The Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians 2009 awarded to Anusheh Anadil from Bangladesh and Laksmiben Vankar from Godhra, Gujarat
Anhad, Sangat and the Habitat Centre organized the inaugural and launch of the Meeto Memorial Award for young South Asians on October 14, 2009. The inaugural ceremony was attended by over 800 members of the civil society, artists, activists, academicians and diplomats. Many guests came for the programme from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik) (1978-2006) was a scholar, activist and dancer. She studied at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi and Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh.
She graduated with first class honours in History from Stephen’s College. She won the Radhakrishnan-British Chevening Scholarship to study history at St Hilda’s College in Oxford University and graduated from there also with first class honours.
Between 2001 and 2004, Meeto researched and wrote on projects ranging from the refugee problem in post-Partition Punjab to the role of parliamentarians in Indian democracy and the role of the colonial census in creating monolithic identities in Sri Lanka (research that led her to spend three months with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo).
She was the first primary coordinator of SAHR (South Asians for Human Rights) and helped organize the first general convention of SAHR in Neemrana, Rajasthan in 2002 and in Delhi the year after. Between 2003 and mid-2004, she worked as a programme associate at the Ford Foundation in Delhi working on human rights and development issues.
In 2004, Meeto won the Clarendon fellowship and returned to Oxford University. Her pre-doctoral research, tragically interrupted by her passing away in 2006, is published under the title Making: Identity Formation in South Asia by the Three Essays Collective.
As a dancer, Meeto performed with Leela Samson’s dance production Spanda across India and in Bangladesh.
Meeto’s academic and professional interests were at one with the way she lived. She revelled in the aesthetic traditions of the multiple religious and cultural traditions to which she was an heir as a South Asian citizen.
To commemorate her brief but brilliant life, Meeto’s mother, Kamla Bhasin has decided to institute an award in her memory to honour young South Asians whose work demonstrates a commitment to communal harmony, peace, justice and human rights. The Award comprises of Indian Rupees one lakh, a citation and a memento. If more than one person is selected, the money will be shared. The recipients will be invited to present their work at the award ceremony. The Award will be announced in October every year. The recipients of the Award will be chosen by a selection committee whose decision will be final.
To be eligible, nominees must be Under the age of 40
Citizens of a South Asian country (Afghanistan, Bangladesh,Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
Working on issues of communal harmony, peace, justice and/or human rights, broadly conceived; the nominee may be working anywhere in the world, but the focus of the work should be on South Asia as defined above
Working in any capacity in the field of activism, advocacy, academia, and journalism, and in any medium such as writing, art, dance, music, film, and theatre.
The Advisory Committee of the Meeto Memorial Award:
- Asma Jahangir, Pakistan
- Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh
- Sithie Tiruchelvam, Sri Lanka
- Syeda Hameed, India
- Sadanand Menon, India
- Anusha Lall, India
- Rahul Rao, India/UK
- Kamla Bhasin, India
Anusheh Anadil and Lakshmiben Vankar are the recipients of the Inaugural Meeto Memorial Award.
Anusheh is a musician, a song-writer, a cultural activist and an ethnic-crafts entrepreneur from Dhaka, Bangladesh. However, it is largely her meaningful music that has made Anusheh a name to reckon with. Though trained in classical music, she is also greatly influenced by the club music of Canada and the music of Lalon Shai, the great Bangladeshi Baul philosopher poet. In 1998, Anusheh started a fusion band – Bangla which is ‘a city band with a Baul soul; a guitar longing to be a dotara; a dotara longing to be a guitar’. The band engages with one of the most important issues of our time religious freedom. Through her music, Anusheh passionately fights against religious intolerance. The message of unity and self exploration resonates through her music. In times when style scores over content and commercial popularity is the benchmark of good music, Anusheh has chosen to make music that is difficult, brave and engaging. To her credit, Anusheh’s music is extraordinarily popular.
For a composite of Anusheh Anadil’s creative achievements in the field of music and craft, and promoting liberal thinking in Bangladesh, she has been selected as one of the two recipients of the Meeto Memorial Award 2009.
Laxmi Ben Vankar, is an intrepid woman. A Dalit from the village of Vyaseda, 25 kilometers away from Godhra, Gujarat, Laxmi realized early in life that her journey would be far from easy. So she turned each challenge into an opportunity to make this world a better place. After the demise of her father in 1992, Laxmi joined her mother as a daily wage laborer to help raise her younger siblings. In spite of severe financial hurdles and hardships, she graduated in 1997 and decided to commit her life to the well-being of society. This came to fruition in 2001 when she formed and registered the Triveni Anusuchit Jati Education Trust, a hostel for Dalit girls where they could stay and study for free. However, lack of adequate funding forced her to shelve her dream.
Laxmi was undeterred. In 2003, she joined Aman Samudaya, a campaign for peace, justice and communal harmony that was started as a response to the Gujarat communal carnage in 2002. She worked in many villages where she conducted surveys, provided relief and immediate livelihood support for victims of the genocide.
Over the years, Laxmi has actively interacted with the media and led many campaigns in different villages and tallukas. In her words, “If one desires to devote one’s life to the society, then one has to be sensitive. But that sensitivity needs to be channelized through good exposure”.
A single woman in her mid-thirties, Laxmi hopes that the work done by her and other like-minded people would one day transform communal minds into peaceful and secular ones. It is her wish to work for peace and communal harmony till her last breath so that everyone gets justice. Laxmi has not just overcome the extremely difficult circumstances but also become a successful social and political change agent. This Award is being given to her for her courage, commitment, fearlessness, innate sense of justice and rights for all.
The MEETO Memorial Award for Young South Asians is managed by ANHAD and Sangat.
Meeto Memorial Award Secretariat:
ANHAD, 23, Canning Lane, New Delhi 110001
Telephone 23070740/ 22 | email: anhad.delhi[AT]gmail.com