Skip to main content

Girishbhai's ‘home-office’ was open to everybody: slum dwellers to rural folk


By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
This is a personal tribute to Girish Patel, doyen of the human rights movement in Gujarat, who died in Ahmedabad on October 6, 2018. It is hard to say goodbye to someone who has been so very special; someone who has meant so much to me and many others too.
I can hardly believe that you are no more, Girishbhai; I find it difficult to come to grips with this painful reality. Since I awoke this morning and learnt from several of my friends and contacts in Ahmedabad that you had said “goodbye”, I have been overwhelmed with emotion! There are innumerable memories of you that have been racing through; warm memories of you: as a person and a professional, which I will always cherish.
You epitomized human rights and you championed the rights of the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden, and the excluded. Your tremendous concern for them has had a profound impact on my life. You ALWAYS took sides Girishbhai and you never had a modicum of regret for it. All who knew you were very clear of where you stood on every issue. You were transparent, you were unequivocal, and you were strong. You took sides with those who had nowhere to go, with those who were being denied their legitimate rights.
Your forthright stand on key issues was a beacon of hope and inspiration to many: you fought for the oustees of the Narmada Dam; for the other Adivasis whose rights were being trampled upon; for the Dalits; the manual scavengers; the slum dwellers who were displaced overnight by bulldozers and for many other vulnerable people who live on the peripheries of our society. Then there was the ‘Freedom of Religion’ issue: how doggedly you defended the right of every citizen to fearlessly preach, practice and propagate ones religion. The arguments you gave in court challenging the Government on the obnoxious content in the school textbooks, will forever reverberate among those who care about what is happening to the education in this country.
Your doors were always open till rather late at night. I was always welcomed; you seemed to be ever available though I knew how busy you were to prepare yourself intensively for a case the next day. The wonderful part of your availability was that your ‘home-office’ was open to everybody: there were slum dwellers and folk from the rural areas too! Everybody found in you a home: a source of comfort, hope and strength. I hardly ever received a no from you whether it is to meet you at a short notice or to ask you to come for a meeting or a programme. Inspite of your many commitments you always had the graciousness to oblige, to find the time.
Your life was amazingly frugal and simple! You could have had the world at your feet. One needs only to look around to see how several from the legal fraternity literally milk their clients and make plenty of money. Many from among the criminals and corrupt would have loved to have you as their Counsel; but you were committed to justice, truth, fair play and the rights of the poor. When you took a stand on critical issues the other side booed you, threw stones at your house, sent you hate mails, threatened you and much more; however, you were always unrelenting in the pursuit of the justice you believed in and you did it pro bono.
Above all, I was deeply touched and edified by your warm, endearing and unassuming demeanor. You had that special smile even in the heat of an argument. You never seemed to lose your cool even when the going was rough. You minced no words when attacking the system: the biases, the prejudices, the injustices that exist; but you did so in your typical style — softly, incisively, and sagaciously. I doubt if anybody can do it your way!
Then there was your trademark humour — when one least expected it; you would make a witty comment, crack a joke, which would help ease the tension. Even when you delivered a very serious speech, you said things, which made the listeners, smile; but then you were not exactly joking just sharing the plain truth in a rather acceptable way.
My last meeting with you was in mid-April during my visit to Ahmedabad; you did not seem too well that day and you were upset about some things. At first you thought that I returned for good; when I mentioned that I still have some months left in my assignment in the Middle East, you just asked. why? The last words you said me were, come back soon! Those words have constantly kept ringing in ears. Today I must have heard you say those words to me a thousand times over and tears well up as I do so!
Since October 6 morning, I was planning to write something about you. I must have begun about a dozen times; after a couple of sentences, I aborted each attempt. Then suddenly late tonight I realized that the only way to pay my tribute to you is to be as personal as possible — that is what I have tried to do! I am aware though there is much more which I would like to say!
It is not easy to say “goodbye” to you dear Girishbhai, to me you were a friend, a mentor, a guide, an elder brother! There is so much that I have learnt from you over the years.
Finally, the best tribute I think I can pay you is to internalize and practice, in some ways the values and the lofty ideals you believed in and fought for all your life! These are also enshrined in the Constitution of India, which you always treasured! Therefore, whilst I am saying “goodbye” to you, I do believe that great human beings like you never die; you will live forever in my heart and in my life and in the hearts and lives of many others.
Continue troubling us from wherever you are — until that day when the ‘rights of all’ are respected on this earth!
Aavjo Girishbhai until we meet again!

*Indian human rights activist

Comments

TRENDING

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Soviet army crossed rarely transcended barriers in Leningrad to overpower Nazis

By Harsh Thakor  St Petersburg -- previously Leningrad -- has been commemorating the 80th anniversary of its complete liberation from the Nazis and the conclusion of one of the most brutal sieges in history. 80 years ago, a spectacular turn of events in Leningrad played major role in shaping the destiny or determining the path of the Great Patriotic War.

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc

Landlords' armed bandits launched merciless attack in Brazil but face resistance

By Harsh Thakor  Armed bandits called the “zero invasion movement” comprising of landowners, gunmen and police marched into   Bahia with support from the PM [Military Police]. On January 21st, indigenous Maria de Fátima Muniz, known as Nega Pataxó, shaman of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people, was shot dead in the Caramuru Catarina Paraguassu Indigenous Land and chief Nailton Muniz was seriously injured by gunshots, as were others indigenous people during an attack by the notorious  paramilitary group.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.