Gandhian, Rationalist, Compassionate, Humanist Extraordinaire!
I am deeply saddened to announce that my hero and guru, in many ways, this venerable Gandhian, an utterly selfless human being, one of the most outstanding citizens of Gujarat, breathed his last around midnight yesterday.
He was one of the major reasons I decided to continue to stay in Gujarat and work for harmony post its genocide. For me he represented the true asmita of Gujarat.
Gone with this pride of Gujarat, is the most shining, untiring light of reason, justice and compassion. This is one loss that Gujarat will not be able to make up any time soon.
Chunikaka begins his last journey at 4:00 PM today the 19th Dec 2014 from his abode opposite the Sabarmati Ashram.
Chunikaka's body was consigned to Sabarmati crematorium at about 4:30 PM in a very austere ceremony attended largely by the Gandhians and his admirers.
Watching him go was a deep personal loss in many ways. Not the least in that he represented to me the best of Hindus, the best of Gujarat, in its recent and current context.
Two days after the genocide of 2002, when the most able-bodied chose to look the other way, this frail, then octogenarian Sarvodaya worker - and a confidante of AcharyaVinobaBhave - took out a rally from the Kochrab Ashram till Sabarmati Ashram in protest against the mindless killings. DrYoginder K Alagh was his co-leader in the rally. [SPRAT has the privilege that both served long
terms on its Board of Governors]. Seen in this picture at my drawing room is Kaka in 2013. We have video-taped his life story through a series of chats with him and hosted at https://www.youtube.com/playlist...
Two painful incidents lurk in my mind, and I don't mind divulging them, although I am loath to sharing personal accounts on such public platform:
He, a trustee of the V S Hospital and I had attended an important conference in the wake of the ongoing genocide. Soon after my address to the doctors, a gang of Hindutva extremists tried to attack me right inside the conference room with the Mayor of Ahmedabad in chair. As death loomed large for almost 30 minutes and my life hung in balance, Kaka managed to persuade the leader to read a letter an important Hindutva leader had written to me applauding my contribution to the nation. As sanity prevailed, albeit for a few minutes, we managed to escape under police protection.
Once Kaka had come with some of us from SPRAT to Bapunagar to distribute a few handcarts to those innocent Muslim families whose houses or shops were completely gutted. Kaka was their principal mobilizer of funds. During the introduction I had clarified this and the Muslim beneficiaries were all praise for him. Later as we informally moved around, I asked one maulana-type beneficiary how he felt about Kaka. He sounded all admiration. I teasingly asked, so he may well go to the paradise? Pat came the reply "But, Sir, since he has not sworn EEMAN [accepted Islam] he cannot".
By no means flawless, this tireless crusader [with whom I have had no small differences of opinions on matters ranging from the use of nuclear energy to GM foods, to Narmada dam et al] until the very last kept raising his voice for sanity and fairplay selflessly, and courageously.
Few know that he never married but adopted a young girl engaged in JP's movement. It is her family that the world knows as Kaka's, thus establishing that meaningful relations are made with love and reciprocity, not by blood lineage.
May Chunikaka's work continue to inspire us.