Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Lieu of an Obituary

In Lieu of an Obituary

In the demise of veteran social activist Surendra Mohan the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) has lost a great guardian, a teacher and someone to whom one could fall back upon for that vital advice. In fact to come to grips with the reality that Surendra Mohanji is not with us anymore is an unfathomable loss for the democratic movements and activists in South Asia. He stood firmly on the side of the democratic struggles of the people anywhere in the sub-continent. More than six decades of his involvement in democratizing our society is an exemplary life that unflinchingly stood with hundreds of peoples’ movements across the subcontinent.
Whether it was on communalism or displacement or TADA, POTA or death sentence and political prisoners’ rights, or parliament attack case, he stood firmly with all of us like a beacon, who made efforts to build people’s campaign and struggles. He participated in each and every meeting, rally or dharna, small or big or even preparatory gatherings, unless in the case of being out of Delhi. You need to tell him only once. No need to remind him of any meeting or gathering. He would be there sharp on time or he would inform you what time he would come.
He treated any activist, experienced or inexperienced in the same way. He never said he was busy, when you call him to tell that you are dropping in, though he was always actually busy writing articles, books, editing them and attending scores of meetings every week in and outside Delhi. You are received with the same hospitality whenever you reach at his place with the same friendly hand touching you, as if all over your body. The vast treasure of experience of Surendra Mohanji in various struggles of the people throughout the subcontinent used to enliven every discussion either in erudite English or very lyrical Hindustani for hours and hours sprinkled with anecdotes and stories bringing forth sharp insights or theoretical points in his own inimitable style.
When we first approached him for taking his suggestions and guidance for the convening of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) apart from sharing his deep insights into the way ahead for such an important but extremely difficult task, also congratulated all of us to have taken such an important initiative. We fondly remember how he recalled old stories of providing shelter to underground Naxalites from Andhra Pradesh in his own house soon after the gloomy days of Emergency though he knew nothing about them at that point of time. He also told us how he argued successfully with the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai to release all political prisoners whether those who took up arms or otherwise. Without any hesitation he also agreed to be the Chief Advisor of the Committee.
Surendra Mohanji had always exhibited a sharp democratic mind when framing the demands of any democratic struggle related to ordinary issues for partial resolution of them or issues pertaining to deeper strategical resolution.
He had a rare democratic sensibility that discerned the nature of the fragile democratic space that we all work in as social or revolutionary activists to build a democratic society. That’s how and why he always advised many of us when to do and when not to do what without interfering in the activities of any people’s organizations. This is, again, a rare quality of a person who was too big to be humble. In his death we miss a great democrat of our times, a civil libertarian who set such high standards without being judgemental or prejudiced.
Such a genuine democratic mind that had the conviction to practice it in his everyday life stood apart from many a senior democratic activist in this country. The arrogance of the older generations prevails over the relationship with youngsters. But Surendra Mohanji never betrayed this quality. That’s the beauty of his life as a democrat who showed immense strength and conviction to love and be loved by all the marginalized, oppressed, discriminated and mistreated to survive as a silver lining yet being the most marginalized social activist amidst the elitist civil rights activists of the day.
The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) expresses its deepest condolences on the demise of Surendra Mohan. To fill the deep void that he has left is a challenge to all people’s movements. In his death we have lost a great civil libertarian. In his death he has given us one final opportunity to live up to the standards that he had set in public and private life and his undying love for the people.

In Solidarity,

Gurusharan Singh Amit Bhattacharyya SAR Geelani
President Secretary General Working President

Rona Wilson
Secretary Public Relations

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