Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Profile of Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)—a social science research centre, based in Delhi. Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS aimed at the study of diverse faith traditions and cultures in the Indic civilisation. She is the ...

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“I have a horror of all isms, especially those that attach themselves to proper names”.
-- M. K. Gandhi --
Profile of Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)—a social science research centre, based in Delhi. Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS aimed at the study of diverse faith traditions and cultures in the Indic civilisation. She is the Founder Editor and publisher of Manushi - A Journal about Women and Society published since 1979. The Journal is run by a non-profit Trust. Kishwar is also Founder President, Manushi Sangathan - a forum for research based advocacy and active interventions to strengthen human rights, women's rights and the culture of social justice in India.

Books authored or edited by Kishwar


  • Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Critical Review of Laws to Strengthen Women’s Rights, Sage Publishers, (2008)
  • Deepening Democracy: Challenges of Governance and Globalization in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005.
  • Rashtriyata ki Chakri Mein Dharm, (Hindi), Vani Prakashan, 2005.
  • Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999.
  • Himalaya Bachao Andolan ki Do Awazein,(Hindi) Manushi Prakashan, 1999
  • Religion at the Service of Nationalism and Other Essays, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998.
  • The Dilemma and Other Stories by Vijaydan Detha, (Ed) Manushi Prakashan, 1997.
  • In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi. (Co-edited with Ruth Vanita), Zed Books, London, 1984. Second edition, Horizon Books, New Delhi, 1990. Third edition, Manohar, New Delhi, 1996. Also published in Japanese by Akashi Shoten, Tokyo, 1990.
  • Women Bhakta Poets, Lives and Poetry of Women Mystics in India from 6th to 17th Century (Co-edited with Ruth Vanita), Manushi Prakashan, New Delhi, 1989.
  • Gandhi and Women, Manushi Prakashan, New Delhi, 1986. (Also published in Telugu).


  • The Quintessential Oneness of Amar, Akbar Anthony: Bollywood’s Portrayal of Minority-Majority Relations in India”

Select List of Book Chapters

  • "The Daughters of Aryavarta: Women in the Arya Samaj movement, Punjab." Chapter in Women in Colonial India; Essays on Survival, Work and the State, edited by J. Krishnamurthy, Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • "Indian Women: a Decade of New Ferment." Chapter co authored with Ruth Vanita in India Briefings, edited by Marshal M. Boutton and Philip Oldenburg, Westview Press, 1989.
  • "Scattering the Seeds". Chapter in On Being a Teacher, edited by Amrik Singh, Konarak Publishers, New Delhi, 1990.
  • "Some Aspects of Bondage: The Denial of Fundamental Rights to Women." Chapter in Expanding Government Lawlessness and Organised Struggles, edited by A.R. Desai, Popular Prakashan, 1991.
  • "A Horror of Isms." Chapter in The Woman's Question, edited by Marry Evans, Sage Publications, London, 1994.
  • "Learning to Take People Seriously" chapter in "Anthropological Journeys: Reflections on Field Work" edited by Meenakshi Thapan, published by Orient Longman Limited, New Delhi, 1998.
  • "Majoritarianism vs. Minoritarianism" chapter in a collection of essays entitled Minority Identities and the Nation State, edited by D.L. Sheth and Gurpreet Mahajan, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • "Yes to Sita, No to Ram! The Continuing Popularity of Sita in India” In Questioning Ramayanas, a book of essays edited by Paula Richman, co-published by University of California Press, USA and Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000
  • "Need for a Bottoms up Agenda for Economic Reforms" chapter in "Equality, Employment & Economic Order in South Asia", Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi, 2002.
  • “The Idea of India - Bollywood Style" chapter in The India Mosaic: Searching for an Identity, edited by Bibek Debroy & D. Shyam Babu, Academic Foundation and Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi, 2004.
  • “Enhancing Women’s Representation in Legislatures: An Alternative to the Government Bill for Women’s Reservation” chapter coauthored with Jayaprakash Narayan, Dhirubhai Sheth & Yogendra Yadav in "Electoral Reforms in India", edited by Anjoo Sharan Upadhyaya, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi 2005.
  • “Begining With Our Own Lives: A Call for Dowry Boycott", chapter in "Dowry & Inheritance", edited by Smt. Basu, Women Unlimited & Kali for Women, New Delhi 2005.
  • “Rethinking Dowry Boycott", chapter in "Dowry & Inheritance", edited by Smt. Basu, Women Unlimited & Kali for Women, New Delhi 2005.
  • “Dowry and Inheritance Rights", chapter in "Dowry & Inheritance” edited by Smt. Basu, Women Unlimited & Kali for Women, New Delhi 2005.
  • ‘No’ to Zenana Dabbas : De-ghettoizing Women’s Politics and Enhancing Their Representation in Legislatures, in Peter Ronald deSouza and E. Sridharan (eds.), India’s Political Parties, Readings in Indian Government and Politics, New Delhi, Sage, 2006
  • Gandhi on Women, in A. Raghuramaraju (ed.), Debating Gandhi – A Reader, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, New Delhi 2006
  • “Initiatives against Dowry Deaths” (with Ruth Vanita) published in Women’s Studies in India: A Reader, 2008 edited by Mary E.John,
  • “India and Pakistan—60 Years Later”, published in the theme volume of the IIC Quarterly, The Great Divide: India and Pakistan 2009. It will also appear as a co-publication with HarperCollins in a book of the same name.
  • “Urban Informal Sector: The Need for a Bottom-up Agenda of Economic Reforms--Case Studies of Cycle Rickshaws and Street Vendors in Delhi”, published in India: Urban Poverty Report, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Government of India, Oxford University Press, 2009
  • “When Communities Become Nationalities: Politics of Intercommunity Relations in India”: Beyond Borders: The SAARC Journal, 2008
  • Chapter on “Women in the Nationalist Movement” Gandhi’s Views on Women's Role in the Struggle for Swaraj”, in National Movement in India – A Reader, edited by Shekhar Bandyopadhyay, Oxford University Press 2009,
  • “Messy Legacy of the Partition of 1947”, published in The Great Divide: India and Pakistan, Harper Collins, 2009

Published Research Papers in Journals

  • “A New Plebiscite Deal for J&K”, Economic and Political Weekly, January 15, 2003
  • “Community v/s Nationalities: Plea for a Minority Rights Policy”, Department of Regional Studies Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
  • “History of Affirmative Action for Women in India”, Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development, Thailand.
  • "Traditional Female Moral Exemplars in India", "Education About Asia”, Vol. 6, No. 3, Winter 2001.
  • "Equality of Opportunities vs Equality of Results: Needed Improvements in the Women's Reservation Bill", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXXV. Nov 47, November 18, 2000.
  • "Women and Politics: Beyond Quotas”, Economic and Political Weekly,Vol. 31, No. 43, October 26, 1996.
  • "Breakdown of Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in Contemporary India". in a symposium on the “Limits of Tolerance” in Seminar, 435, November, 1995.
  • "The Primacy of Cultural Issues in Manushi", Journal of Culture and Policy, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1994, Institute for Cultural Policy Studies, Australia.
  • "Codified Hindu Law: Myth and Reality", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXIX, No. 33, August 13, 1994.
  • "Ways to Combat Communal Violence", Alternatives, 1991.
  • "Violence on Gurupurab in Jammu". (with Smithu Kothari), Economic and Political Weekly, April 15, 1989.
  • "Struggle of Indian Women". Philosophy and Social Action, 14(4), 1988.
  • "Integrity in Women’s Issues". Seminar, April, 1988.
  • "Nature of Women’s Mobilization in Rural India". Economic and Political Weekly, (in two parts) December 24 and 31, 1988.
  • "The Burning of Roop Kanwar". (with Ruth Vanita), Race and Class, July-Sep., 1988.
  • "The Struggle of Indian Women”. Philosophy and Social Action, 14(4), 1988.
  • "Mahilayon Ke bare Gandhiji ke Vichar". Arthshastri, Oct-Nov., 1988.
  • "Toiling Without Rights: Ho Women of Singhbhum", Economic and Political Weekly, (in three parts) Vol. 22, Nos 3-4-5, January, 1987.
  • "The Daughters of Aryavarta: Women in the Arya Samaj Movement in Punjab", Indian Economic and Social History Review, February 23, 1986.
  • "Arya Samaj and Women’s Education: Case Study of the Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Jalandhar". Economic and Political Weekly, 31(17), 1986.
  • "Gandhi and Women". Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XX, Nos. 40, & 41, 1985. (This has been translated and published in Telugu as a book.) Reprinted in Race and Class, London, Summer, 1986.

In addition she has contributed numerous articles to Manushi and written scores of articles for mainstream newspapers.
Kishwar is associated with the following organizations:

  • Core Group of the Expert Review Committee for reviewing research fellowships at the Centre for Contemporary studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, 2009 onwards.
  • Member, Task Force, Criminal Justice, National Security and Centre-State Cooperation, Inter-State Council Secretariat, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 2008 onwards.
  • Member of Steering Group for a series of seminars on “Public Representation of Religion called Hinduism”, set up by School of Arts, Histories and Cultures University of Manchester, 2007 onwards.
  • Member, Governing Council, Common Cause, 2007 onwards.
  • Member, Board of Governors, Janaagraha, Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. Bangalore, 2005 onwards.
  • Member, Advisory Board, National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganized and Informal Sector, Govt. of India, 2005—2009.
  • Executive Committee, Editor’s Guild of India, 1991 onwards.
  • Board of Trustees, Indian Social Studies Trust, 1997 onwards.
  • Member, Advisory Board, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Society (1989 to 2003).

Awards Received

  • Order of Human Rights: All India Sikh Conference, 1985.
  • Chameli Devi Jain Award, Best Woman Journalist of the Year, Media Foundation, New Delhi, 1986.
  • Haldi Ghati Award, Outstanding Journalist of the Year, Rana Mewar Foundation, Udaipur, 1993.
  • Prabha Puruskar, for "distinguished service to the cause of women" Keshav Smarak Sansthan, Lucknow, 1997.
  • Deshasnehi Award, India Development Foundation, Bangalore, 1998.
  • Vidula Samman, instituted by Vikas, An Institution Dedicated to the Cause of Education and Knowledge, Calcutta, 1998.
  • Annual Award for Community Service by Indians for Collective Action, September 28, 2008

Documentary Films and Media Work

Kishwar also makes documentary films on a variety of themes in order to mobilize opinion on issues.

1) Manas Series for Doordarshan were shown on the national channel:

  • Dowry: Compulsion vs. Need. The social and economic dynamics behind the spread of the culture of dowry despite stringent legislation.
  • The Disinheritance of Women from Family Property.
  • Liquor and State Policy: Why Anti-Liquor Movements Inevitably Turn Anti-State.
  • Governmental Controls on Agriculture and the Increasing Rural-Urban Divide being promoted through our Farm Policy.
  • License Permit Raj: a View from Below (Study of street vendors and rickshaw pullers in Delhi).
  • The Pauperization of our Traditional Technologists and Artisans.

2) Researched, scripted and anchored a prime-time programme called News Watch on the Doodarshan Channel. This was an investigative weekly programme of media review, which provided an informed critique of media reports on important issues, covering the content as well as the presentation of media reports.

3) Under the Agenda for India series commissioned by the national television channel Doordarshan she made thirteen episodes entitled “Kisse Kanoon Ke” reviewing the actual workings and impact of various laws enacted ostensibly to protect or strengthen women’s rights in India.
4) Conceptualized and anchored a series of youth programmes entitled Baazgasht for the Srinagar Kendra of Doordarshan in 2006.

5) Her latest documentary film entitled A Tale of Four Cities, deals with the survival battles of street vendors against eviction drives in Patiala, Gwalior, Lukhnow and Hyderabad resulting in vendor suicides in the first three above mentioned cities

6) Kishwar has also written and set to music a cassette of songs on women’s issues entitled Manushi Geet. Some of these were used in a street play entitled Roshni created as a group effort by Manushi’s performance team under the direction of Feisal Alkazi.

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