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Passionate, scholarly, logical: Kobad Ghandy’s friends look back on his student days

Posted by Admin on September 24, 2009

Former associates in Mumbai have fond memories of the times they spent with Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy and his wife Anuradha before they shifted to Nagpur in the early 1980s, soon after which they went underground.

Ghandy, 63, has been arrested in Delhi. Anuradha died of malaria last year in a tribal area of Maharashtra. She was 54.

Senior journalist Jatin Desai, who was part of the youth movement, recalls his association with Ghandy from 1977-79. “Kobad was extraordinarily intelligent and well read. We used to gather on the Mumbai University campus and sit near Rajabai Tower because we could not afford meetings at restaurants. We used to be a bunch of 20 youngsters discussing politics, human rights, and international revolutions and dreaming of a new world. Kobad was passionate but he did not propagate violence aggressively.”

Ghandy and Anuradha formed the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in 1978 after the Emergency. Activist Jyoti Punwani, who was the editor of CPDR’s magazine Adhikar Raksha, remembers Kobad as an influential writer. “Adhikar Raksha was primarily about human rights and Kobad wrote strong articles about economics and exploitation of the poor,” said Punwani, who was a close friend of Anuradha at Elphinstone College.

Ghandy’s sense of justice was accurate, according to close friend Asghar Ali Engineer, writer and activist. “I did not know he was planning to join a political party when we were together at CPDR in the late 1970s. He is an ideologue for the CPI (Maoist), a scholarly person. He is very soft-spoken and a thorough gentleman. I can’t believe he led violent operations,” Engineer said.

Dr Ritu Diwan, professor of economics at Mumbai University, was part of the core group of the CPDR in the early 1980s. “Kobad played a key role in mobilising youth movements. At youth meetings when an argument would heat up, his calm intervention would settle matters. He was not bossy but his logic was spot on. He was known for his vision and sense of humour,” Diwan said.

Within a few years, most members had left the CPDR. “Most of us went on with our lives and chose to settle down in various professions but Kobad and Anuradha carried on,” Diwan said.

Anuradha’s brother Sunil Shanbag, a theatre actor, recalls the Ghandys as studious and academic. “Most of their time would be spent reading and writing. It was not just plain passion and valour but sensibility and intelligence with which they pursued their endeavour. Kobad is scholarly and I would enjoy listening to him talking about politics and injustice,” Shanbag said.

Anuradha’s mother Kumud Shanbag, 84, who works with an NGO, said, “We would communicate with Anuradha and Kobad once a year after they went underground. In fact I did not even know that she was suffering from malaria before I got news of her death. I never opposed her decisions and I am proud of both of them,” Shanbag said. IE

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