Famous Indian Activists

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

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.

Vote for Your Favourite Indian Activists
 1 
B. R. Ambedkar
(One of the Architects of the Indian Constitution)
B. R. Ambedkar
5
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 
Sarojini Naidu
(Indian Political Activist, Poet and 1st Governor of United Provinces)
Sarojini Naidu
4
Birthdate: February 13, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hyderabad, India
Died: March 2, 1949

Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

 3 
Kailash Satyarthi
(Child Rights Activist)
Kailash Satyarthi
13
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.

Recommended Lists:
 4 
Anna Hazare
(Social Activist)
Anna Hazare
5
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.

 5 
Padma Lakshmi
(Indian-American Author, Model and Host of the Cooking Competition Show ‘Top Chef’)
Padma Lakshmi
4
Birthdate: September 1, 1970
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Madras, Tamil Nadu, India

Padma Lakshmi is a model, television host and author. She has hosted cooking competition program Top Chef and has published cookbooks. She has acted in films and television too and is also an activist working for immigration and women’s rights and is a critic of skin-lightening creams. She was married to novelist Salman Rushdie for a little over three years.

 6 
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
(Independence Activist, Reformer)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
4
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.

 7 
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
(Socio-religious Reformer)
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
5
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.

 8 
Arvind Kejriwal
(Chief Minister of Delhi (2013-14, Since 2015))
Arvind Kejriwal
10
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.
 9 
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
(Indian Independence Activist and 1st Indian Minister of Education)
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
3
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
(Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1954-63))
K. Kamaraj
3
Birthdate: July 15, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: October 2, 1975
Recommended Lists:
 11 
Maneka Gandhi
(Politician, Member of Parliament 'Lok Sabha')
Maneka Gandhi
7
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.

 12 
Lala Lajpat Rai
(Indian Author, Freedom Fighter, Politician and One of the Three Members of the ‘Lal Bal Pal’ Trimurti)
Lala Lajpat Rai
3
Birthdate: January 28, 1865
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Punjab, India
Died: November 17, 1928

Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian politician who played a major role in the Indian Independence movement. He is credited with inspiring many young men, including Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad, to join the freedom struggle through journalistic writings and activism. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari

 13 
Kasturba Gandhi
(Wife of Mahatama Gandhi)
Kasturba Gandhi
3
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.

 14 
Gauri Lankesh
(Activist, Journalist)
Gauri Lankesh
5
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.

 15 
Anoushka Shankar
(Internationally Acclaimed Sitar Player, Composer and Daughter of Indian Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar)
Anoushka Shankar
3
Birthdate: June 9, 1981
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom

Anoushka Shankar is a British-Indian music composer and sitar player. Over the years, she has been nominated for several Grammy Awards and has won many prestigious awards, such as Songlines Music Award. In 2004, she was named in the 20 Asian Heroes list published by Time. Anoushka Shankar is also known for her activism and is a supporter of animal rights.  

 16 
Baba Amte
(Indian Social Worker Who was Known for his Work for the Rehabilitation of People Suffering from Leprosy)
Baba Amte
4
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.

 17 
Teji Bachchan
(Human rights activist)
Teji Bachchan
3
Birthdate: August 12, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Faisalabad, Pakistan
Died: December 21, 2007
 18 
Mahasweta Devi
(Human rights activist, Writer, Poet, Novelist, Educator, Short story writer)
Mahasweta Devi
3
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.

 19 
Vinoba Bhave
(Indian Social Reformer and Philosopher Best Known for the 'Bhoodan Movement')
Vinoba Bhave
3
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.

 20 
Rukmini Devi Arundale
(Bharatnatyam Dancer)
Rukmini Devi Arundale
3
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.

 21 
Medha Patkar
(Social Activist)
Medha Patkar
3
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.

 22 
Aruna Asaf Ali
(Indian Independence Activist, Educator)
Aruna Asaf Ali
2
Birthdate: July 16, 1909
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kalka, Punjab, India
Died: July 29, 1996
 23 
Kovai Sarala
(Actress)
Kovai Sarala
3
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.

 24 
Ram Manohar Lohia
(Indian Politician and Independence Movement Activist)
Ram Manohar Lohia
3
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.

 25 
Mahadev Govind Ranade
(Judge, Social Reformer)
Mahadev Govind Ranade
3
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.

 26 
Rahul Bose
(Actor Known as the Superstar of Indian Arthouse Cinema)
Rahul Bose
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bengaluru, Karnataka, 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.

 27 
Biju Patnaik
(Politician)
Biju Patnaik
3
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.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
3
Birthdate: February 24, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ballygunge, Kolkata, India
 29 
Chittaranjan Das
(Leader of the Swaraj Party in Bengal Under British Rule)
Chittaranjan Das
2
Birthdate: November 5, 1870
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kolkata, India
Died: June 16, 1925
 30 
Jamnalal Bajaj
(Businessperson)
Jamnalal Bajaj
2
Birthdate: November 4, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sikar, India
Died: February 11, 1942
 31 
Surendranath Banerjee
3
Birthdate: November 10, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kolkata, India
Died: August 6, 1925
 32 
Sunderlal Bahuguna
(Environmentalist, Political activist)
Sunderlal Bahuguna
3
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.

 33 
Bipin Chandra Pal
(Indian Independence Movement Freedom Fighter)
Bipin Chandra Pal
3
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.

 34 
Vandana Shiva
(Philosopher, Physicist, Writer, University teacher)
Vandana Shiva
0
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.

 35 
Teesta Setalvad
(Author, Journalist)
Teesta Setalvad
2
Birthdate: February 9, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mumbai

Social activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad is best known for establishing the Sabrang Trust, aimed at peace-building after the 1992 Mumbai riots, and the CJP, aimed at seeking justice for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims. The Padma Shri awardee has also successfully obtained 117 convictions against the Gujarat rioters.

 36 
Kumaran Asan
(Writer, Activist)
Kumaran Asan
0
Birthdate: April 12, 1873
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Trivandrum, Travancore, Kerela, India
Died: January 16, 1924

Indian social reformer and Malayali literary icon Kumaran Asan is known for his revolutionary impact on Malayali poetry. He died when the boat carrying him from Kollam to Alappuzha met with an accident midway. He is remembered for his works such as his iconic narrative poem Duravastha.

 37 
Nana Saheb
(Peshwa of the Maratha Empire)
Nana Saheb
2
Birthdate: May 19, 1824
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bithoor
Died: 1859 AD

Nana Saheb, also known as Dhondupant, was a major figure of the 1857 Sepoy Munity, or the first war of Indian independence. The adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II, he was initially on friendly terms with the British but was later forced by circumstances to join the rebels against the British.

 38 
K. Shivaram Karanth
(Author, Poet)
K. Shivaram Karanth
2
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.

 39 
Kunwar Singh
(Revolutionary)
Kunwar Singh
0
Birthdate: November 13, 1777
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: April 26, 1858
 40 
Sugathakumari
(Writer, Activist)
Sugathakumari
2
Birthdate: January 22, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Aranmula, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India
Died: December 23, 2020

Sugathakumari was an Indian activist and poet who played a major role in Kerala's feminist and environmental movements in the late-1970s. She is credited with founding organizations like Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi and Abhaya, which work towards protecting nature and safeguarding women and the mentally ill respectively. During her lifetime, she was honored with several prestigious awards like the Padma Shri.

 41 
J. B. Kripalani
(Politician)
J. B. Kripalani
2
Birthdate: November 11, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hyderabad, Pakistan
Died: March 19, 1982
 42 
Rahul Sankrityayan
(Writer Who Is Often Called the Father of Indian Travelogue)
Rahul Sankrityayan
2
Birthdate: April 9, 1893
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pandaha, Uttar Pradesh , India
Died: April 14, 1963

Rahul Sankrityayan was an Indian freedom fighter and writer. A polyglot, Sankrityayan loved traveling and helped develop travelogue writing as a literary form in India. Dubbed the father of Indian travelogue, Rahul Sankrityayan wrote several travelogues having spent 45 years on travels away from home. In 1963, he was honored with India's third-highest civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan.

 43 
Naresh Kanodia
2
Birthdate: August 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kanoda, British India
Died: October 27, 2020
 44 
Ranjini
(Actress)
Ranjini
2
Birthdate: July 29, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Singapore

Ranjini is a Singaporean actress best known for her work in Indian films, especially the Tamil and Malayalam film industries. Ranjini, who has also appeared in Telugu films, was the leading actress in Kollywood from 1985 to 1992. Apart from appearing in films, Ranjini also judged a couple of beauty pageants in Kerala, India.

 45 
Aruna Roy
(Political and Social Activist)
Aruna Roy
2
Birthdate: June 26, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chennai

Social activist Aruna Roy is best known for establishing the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. Initially a professor, she later served as an IAS officer, following which she concentrated on social work. She spearheaded the right to information movement, which led to the passage of the RTI Act in 2005.

 46 
Mohammad Ali Jauhar
(Indian Muslim Activist and One of the Founders of 'The All-India Muslim League')
Mohammad Ali Jauhar
0
Birthdate: December 10, 1878
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: January 4, 1931

Mohammad Ali Jauhar was an Indian Muslim activist, journalist, poet, and freedom fighter. After starting his career by writing articles for major Indian and British newspapers, Mohammad Ali went on to become one of the founders and an important member of the All-India Muslim League. His life and career inspired a 1984 documentary film titled Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar.

 47 
Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari
(Politician, Activist)
Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari
0
Birthdate: December 25, 1880
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: May 10, 1936
 48 
Potti Sreeramulu
(Revolutionaty, Social activist)
Potti Sreeramulu
0
Birthdate: March 16, 1901
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Padamatipalli, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh, India
Died: December 15, 1952
 49 
Mirabehn
(Political Activist)
Mirabehn
2
Birthdate: November 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: England, United Kingdom
Died: July 20, 1982
 50 
Ela Bhatt
(Indian Cooperative Organiser, Activist and Founder of 'Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA)')
Ela Bhatt
2
Birthdate: September 7, 1933
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ahmedabad, India

Best known as the founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association of India, or SEWA, Ela Bhatt is a champion for women empowerment. Her efforts have won her awards such as the Padma Shri, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the Padma Bhushan. A trained lawyer, she has also been a Rajya Sabha MP.