Remembering B D Sharma

A tribute to the extraordinary official-turned-campaigner who brought compassion and understanding to his work on the ground, especially tribals.

When I first saw and heard Brahma Dev Sharma, or B D Sharma as he was often called, I had no idea about his very distinguished background. But I was imm­ensely impressed with what this tall, eminent looking person, in a dhoti and kurta, who stood straight, and talked as straight as he stood, had to say. Subsequently, I also learnt about his very extraordinary career—or should I say, mission-path. I was all the more struck with his unequivocal speech when I came to understand that he had been a bureaucrat for much of his working life, and when I first met him, was still a part of the government establishment, albeit, holding the constitutional post of Commissioner for Scheduled Castes (s) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

Just a few months before meeting B D Sharma, I had become a full-time activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)—the mass movement of the people affected by the dams on the Narmada River. Even in this short time, I had come to understand how bureaucrats, and anyone even remotely associated with the establishment, shied away from taking firm stands and hesitated to make clear statements if they could be construed to be critical of the government. And yet, here was B D Sharma, or “Doctor saab” as also he was referred to, calling a spade a spade, not mincing words.

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