Famous Indian Activists

Indian activists have for many years, fought for the rights of the common man. In a country where discrimination based on class, caste and creed are rampant, the pain and suffering of the masses often go unnoticed. It is then that people like Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Maneka Gandhi and Anna Hazare, amongst others, take heed, and make it their responsibility to spread awareness, protest and seek help as and when needed. It does not matter if these famous Indian activists resort to active protest or litigation or even mere public appeal, what makes the difference is that they have the courage to stand up for others against corruption. These activists battle it out with the wrong-doers for a plethora of causes, from women’s rights to environmental issues to cruelty against animals. Often disliked by the authorities as well as the ones at fault, these activists have become famous and popular amidst victims of injustice, for the empathy they show. Here you will find a collection of biographies of some of the most well-known Indian activists. Read on and find out all about their life stories, timelines and also some interesting facts & trivia pertaining to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 B. R. Ambedkar

B. R. Ambedkar
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Famous As: One of the Architects of the Indian Constitution
Birthdate: April 14, 1891
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: December 6, 1956

India's first Minister of Law and Justice, B. R. Ambedkar inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement. He also fought against social discrimination prevalent in India at that time. Widely regarded as the chief architect of the Constitution of India, Ambedkar was posthumously honored with India's highest civilian award - The Bharat Ratna.

 2 Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi
10
Famous As: Child Rights Activist
Birthdate: January 11, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vidisha, India

Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian social reformer who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Satyarthi is best known for his campaign against child labor in India. Kailash Satyarthi is credited with founding several social activist organizations like Global March Against Child Labour, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, and Global Campaign for Education.

 3 Anna Hazare

Anna Hazare
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Famous As: Social Activist
Birthdate: June 15, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India

Anna Hazare is an Indian social activist known for his efforts to improve rural places in India. His contribution to the development of Ralegan Siddhi earned him the Padma Bhushan in 1992. He is also known for his fight against corruption; he went on a hunger strike in 2011 to exert pressure on the government to enact an anti-corruption law.

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 4 Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi
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Famous As: Leader of Indian Independence Movement
Birthdate: October 2, 1869
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Porbandar, India
Died: January 30, 1948

An Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist, Mahatma Gandhi was a major figure in India’s fight for independence from British rule. He is renowned for his employment of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience methods. Despite his popularity, he had numerous detractors as well and was assassinated in 1948. He is widely considered the Father of the Nation in India.

 5 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
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Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 6 Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy
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Famous As: Socio-religious Reformer
Birthdate: May 22, 1772
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radhanagore, West Bengal, India
Died: September 27, 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.

 7 Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal
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Famous As: Chief Minister of Delhi (2013-14, Since 2015)
Birthdate: August 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Siwani, Haryana, India
Indian politician Arvind Kejriwal is the incumbent chief minister of Delhi and the founder of the Aam Aadmi Party. The Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning leader is an IIT-KGP alumnus and was initially a joint commissioner of income tax with the IRS. His book Swaraj highlights burning issues such as corruption.
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 8 Tina Ambani

Tina Ambani
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 11, 1957
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bombay, State of Bombay, India

Tina Ambani is an Indian former actress who has appeared in popular Hindi films like Rocky, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Deedar-E-Yaar. Best known as the wife of popular businessman Anil Ambani, Tina serves as the chairperson of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Harmony Art Foundation, and Harmony for Silvers Foundation.

 9 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
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Famous As: Indian Minister of Education (1947-58)
Birthdate: November 11, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: February 22, 1958

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, and scholar. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, serving as a senior leader of the Congress. His contribution to the Indian education system is recognized across India by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day

 10 K. Kamaraj

K. Kamaraj
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Famous As: Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1954-63)
Birthdate: July 15, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: October 2, 1975
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 11 Amala Akkineni

Amala Akkineni
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 12, 1967
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Apart from being a fine actor, Amala Akkineni is also a talented Bharatnatyam dancer. A true animal lover, she has also co-established the NGO Blue Cross of Hyderabad. She gained recognition with her debut in Mythili Ennai Kaathali. She is now married to legendary actor Nagarjuna.

 12 Maneka Gandhi

Maneka Gandhi
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: August 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Delhi, India

Maneka Gandhi is an Indian politician, environmentalist, and animal rights activist. She is credited with inspiring several individuals towards social entrepreneurship. Maneka Gandhi is best known as an animal rights leader for which she has received several international awards. She is also credited with establishing an animal welfare organization named People for Animals.

 13 Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi
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Famous As: Police officer
Birthdate: June 9, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Amritsar, India

Kiran Bedi is an Indian police officer and social activist. In 1972, she became the first Indian woman to serve as an officer in the Indian Police Service. From 2016 to 2021, she served as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, playing an important role in the development of the Indian Union Territory. Her life has inspired many films, including Karthavyam.

 14 Gautami

Gautami
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 2, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nidadavole, Andhra Pradesh, India

A prominent actor of Tamil and Telugu films, Gautami also found success as a TV host and a costume designer. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, she later recovered and launched Life Again Foundation, geared toward helping cancer patients. She was in a 13-year live-in relationship with actor Kamal Haasan.

 15 Manisha Koirala

Manisha Koirala
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 16, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kathmandu, Nepal

Manisha Koirala is a Nepalese actress known for her work in Indian films. One of the most critically acclaimed actresses of the 1990s, Koirala has won several prestigious awards. She is also known for her social activism and is credited with promoting women's rights. Her achievements in films and off-screen work have made her one of the most recognized Nepalis.

 16 Gauri Lankesh

Gauri Lankesh
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Famous As: Activist, Journalist
Birthdate: January 29, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Died: September 5, 2017

The daughter of Kannada poet P. Lankesh, Gauri Lankesh began her career as a journalist for The Times of India. She also worked as an editor of Lankesh Patrike. Later, she was known for her firebrand left-wing activism against Hindutva and was eventually shot dead by three men near her Bengaluru home.

 17 Javed Jaffrey

Javed Jaffrey
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 4, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Malliwala, Uttar Pradesh, India

Javed Jaffrey is an Indian comedian, actor, and dancer best known for his work in Hindi television shows and films. He is also known for his contribution as a voice-over artist; he was the narrator of the Hindi version of the popular Japanese game show Takeshi's Castle

 18 Kasturba Gandhi

Kasturba Gandhi
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Famous As: Wife of Mahatama Gandhi
Birthdate: April 11, 1869
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Porbandar
Died: February 22, 1944

Kasturba Gandhi was an Indian freedom fighter and political activist. Best remembered as the wife of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kasturba took part in Indian independence movements along with her husband. Her life and career inspired a play titled Kasturba which was written by Narayan Desai and directed by Aditi Desai. The play was staged several times in India.

 19 Charan Singh

Charan Singh
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Famous As: Prime Minister of India
Birthdate: December 23, 1902
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Noorpur, Uttar Pradesh India
Died: May 29, 1987

Charan Singh was an Indian politician who served as the prime minister of India for a short period of 24 weeks between July 1979  and January 1980. Referred to as the champion of India's peasants, Charan Singh is best remembered for working towards the welfare of farmers. Lucknow's international airport, which was earlier named The Amausi Airport, is now named after him.

 20 Jaya Prada

Jaya Prada
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 3, 1962
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India

Jaya Prada was once one of the highest-paid actors in the Hindi and Telugu film industries. Though she initially aspired to become a doctor, her interest in dance took over later and she later soared to fame with films such as Sargam and Tohfa. She has also been an MP.

 21 Nandita Das

Nandita Das
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 7, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Delhi, India

Born to painter Jatin Das and author Varsha Das, Nandita Das was initially associated with NGOs. She later proved herself to be a fine actor and director. She has impressed audiences with her socially relevant films such as Fire and Bawandar and has also spearheaded the Dark is Beautiful campaign.

 22 Anant Nag

Anant Nag
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 4, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bombay, State of Bombay, India

Anant Nag is an Indian actor best known for his work in the Kannada film industry. Renowned for his contribution to parallel cinema during the 1970s and '80s, Anant Nag is a recipient of five Karnataka State Film Awards and six Filmfare Awards South. Apart from acting in Kannada films, he has also appeared in Marathi, Malayalam, Hindi, and Telugu films.

 23 Gul Panag

Gul Panag
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 3, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chandigarh, Punjab, India

Gul Panag is an Indian actress, model, voice actress, and former beauty queen. In 1999, she won the Miss India title after which she went on to represent India in the 1999 Miss Universe pageant. She then appeared in several advertisements, becoming a popular model in India. Panag is also known for playing important roles in popular films like Dhoop.

 24 Baba Amte

Baba Amte
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Birthdate: December 26, 1914
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Wardha, Maharashtra
Died: February 9, 2008

Baba Amte was an Indian activist and social worker best remembered for his work that aimed at empowering people suffering from leprosy. Dubbed the modern Gandhi of India, Amte received several prestigious awards, such as the Gandhi Peace Prize, Dr. Ambedkar International Award, Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the Padma Vibhushan.

 25 Nandana Sen

Nandana Sen
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 19, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Calcutta, West Bengal, India

Nandana Sen is an Indian actress, children's rights activist, children's author, and screenwriter. Apart from appearing in Indian films, Nandana Sen has also appeared in Italian, Canadian, and American films. She has also been playing an important role in fighting against the crisis of child trafficking. She has also written six children's books, including The Monkey Who Wanted to Fly.

 26 Teji Bachchan

Teji Bachchan
3
Famous As: Human rights activist
Birthdate: August 12, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Faisalabad, Pakistan
Died: December 21, 2007

 27 Mahasweta Devi

Mahasweta Devi
3
Famous As: Human rights activist, Writer, Poet, Novelist, Educator, Short story writer
Birthdate: January 14, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dhaka
Died: July 28, 2016

Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning Indian author Mahasweta Devi is regarded as a gem of the Bengali literary world. She had also been a left-wing social activist, and her works such as Hajar Churashir Maa and Rudali have either tribals or people from the marginalized communities as their protagonists.

 28 Debashree Roy

Debashree Roy
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 13, 1961
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Calcutta, West Bengal, India

Debashree Roy is an Indian dancer, choreographer, actress, animal rights activist, and politician. Best known for her work in the Bengali film industry, Debashree Roy has won several awards like the National Film Award. She is credited with establishing the Debasree Roy Foundation, which aims at helping stray animals.

 29 Rukmini Devi Arundale

Rukmini Devi Arundale
3
Famous As: Bharatnatyam Dancer
Birthdate: February 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: February 24, 1986

Rukmini Devi Arundale was an Indian dancer and choreographer. An exponent of Bharatanatyam, Rukmini Devi helped revive the original sadhir style of the dance form. She also popularized Bharatanatyam among Indian upper-caste elites for which she was named in India Today's 100 People Who Shaped India list. In 1956, Rukmini Devi Arundale was honored with the Padma Bhushan.

 30 Vinoba Bhave

Vinoba Bhave
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Famous As: Social Reformer & Philosopher
Birthdate: September 11, 1895
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Died: November 15, 1982

Vinoba Bhave was an Indian social reformer and advocate of human rights and nonviolence. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave played an important role in the Indian freedom movement. In 1958, he became the first person to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, Vinoba Bhave was posthumously honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.

 31 Biju Patnaik

Biju Patnaik
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 5, 1916
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Asika Aska, Bihar, India
Died: April 17, 1997

One of Orissa’s political icons, Biju Patnaik had led the Indian state as its chief minister for two terms. Often regarded as the Hero of Kalinga, he had a major role in shaping the post-independence infrastructure of Orissa and was also part of India’s freedom struggle. He was also a skilled pilot.

 32 Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 21, 1965
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Madras, Tamil Nadu, India

Pramila Jayapal is a politician who has been serving as the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington's 7th district since 2017. She is the first woman of Indian origin to serve as the U.S. Representative. She is also the current Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. From 2015 to 2016, Jayapal served in the Washington Senate from the 37th district. 

 33 Poonam Dhillon

Poonam Dhillon
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 18, 1962
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

Poonam Dhillon is an Indian actress who was one of the leading ladies in Hindi films in late 1970s and 1980s. A former Femina Miss India, Dhillon achieved national recognition in 1979 when she played Noorie Nabi in the romance film Noorie. Poonam Dhillon’s popularity was revived in 2009 when she appeared in the popular television reality show Bigg Boss.

 34 Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar
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Famous As: Social Activist
Birthdate: December 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mumbai

Medha Patkar is an Indian social activist known for her work concerning several issues raised by farmers, tribes, women, and laborers facing injustice in India. She is also known for popularizing the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement which opposes the construction of large dams across the Narmada River. Medha Patkar is the recipient of many awards including the Mother Teresa Award.

 35 Ram Manohar Lohia

Ram Manohar Lohia
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Akbarpur, India
Died: October 12, 1967

Born to an Indian freedom fighter, Ram Manohar Lohia grew up to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Indian National Congress to oust the British. He was also associated with Gandhiji’s Quit India movement. He had also co-established the Congress Socialist Party and written extensively on the caste system.

 36 Aruna Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali
2
Famous As: Indian Independence Activist, Educator
Birthdate: July 16, 1909
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kalka, Punjab, India
Died: July 29, 1996

 37 Kovai Sarala

Kovai Sarala
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 7, 1962
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Nandi Award-winning comedian Kovai Sarala has been loved by Tamil and Telugu audiences for her roles in films such as Sathi Leelavathi and Uliyin Osai. She began her acting career in 9th grade and has since then appeared in over 300 films. She is now part of the Makkal Needhi Maiam party.

 38 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
3
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: February 24, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ballygunge, Kolkata, India

 39 Mahadev Govind Ranade

Mahadev Govind Ranade
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Famous As: Judge, Social Reformer
Birthdate: January 18, 1842
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Niphad
Died: January 16, 1901

Mahadev Govind Ranade was an Indian social reformer, scholar, author, and judge. Ranade is credited with co-founding the Indian National Congress as well as founding several organizations like the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Widow Marriage Association, and Vaktruttvottejak Sabha. He also contributed as an editor of a nationalist publication named Induprakash.

 40 Rahul Bose

Rahul Bose
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 27, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: India

Initially a Rediffusion copywriter, Rahul Bose quit the agency after bagging a role in English August. A prolific stage actor, he has also been part National Award-winning films such as Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and Antaheen. A talented rugby player, too, he plays for the Indian national rugby team.

 41 Jamnalal Bajaj

Jamnalal Bajaj
2
Famous As: Businessperson
Birthdate: November 4, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sikar, India
Died: February 11, 1942

 42 M. N. Roy

M. N. Roy
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Famous As: Revolutionary, Philosopher
Birthdate: March 21, 1887
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Changripota, 24 Parganas, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died: January 25, 1954

Apart from being one of the co-founders of the Communist Party of India, M. N. Roy also established the Mexican Communist Party. Jailed for his political activities, he penned the nine-volume Prison Manuscripts in prison. He later joined the Indian National Congress but quit it soon after.

 43 Bipin Chandra Pal

Bipin Chandra Pal
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 7, 1858
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Habiganj District, Bangladesh
Died: May 20, 1932

Bipin Chandra Pal was an Indian nationalist, social reformer, writer, orator, and freedom fighter. Along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal was part of the famous Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Pal played a key role in the establishment of the Swadeshi movement. He also worked for popular publications and promoted his brand of nationalism.

 44 Surendranath Banerjee

Surendranath Banerjee
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: November 10, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kolkata, India
Died: August 6, 1925

 45 Chittaranjan Das

Chittaranjan Das
2
Famous As: Indian freedom fighter, Lawyer
Birthdate: November 5, 1870
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kolkata, India
Died: June 16, 1925

 46 Ram Prasad Bismil

Ram Prasad Bismil
0
Famous As: Writer, Activist
Birthdate: June 11, 1897
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Died: December 19, 1927

 47 Shivaram Rajguru

Shivaram Rajguru
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Famous As: Revolutionary
Birthdate: August 24, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Maharashtra, India
Died: March 23, 1931

 48 Sunderlal Bahuguna

Sunderlal Bahuguna
3
Famous As: Environmentalist, Political activist
Birthdate: January 9, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tehri

Sunderlal Bahuguna was an Indian environmentalist best remembered for his involvement in the Chipko movement. The movement, which aims at conserving forests, received a major boost after Bahuguna created the slogan ecology is the permanent economy. The movement inspired similar movements across India. Sunderlal Bahuguna is also remembered for leading the anti-Tehri Dam movement.

 49 Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva
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Famous As: Philosopher, Physicist, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: November 5, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dehradun

Indian environmental activist and physicist Vandana Shiva is known for her anti-GMO campaigns. The Gandhi of grain is the founder of RFSTN, which promotes sustainable agriculture, and is against globalization. She developed an interest in environmentalism after witnessing a forest at her hometown being cleared for a project.

 50 K. Shivaram Karanth

K. Shivaram Karanth
2
Famous As: Author, Poet
Birthdate: October 10, 1902
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Udupi district
Died: December 9, 1997

Indian polymath and environmentalist K. Shivaram Karanth, who enriched Kannada literature with his novels and plays, was named the "Rabindranath Tagore of Modern India" by Ramachandra Guha. He had quit college to join the Non-Cooperation Movement and later returned his Padma Bhushan to protest against the Emergency of the 1970s.