The urgency to intervene in defence of democracy, secularism and justice has never been more pressing than in the conditions prevailing in the country today. There is a recognizable change in the general tenor of public discourse; unlike in the past, it is informed more by the communal than by secular ethos. The prejudices against minorities are widely shared as a result of motivated and sustained propaganda. Those who claim to be secular are browbeaten and some are demoralised enough to feel defensive; some of them have increasingly begun to compromise or at least to maintain a public silence. In the face of concerted social mobilization mounted by communal organizations by invoking religious symbols and sentiments, liberal civil society has come under a siege. Nevertheless, it is evident from the large number of secular democratic initiatives by people’s and voluntary organizations and individuals that society is seized of the need for sustained and constructive action for strengthening secularism and democracy and for realising justice and peace. Their numbers and strength are not inconsequential. Yet, there are moments when the communal ideologies and social and political organisations appear to be poised to conquer.
It is therefore necessary to energize the secular forces by a conscious regrouping and co-operation. ANHAD is one modest attempt among many in this direction.
ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) was formed in the first week of March 2003. ANHAD means without limits. ANHAD was conceived less as an organization and more as a platform and a very loose movement, which would be absolutely action oriented.
ANHAD is neither a structured and highly resourced organization nor a centralised movement capable of large-scale popular mobilisation. It, however, tries to combine the elements of both by collaborating with existing organizations and movements and by undertaking local level activities. The former enables ANHAD to develop creative co-operation with people’s organizations and social movements working in different areas of social, cultural and political concerns, the latter opens up for secular mobilisation the space hitherto uncolonised by communalism. There is no formal membership; all are welcome to participate on a voluntary basis. The activities of ANHAD are overseen by its trustees and a working group of eminent citizens.
Like any other progressive voluntary organisation the work of ANHAD evolved with experience. Yet, some areas were identified for initial focus. These were cultural action, social mobilisation, defence of civil liberties and work in the diaspora. The cultural action is conceived as intervention in daily life practices through popular and folk culture, syncretic and tolerance systems of faith and the building of communities invested in pluralism, while challenging hatred, obscurantism and superstition.
ANHAD has undertaken grass root level activities, with the support and collaboration of the existing organizations wherever possible and where it was not, by initiating work on its own through volunteers. The emphasis is on constructive and continuous activity, which would create and sustain secular and democratic consciousness.
ANHAD has worked in many parts of the country. The endeavour was to create a fraternity of secular activists who would through their interaction with the local people bring into being small secular communities for ensuring peace and social understanding. Each locality has its own peculiarities in cultural practices and social relations, which were given particular attention while organizing the activities of ANHAD. Over the past 16 years ANHAD has reached out to thousands of secular groups across India through many national level campaigns, conventions, training workshops. What binds the diverse and dispersed strands of the large secular alliance is the resolute and shared defence of democracy, equity, secularism and justice.
ANHAD means without limits. We envisage it as an inclusive institution in which everyone who stands for democracy, secularism, justice and peace can participate.
ANHAD actively works on issues related to democracy, secularism, communal harmony, gender equality, women empowerment and justice. It fights for human rights and rights of the marginalised communities. Anhad is involved in relief, rehabilitation, livelihood, women empowerment, vocational training, literacy and education. Anhad celebrates cultural diversity and pluralism. It intervenes at the policy level and is a strong advocacy group at the national level.
Anhad is a registered trust and its trustees are:
Aban Raza, painter, Trustee
Amrita Nandi, feminist writer, activist, Trustee
Harsh Mander, Activist and Writer, Founding Trustee
Mukhtar Shaikh, social activist, Trustee
Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, Founding and Managing Trustee
Shubha Menon, writer, Trustee
All donations are exempted under Section 80G of Income Tax Act vide Order No. DIT (E)/2009-10/A-1640/1431 Dated 08.09.2009
Anhad is registered as a trust (Regd. No. : 1708/4/3127/13-25 dated 6.3.2003)
Many eminent personalities have been on Anhad’s trust over the past 16 years. They include:
Prof KN Panikkar, historian and social commentator
Prof Ram Puniyani, writer, activist
Shubha Mudgal, musician
Kamla Bhasin, feminist activist
Saeed Akhtar Mirza, filmmaker and writer
Dhruv Sangari, singer, musician