Remembering Prof. Iqbal Ansari: A tireless defender of human rights

By Mahtab Alam,

On Sunday evening, October 11th, 2009, when Prof. Iqbal A Ansari was sitting next to me in a meeting here in Delhi, I had no clue that- I will be not able to meet him again. In fact, it’s still unbelievable for me that he is no more among us. His untimely death left most of us bewildered. It is an irreparable loss for human and civil rights’ movements in India. Prof. Iqbal Ansai, who was always at the forefront of the human and civil movements throughout the country over two decades left this world Tuesday early morning following a heart attack.

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My association with Prof. Iqbal Ansari is not very long and dates back to 2007, when I assisted him to organize a consultation meeting on “Towards Riot & Terror Free India” organized by Inter Community Peace Initiative (ICPI) on February 11th, 2007 here in Delhi. After that, I interacted with him on various occasions and issues, mostly through phone and internet. He was very prompt in his reactions. Whatever, I know him through my short interactions and his works, one thing is very clear to me his commitment for protection of civil liberties and advancement of human rights in India is unmatched. He was passionately committed for the cause.

He was one of the most visible civil liberties’ activists in India, taking up a variety issues, from communalism, religious freedom and communal harmony to minority rights. A teacher of English literature turned in to a whole time human rights’ activist, Prof. Iqbal Ansari along with another well-known civil libertarian like V M Tarkunde, Justice Rajendra Sachchar championed the protection of civil rights in India.

Born in 1935, Mr. Iqbal A Ansari served as a teacher of English at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (AMU) for 33 years and retired as professor of English in 1995. He has been visiting professor at Centre for Federal Studies, Jamia Hamdard (2001-2003) and Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (2003-2004). Prof Iqbal Ansari was associated closely with several international and national human rights organizations in different capacities. He was member of Amnesty International, National Council member of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vice President of Citizens for Democracy (CFD) and General Secretary of Minorities’ Council. And most recently, he was active with us in Citizens’ Initiative for Peace, a newly formed group which comprised of people like Justice Rajendra Sachchar, Prof. Randhir Singh, Kuldip Naiyyar, Swami Agniwesh, Nanadani Sunder and Kavita Srivastava. He was also editor of the quarterly bulletin, Human Rights Today published from New Delhi.

He was a prolific writer and his writing used to appear in most of national English dallies. Prof. Ansari has written extensively on issues related to human rights, minorities & prevention and resolution of inter-community conflicts. His publications include Political Representation of Muslims in India (2006), Readings on Minorities: Perspectives and Documents, Vol. I & II (1196), Vol. III (2002); Communal Riots: The State and Law in India (1997); Human Rights in India: Some Issue (1998); Muslim Situation in India (1989) and Uses of English (1978). Now days, he was working on the issue of religious freedom and about compile a book on it.

He traveled almost every part of the country to advance the human rights and to expose the violation of human rights and the illegal activities of both the state and non-state perpetrators. It was Prof. Anasri, who took special interest and made constant efforts in the matters related victims of communal voidances especially Hashimpura and Maliana. His efforts resulted in the form transfer of cases from UP to Delhi. Moreover, he made a remarkable intervention in the form of critically analysis the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005. One of the last contributions for the protection and advancement of civil liberties in India was his intervention in Justice Markande Katju’s remarks on beard and niqab. He personally wrote to him and argued the matter.

He was a selfless intellectual, tireless human rights’ defender and a great human being. It is a harsh reality that- Prof. Iqbal Ansari is no more amongst us but his legacy in terms of his works and brave struggles will continue to inspire us to keep on our struggle for the establishment of a just and equitable world. Our real tribute and homage to him will to carry forward his work and legacies not mourn his demise and celebrate his greatness.

Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based Civil Rights Activist and Coordinator with Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR). He can be reached at [email protected]