Advocacy and Policy Research

2002 – 2009 (selected)


Research Director, Research on Hindu Nationalism, Independent Project: June 2002 – 2009
Through ethnographic research and oral history in 66 villages, this project mapped the incursion of Hindu nationalism in Orissa since 1985 and its impact on culture, human rights, and religious freedoms. The first such detailed excavation, the project examined the intersections of nation-building, gendered violence, and majoritarian nationalism, the demonization of Islam and subaltern Christianity, and the relations between Hindu cultural ascendancy and political economy as they organize discourses on rights, entitlements, and identity.

Independent Commission on Chronic Hunger in Orissa Appointed by the Supreme Court of India’s Commission on Hunger: July 2007 – May 2008
Co-convener, Orissa Hunger Commission, appointed by the Supreme Court Commission on Hunger, inquiring into structural and institutional, and social, cultural, economic, policy, and human rights issues in chronic hunger in Orissa. The report, authored by members of the Commission, was presented to the Supreme Court of India. My participation on this Commission was for a part of its duration.

Research Director, Livelihood and Self-Determination Action Research Project: 2002 – 2009
An action research project in participatory watershed and livelihood development in Orissa. This project, in collaboration with Vasundhara, a local organization, implemented initiatives for livelihood security and ecological sustainability in five villages. These villages, where disenfranchised Dalit and Adivasi groups live, have been organizing for traditional and customary rights to forest lands, with women in the lead. Funded by the Marra Foundation.

People’s Tribunal on Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Orissa: January 2005 -October 2006
Founder and Co-convener, People’s Tribunal on Communalism, convened by the Indian People’s Tribunal on Environmental and Human Rights, inquiring into the processes of religious and gendered violence in Orissa. The people’s tribunal documented the growth of communalism in Orissa, highlighting increasing criminal activity and human rights violations in the state by Hindu right-wing organizations; and related social and gendered violence against disenfranchised groups and religious minorities, such as Adivasis, Dalits, Christians, and Muslims. The report of this people’s tribunal detailed the political and organizational structures of the Sangh Parivar, family of Hindu right-wing groups, across the state of Orissa, and presents case studies from Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Keonjhar, and Phulbani districts describing the growth of militant communalism in the state, and examining communal their connections to political parties and the state government. The report, with policy recommendations, was presented to the Office of the Prime Minister of India and the National Advisory Council, members of the Parliament of India, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Commission, Indira Sagar Dam: July – November 2004
Commissioner, Independent two-member People’s Commission instated by the National Commission for People’s Right to Information and the National Advisory Council of the Government of India, inquiring into processes of displacement, resettlement, and rehabilitation of 30,739 families and 1,75,000 people taking place due to the Indira Sagar Pariyojana multipurpose project in western India. The commissioners gathered testimonials from 1,400 people from diverse caste and tribal groups of varying gender, class, age, and ability, and religious affiliations from one town, eleven villages, and six resettlement sites. The report of this commission, authored by the two commissioners, documented the situation of displacement, resettlement, relief and rehabilitation, in the villages and towns affected and submerged as a result of the Indira Sagar Pariyojana multipurpose project/Narmada Sagar Dam in western India, and those that are due to submerge in the future. The report, with policy recommendations, was presented to the Office of the Prime Minister of India and the National Advisory Council.

[Earlier, held a three-day fast and consultation at the World Bank with senior officials, Washington D.C., in April 2004: The fast was held by three persons to protest of the Bank’s policies on human rights issues connected to displacement, resettlement, and rehabilitation as a consequence of large dam constructions.]

Research Advisor, Planning Commission, Government of India: June 2001 – July 2004
Served in an advisory capacity on the pilot research project titled, ‘Development Policies and Rural Poverty in Orissa: Macro Analysis and Case Studies,’ focused on a comprehensive and integrated assessment of Orissa’s development policies in some of the key state and national investment sectors in relation to their impact on the rural poor, particularly women and Adivasi (indigenous) peoples, in Orissa. These key sectors were identified as agriculture, forestry, mining and industry, with related policies on water, food security, land acquisition, displacement and rehabilitation, and disaster management and prevention. This study undertook a comprehensive and preliminary intersectoral appraisal of development in the context of poverty alleviation, corporate globalization, human rights, and social justice. The project also framed methodologies for assessing the impact of development programs on human rights. The findings of this study enabled the Planning Commission in its plan and policy review, and in evaluating future directions and allocations in Orissa. Funded by the Planning Commission of India.

Researcher, Project on Hindu Nationalism, Campaign To Stop Funding Hate: April 2002 – December 2003
Following the Hindu nationalist violence in Gujarat in early 2002 that led to the murder of about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, a coalition of scholars, lawyers and other professionals researched the nature and extent of funding raised in the United States for Hindu fundamentalist groups in India. This project explored the connections between diasporic Hindu nationalist charity organizations, in particular the India Development Relief Fund, and Hindutva groups in India that led to extreme human rights abuses, and submitted its findings and policy recommendations to the United States Department of Justice and the Government of India.