Tahir Amin, Co-Found and Co-Executive Director of I-MAK has 25 years of experience as a leading intellectual property lawyer. But in 2003, on track to partnership at his law firm, Amin found himself grappling with his conscience. His passion for photography had inspired him to travel to other countries, to witness and document human rights injustices. It was during this time that he began to understand the global economic and legal frameworks that he had been helping to prop up during his time in the private sector. He realized that the lucrative work he was doing was directly harming communities – and those communities looked a lot like the ones he came from: working class families who were being devastated by structural inequality.
He decided to move to India, where he was offered a research position by the non-governmental organization, the Alternative Law Forum. In addition to the spectrum of human rights activity the group conducted, one of their primary areas of focus was the question of structural inequality: How were economic systems affecting men and women barely earning a living wage? Who was benefiting from global trade systems, and who was being harmed? These and other big picture questions fascinated Amin and he dove in headfirst to tackle them.
His expertise in intellectual property law from his time in the private sector made him an ‘industry insider’, and as India fiercely debated the new direction of its patent law, Amin found himself sought after by patient groups, labor unions, local media and others to explain the systems that he had grown disillusioned by. After sitting behind a desk for so many years, Amin found purpose in traveling around the country, sitting with working families and deeply marginalized communities, providing education and tools so these communities could fight for a fairer system.
He took a decision to invest his life savings to start a non-profit that would be dedicated to representing the public in the very legal system he used to be part of. The organization, nicknamed I-MAK, was co-founded by him and an organizing partner in India, Priti Krishtel.