By Yalda Sadiq
Shabana Azmi, Bollywood star and humanitarian activist, will be
at the Bronco Student Center in the Ursa Major room tonight at 7:30
p.m. for a dialogue “Films, Politics, and Social Justice” presented
by the Ahimsa Center.
Azmi received the 2006 International Gandhi Peace Prize in the
United Kingdom for her efforts in providing shelter to the poor,
which was previously given to personalities such as the Dalai Lama
and Desmond Tutu, according to Tara Sethia, director of Ahimsa and
“[We chose her because of her] distinguished career in films,
but also a courageous activism in the area of socialism,” said
Azmi claims she doesn’t have a “fixed agenda” for coming to Cal
Poly. She likes going to universities to see what is on the mind of
The lecture will consist of Azmi’s contributions as movie star
and activist in humanitarian projects on issues such as human
rights, communal harmony and social justice. A short documentary
called Shabana will be played and then the floor will be open for
She has more than a hundred film credits under her belt, which
usually revolve around social issues, alongside her mainstream
movies. Some of her movies include “Fire,” “Morning Raga,” “City of
Joy” and “Ankhur,” according to the flyer.
As an activist, she has taken part in marches, demonstrations
and hunger strikes to get justice for the voiceless.
Among her awards and recognitions, Azmi has received the 2006
Crystal Award at the Davos World Economic Forum, the Martin Luther
King, Jr. award in the state of Michigan in 2000, was nominated to
the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament for five
years and in 2002, was named as one of the 25 Asian heroes by Time
She believes in using “art as an instrument for change” and says
she uses her celebrity status to do so.
For the past 20 years, she has been involved with an
organization called Nivara Hakk, which means “the right to
shelter,” according to Azmi. When she first joined, she went on a
five-day hunger strike so the government would give land to the
slum dwellers living in tents around buildings in Mumbai,
The government gave the slum dwellers three and a half acres of
land. Today the land has become the “single largest rehabilitation
project in Asia,” by building homes and townships for 13,000
families, which equates to 80,000 slum dwellers, according to
Azmi is now concentrating her efforts on working with women.
She’s carrying on the legacy of her father in the Mijwan village in
North India by building schools equipped with a computer center for
She believes the success of a country is determined by “the
degree its women are empowered.”
“[Give women] access to education, nutrition, healthcare and
equal opportunities (and) you (will) get equal results,” said
Her contribution to the well-being of humanity makes her the
perfect candidate to be invited by the Ahimsa Center.
Her work with “slum dwellers, underprivileged women and AIDS
require courage and compassion,” said Sethia. “It shows a sense of
Since it was founded in 2004 by Sethia, the Ahimsa Center has
invited many distinguished individuals for lectures because they
agree with the center’s ideals-“nonviolence in thought and
“Peace is ambiguous. Call yourself nonviolence and peace will
follow,” said Sethia of the name of the center, which in Sanskrit
means “nonviolence rooted in courage and compassion, in
fearlessness and forgiveness.”
The center is working on providing a nonviolence minor by next
fall, which will be taught by professors of many disciplines. The
minor will include studying leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin
Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, among others.
Tickets for tonight’s event are $20 through the Ahimsa Web site
and on-site, but students, faculty and staff can contact Sethia
prior to the event and get a limited $5 discount.
Yalda Sadiq can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or
by phone at (909) 869-3747.
Bollywood Star to Visit Cal Poly
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