ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Remembering P A Sebastian

P A Sebastian was not only a founding member and lifelong activist of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in Mumbai, but amongst the first few who laid the foundation of the civil and democratic rights movement in the country. That Sebastian shaped and saw the democratic rights movement take shape from the 1970s, makes his departure an even bigger loss.

P A Sebastian was not only a founding member and lifelong activist of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in Mumbai, but amongst the first few who laid the foundation of the civil and democratic rights movement in the country. That Sebastian shaped and saw the democratic rights movement take shape from the 1970s, makes his departure an even bigger loss.

The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) shared his presence and conviction in the joint ventures we took up with the CPDR. Many of us in the PUDR remember his loud laughter, his warmth, and his never-dying spirit to fight for justice. For the relatively newer generation in the PUDR, Sebastian was imagined to be quite young and energetic by the way his name figured in the PUDR meetings.

At a time when the state in India seems to be taking a right-wing turn, Sebastian’s steadfast commitment and presence in the democratic rights movement will be sorely missed. Sebastian fought for innumerable causes relating to common people, be it opposing the Emergency, or fighting for release of textile mill workers in the 1980s.

Because Sebastian was a people’s lawyer, he could regularly critique the courts in his writings. More of him and his ability are required to take a stand against the judiciary, when the need arises. Despite the physical challenge he had, his passion for justice made him work tirelessly to set up people’s tribunals and commissions, which not only told a parallel truth suppressed by the state, but also made the state recognise the need for an official commission, as in the aftermath of the Bombay riots of 1992–93.

The PUDR will miss this fierce, lively and committed co-traveller in the democratic rights movement. Sebastian might have left us, but his life and work will continue to inspire us all in our fight for rights and justice.

Sharmila Purkayastha, Megha Bahl
PUDR, Delhi

 

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