A sudden end to the voice of the voiceless

The noted Civil rights activist K. Balagopal (52) died suddenly of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Hyderabad on  October 8th.

Prof Balagopal was a brilliant mathematician with a Masters degree and a doctorate and was teaching in Kakatiya University before he quit the job to become a full time human rights activist in 1985.

He later learned law and became a lawyer and fought hundreds of cases against State violence and fake encounter deaths. His arguments before AP High Court in the case pertaining to ‘encounter’ killings resulted in the historic judgment which said “in each incident of encounter killing; a case should be registered against the police, who will have to face trial in a court.

Balagopal was arrested several times and was once even kidnapped by Green Tigers, a self-styled outfit thought to be supported by the State during his long struggle as a civil rights’ activist. He traveled almost every part of the country for arduous and painstaking fact finding missions relating to Human, Civil and Democratic Rights’ Violation. One of the latest reports of his team was about the violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka

Balagopal was one of the staunch civil liberties activists in Andhra Pradesh and the leader of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), with which he was associated since its inception in 1980’s,

Balagopal was close to the Naxalites during early part of his activist carrer. Later on the issue of violence by Maoists he left APCLC and formed Human Rights Forum.

Since then he was steadfastly opposing the ‘red violence’ of the Maoists as well as the State violence. He was a prolific writer on people’s issues and had recently written about the developments on the Maoist front in West Bengal.

His bold criticism of the Maoist’s propensity to indulge in violence attracted severe criticism from the Naxalites.

Here is how noted writer and social activist V.Geetha remembers him in ‘The Hindu’.

“Balagopal was not just another civil liberties man: A brilliant mathematician who gave up his academic vocation for public life, a public intellectual, alive to ethical doubts and concerns, yet committed to being political and accountable in the here and now of history, he sought to link thought, action, consciousness… For many of us, the manner in which he lived his life was as important as what he said: he was like a moral compass that you turned to, to check your own political orientation and direction……

For nearly two decades Balagopal had worked hard and argued much to deepen and broaden our understanding of democracy in this country — precept and practice came together in his work, as he wrote, took up legal cases, organised fact-finding missions and called attention to the darker aspects of state power and authority in India.

While agreeing that state violence against its citizens and the impunity with which it was often carried out was the worst possible threat to democracy, he called attention to rights violations in other contexts. Structured inequality, whether of caste or gender, he argued, was as much a source of these violations. Further, he reasoned, the reactive violence of communist militants as well as the spate of killings that the latter carried out in the name of carrying out a ‘class’ war often ended in the deaths of vulnerable citizens or minor state functionaries, even as it left intact the real and material structures of state power. He argued too of the importance of democracy, of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution — for these had come about as a result of people’s struggles and movements, and rights groups had to learn to defend these hard-won historical legacies.”

In death of Prof Balagopal India has lost a great champion of human rights. Thousands of voice less people’s voice has been silenced.

Let us hope there will be more and more people brave enough to walk the path shown by him.


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