Born in Allahabad in 1958, Anwar received his Ph.D in Urdu Literature from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he was an activist with the All India Students Federation, the student wing of the Communist Party of India. Anwar was an atheist and a lifelong leftist and was a well known figure in activist circles in Delhi.
Over a long career as a grassroots activist, Anwar pioneered the concept of training volunteers in issues of communal harmony, secularism and related areas. He has trained thousands of volunteers to uphold these ideals in public spaces in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries.
He was a fierce critic of communalism, particularly of the muslim variety. In 2013, he wrote a series of opinion articles in the respected Hindi daily Jansatta sharply attacking Wahabbism. He received many death threats over these articles.
His NGO, Institue for Social Democracy, was one of the spearheads of the Nirbhaya anti rape protests in Delhi in 2012-13. His was the only organization in the country to observe Dec 16 as a holiday in memory of Nirbhaya’s struggle.