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Chintan Girish Modi considers M.K. Gandhi a pioneer in civil resistance. But the Mumbai resident, who has been working at the intersection of peace education, gender equality and queer rights, is not comfortable with the idea of people worshipping Gandhi. “There is a large body of writing by people who find his thoughts on caste, race and gender utterly problematic. These critics are worth engaging with," says Modi, 34, who is a Shanti Fellow with Prajnya Trust’s Education for Peace initiative, where his work involves sensitizing teachers towards the violence faced by LGBTQ+ students. He also works with Chennai-based The Red Elephant Foundation, on their Ahimsa project to build a collection of resources that educators can rely on when they want to initiate conversations about peace and runs the “Aao Dosti Karein" initiative that focuses on healing the discord between Indians and Pakistanis.

Much of his work, Modi says, is inspired by South Asia’s poets, mystics and saints, including Kabir, Mirabai and Amir Khusrau, who encouraged him to seek “freedom, love and fearlessness". He doesn’t have a role model, but the one person who has a “special place" in his heart is Buddha. “His teachings on suffering and compassion have been extremely beneficial for me," says Modi. He doesn’t want to talk about the challenges he faced on the path to become what he is today though. “Everyone faces challenges, and so have I. I hold no grudges. I am just fortunate to be engaged in work that’s an expression of the values I care about."

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