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Sunday 23 November  
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New York, United States of America
New York, United States of America

Who are South Asia's most influential people in the world?

Published on : 19 April 2012 - 2:34pm | By Johan van Slooten (Photo by RNW)
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What do a documentary maker, a Chief Justice, an advocate for sexual minorities and a West Bengal populist political leader have in common, except that they're all from the South Asian region? Not much - indeed, you wouldn't find their names linked in one article on these pages very often. But US magazine Time has managed to group them together in this year's edition of the Top 100 list of Most Influential People worldwide.

They are Pakistani documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Indian advocate for sexual minorities Anjali Gopalan, Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and West Bengal political leader Mamata Banerjee.

They are part of a group of a hundred people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world (although the Americans are best represented), who as individuals represent the world we live in today.

The list includes sportsmen, entertainers, politicians, artists, scientists and activists. Some of them are world famous (Adele, Lionel Messi, Barack Obama), others are more obscure. The huge spectrum of people begs the question whether it’s really possible to compare Rihanna with, say, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Even so, Time has selected four prominent individuals from South Asia for its list and each have different careers and backgrounds. But all four of them seem to have one thing in common: they represent (or claim to represent) the unrepresented in India’s and Pakistan’s society.

What do you think? Do these four people deserve to be included in this list? Who else from the South Asian region should be honoured for being one of the world’s most influential people? And why? Let us know using the comments section below!

Anjali Gopalan
She founded the Naz Foundation (India) Trust in 1994 which works on HIV/AIDS-related issues and sexual health. She became an advocate for victims of HIV/AIDS as she discovered there was a lack of support for these people from the Indian government.  She's also a staunch supporter of gay rights in India. “She has done more than anyone else to advance the rights of gays and the transgendered in India, successfully petitioning the courts to get rid of a British-era law against sodomy,” says Time. She also runs a home for HIV-positive orphans.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
She became the first Pakistani ever to win an Oscar and an Emmy award, for her film “Saving Face”, about survivors of acid-related violence. It’s not just a film, it’s an educational awareness campaign which travels through cities and villages in Pakistan. “She celebrates the strength and resilience of those fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds — and winning,” says Time.

Iftikhar Chaudhry
He’s fighting against giants. As the head of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, he’s taken on the prime minister and the president to hold them to account on various allegations. According to Time, Mr Chaudry has been the first Supreme Court leader to do so. Even though he’s facing firm opposition from the political elite – the prime minister has openly expressed his anger at the court – Mr Chaudry has promised to hold firm and find the prime minister guilty of contempt. “A nation long deprived of justice now anxiously awaits [that],” writes Time.

Under his guidance, the Supreme Court also ruled that transvestites and eunuchs should be allowed to identify themselves as a distinct gender.

Mamata Banerjee
Time labels her as a “populist”, but not with the negative connotation this word often has. Ms Banerjee had to overcome many social and political obstacles to achieve her crowning moment last year – winning the elections in West Bengal with her Trinamool Congress Party, beating the Marxists who had been in power since the mid-1970s.

Coming from a lower-middle-class background, she fought her way up in India’s political ranks to impress both political opponents and supporters. “As chief minister of her home state, she has emerged as a populist woman of action — strident and divisive but poised to play an even greater role in the world's largest democracy,” says Time.

 

Discussion

jasmin 24 April 2012 - 4:52am

Take Mamata Banerjee out of this list, she did nothing for the Indian railways as a union railway minister and is unpopular as a chief minister due to her dictatorial attitude. She only knows how to grab power but does not know how to be of use to the people who vote for her.

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