Professor Rajni Kothari


Professor Rajni Kothari has been overtaken by death on 19 January at the age of 86+. His status as an accomplished academic social scientist is known to all the scholars and researchers of social science in India. More than that, being a firm believer in India's ‘unity in diversity’, Professor Kothari decried all attempts to establish majoritarian unitary rule in the country, and his sensible mind easily grasped that majority communalism was a serious threat to the integrity of India. Perhaps that is why he was one of the active participants in all efforts towards maintaining the diversity of India.

He was once the Chairman of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, and together with other civil liberty activists, conducted an impartial investigation into the gruesome episode of wanton slaughter of Sikhs in Delhi immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. This was certainly a courageous act. The booklet that came out of the investigation clearly exposed the masterminds behind the killings. During 1986-87 there was an all-India effort, with Vaskar Nandy as the convenor, to build up a forum (named Communalism and Threat to Democracy) for fighting the menace of communalism and creating an atmosphere for preservation of India's diversity. He actively helped in this effort. This corres-pondent saw him at the Kolkata convention of late 1986 and the Jallundhar convention of 1987. He addressed both. These conventions helped create public opinion against the rising forces of communal fascism and highlighted the problems of depressed identities. Regarding the happenings in Punjab then, he denounced both Khalistani terrorism and the nefarious activities of the Siddhartha Ray-Ribero combine. His life vas threatened by the forces that did not like his participation in such endeavours. One can well understand who those forces were. They could not, however, silence his voice.

This brief tribute to his memory may be concluded by saying that in the general run of professors in this country, persons like Professor Kothari formed a tiny minority, who did not bow to the ugly but apparently powerful forces of majority communalism and did not relent in their struggle against it.

Vol. 47, No. 32, Feb 15 -21, 2015