Boston. Harsh Mander authored several books, including "Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India" (2019), "Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India" (2015), and "Ash in the Belly: India's Unfinished Battle Against Hunger".

He has received a number of awards, including the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award for peace work, the M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award 2002, and the South Asian Minority Lawyers Harmony Award 2012.

Photo credits: Sandeep Yadav