India: Obituary: Tributes to Bina Srinivasan

Collected tributes to writer, researcher and activist Bina Srinivasan.
(i) Obituary to Bina Srinivasan
By: Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan*
14 August 2007

It is with sad hearts that we share the news of the unexpected demise of Bina Srinivasan. She was a courageous and active supporter of NBA's activities, especially in Gujarat. In spite of the hysteria created in Gujarat against NBA, the active involvement of Bina in the issues related to displacement of Sardar Sarovar affected adivasis in Gujarat spoke in itself of her commitment to Justice, especially with regard to gender issues.

Bina was passionate human being and hence found herself to be closely committed to the both urban and rural poor. She could not but jump into any situation of crisis whether it was slum eviction or communal violence. She stood by the struggle of the people in the Narmada valley, in challenging the State without any hesitation on the issues of development and supported our vision of alternatives.

She had written many articles and published books on gender issues in relation to the displacement by dams and other projects. She was sound in ideological issues and had a judicious mix of activism and academics in her contribution to the people's struggles such as Narmada, especially in gender issues, which should inspire more people to take the path she tred.

She had been battling with pneumonia for the last few days and has breathed her last on 13th August 2007, early morning. The NBA hereby express our deep condolence and share the pain with Bina's bereaving mother, family members and friends.

[Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) (Save Narmada Movement) is a non governmental organisation that mobilised tribal people, adivasis, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against the Sardar Sarovar Dam being built across the Narmada river, Gujarat, India. It originally focused on the environmental issues related to trees that would be submerged under the dam water. Recently it has re-focused with the aim to enable the poor citizens especially the oustees to get the full rehabilitation facilities from the government.]


(ii) Obituary by Nandini Oza:

Bina Srinivasan, a strong pillar of NBA in Vadodra, Gujarat, passed away today early morning (late night yesterday). She was one of those very few in Gujarat who stood through thick and thin with NBA, braving all risks and threats right from the time of Chimanbhai Patel when NBA was constantly defamed and threatened. She always rushed to be with NBA, particularly when NBA office was attacked more than once. She spent a lot of her time working with the oustees of Gujarat, actively helping to make the programs of NBA in Gujarat successful, by being part of fact finding teams during the time of repression, worked as a translator for many of the non hindi/gujarati speaking visitors of NBA, was a great help during the time of the Morse committee submissions, etc.

Her support to the NBA goes beyond all of this. She personally helped the NBA activists and her house in Vadodara was always open to all. Her contribution to NBA cannot be expressed in words. For those NBA activists in Vadodara, it is a loss beyond repair.

Bina was not only an NBA supporter but also a very senior women's rights activist. For many years she was active with "Swashraya" a women's organisation working in the bastis with the poorest of poor rag-picking women in Vadodara. She contributed to the women's right's movement at the national level in a very significant way. A writer by profession, many of her articles on women, environment, human rights issues have been published in national newspapers and magazines. Her first book, "Negotiating Complexities - A collection of Feminist Essays", was published this year.

Since the demolition of Babri Masjid, Bina's life and work took a new turn. Her main concern and work since then was to fight the fundamentalist forces in Gujarat, support the minority community in most adverse of circumstances, during riots and recent carnage in Gujarat. She remained a fighter throughout her life in one of the most oppressive and fundamentalist of States - Gujarat.

For NBA, it is a loss of a true friend and pillar.


(iii) Tribute by: Dr. J. S. Bandukawala, Rohit Prajapati, Mamta Bakshi, Johanna Lokhande, Jahanvi Andharia, Raj Kumar Hans, Deepali Ghelani, Tapan Dasgupta and other activists of Vadodara, Gujarat

Our friend & colleague Bina Srinivasan passed away on 13th August 2007 early morning due to severe pneumonia, after remaining hospitalised for two days.

Comrade Bina was a feminist writer and researcher. She was also a Human Rights activist and active member of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vadodara. She had worked intensively with women's movements both nationally and internationally. She worked with an organisation called 'Swashraya' which focused on women in Baroda Slums. This gave her insights into the lives of the urban poor in Indian cities. It also brought her to look at issues of displacement and its specific impact on women.

Through research and activism she was involved with issues like violence against women, the impact of conflict and fundamentalism on women. She traveled extensively and was also part of the Co-ordination Group of the Feminist Dialogues - a meeting of transnational feminists that usually takes place before the World Social Forum. She was currently working on women who have been internally displaced due to conflict.

Her demise is a huge loss for the Women's Movements and the movements for Human Rights.

PUCL (Baroda) and Shanti Abhiyan, has been meeting regularly to discuss strategies and methods to combat the ongoing repression on the downtrodden masses. The one of the main specific focus of course is on communalism and the communalization of the ordinary people, especially the condition in Gujarat. Members and friends of PUCL and Shanti Abhiyan, come from various orgnisations working on various issues, the meeting is so held to discuss and share various issues with a larger audience, also to work out strategies.

We are meeting on 18th August 2007 at 4.00 p.m. at Bhoomi Putra, Bhutdi Zapa, Huzrat Paga, Vadodara, Phone: 0265 - 2437957 to pay tribute to our friend and fellow comrade Bina Srinivasan. We are also going to share our activity report and will continue our on-going discussion for the protection of the secular democracy.


(iv) The following is an article by Bina Srinivasan that she sent for circulation on the South Asia Citizen's Wire (SACW) mailing list, a week before her death. Bina had been on the SACW list since 1998.

8 August 2007

Sanjay Dutt in Prison: Danger Averted?

By: Bina Srinivasan

So, now that Sanjay Dutt has been convicted and is safely away in prison, we can all breath a sigh of relief. We face no more dangers from him. His career is finished, whether he gets bail or not. He might turn insane with just the worry of it. And of course, the thought of six years in prison. And the thought of having to live it through in Yervada, where Gandhi had been imprisoned by the British, having to plough through all that Gandhi business, just because he acted in a film centred on Gandhi that became hugely popular. How schizophrenic can we get as a people?

What's new, you may as well ask. Nothing, I suppose. So many lie in India's prisons. Or, if you like the prisons of the world. But for a moment, when I heard CNN-IBN's rendering of the Indian national anthem - unbidden - there was something wet on my cheeks.

Because like all news channels, they had a whole set of things to say about Sanjay Dutt, followed by news about electric shocks given to young children in a school in East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh to help them concentrate better(!!) And, of course, you had the teachers who had administered the shocks saying on national television, that they had done nothing wrong, they were only helping the students.

Little help. Many scars. No justice.

All of it was capped by an advertisement of some baby lotion.

Neo-liberal economic equality. Minus justice.

I like Sanjay Dutt's goofy look, that much I cannot deny. But beyond that, I cannot understand why he had to go around with arms in his living room. Yet, I do not think he was about to let loose a volley of bullets, or whatever, on people. He made a mistake, he was caught. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Real criminals are still at large. And we should know that at least in Gujarat.

There are larger political calculations here. Let us not forget that. Sanjay Dutt is a victim of justice itself. When the spirit of justice is violated in the name of keeping the word of law intact, there is something fundamentally wrong.

Forget about SD. Let's talk about justice and the way it operates or, actually, does not operate in this country.

High on my list are women who have been raped and being raped and will be raped. Remember the Bhanwari Devi case? Remember the low conviction rates, despite all evidence? Biases, biases all around. And so many thousands of lives destroyed with the blink of an eyelid.

No justice.

Our humanity is sinking to such a low. Children are being beaten to death in the name of business enterprise, in the name of education, morality and what have you.

Very few protest. And there is a point of view doing the rounds that claims that we have at last proved that even those at the very top can be nabbed just by putting SD behind bars.

Many questions. No answers.

Go on. Accuse me of being biased. Yes, I am. Everybody is biased, one way or the other. It is the way we define ourselves. We exclude and include at the same time. We set moral standards. And some standards are non-negotiable.

We live through a difficult moment in India. Let's hope that somebody remembers the spirit of Tagore's poem.



[*"Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people"; from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, it is now the title of the Indian national anthem.]