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Shanti Bhushan

  • Shanti Bhushan addressing the meeting

 Kuldeep Nayar

  • Kuldeep Nayar addressing the meeting

 Abdul_Rehman

  • Abdul Rehman, Popular Front of India

 Advt Shahid Ali

  • Advocate Shahid Ali

 Ritu_Kaushik

  • Ritu Kaushik, SUCI (Communist)

 Dr Hizamuddin Khan

  • Dr. Nizamuddin Khan, SDPI

 Rajinder Singh

  • Rajinder Singh, Hind Mazdoor Sabha

 Vishal

  • Vishal, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta

Rajendra Pathak

  • Advocate Rajendra Pathak

 N D Pancholi

  • N D Pancholi, Citizens for Democracy.

Eminent human rights activist Justice Rajinder Singh Sachar passed away on April 20, 2018 in New Delhi at the age of 94. A solemn memorial meeting was organised by Lok Raj Sangathan on April 24, 2018 in his memory. Political and social activists, lawyers, workers, students and youth participated in the meeting.

The meeting was chaired by eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan. Among those who addressed the gathering were Prakash Rao, Shanti Bhushan, Kuldeep Nayar, Abdul Rehman from Popular Front of India, Shahid Ali, Ritu Kaushik of SUCI (Communist), Dr. Nizamuddin Khan of Social Democratic Party of India, Rajinder Singh of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Vishal of Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Rajendra Pathak and N D Pancholi of Citizens for Democracy. The meeting was conducted by Sucharita of Lok Raj Sangathan.

Sucharita began the meeting with a brief introduction of the life and work of Justice Rajinder Sachar (see box). She pointed out that he had participated with keen interest in many programs and actions organized by Lok Raj Sangathan. He had shared his valuable insights and experience on the question of a new law to establish command responsibility and punish those in authority for unleashing communal violence.

All present then observed two minutes silence in memory of Justice Sachar.

In his speech, Prakash Rao said that Justice Sachar devoted his entire active life to the service of humanity. As his comrade in arms in the struggle, we mourn this great loss. We salute his memory.

Justice Sachar epitomised the pure and noble qualities that the Indian people have always cherished. He was a fierce and principled defender of the unity and solidarity of our people.

As a young man, Justice Sachar and his family suffered the horrors of the bloody partition of Punjab and India. Many of his family members died in the carnage in Pakistan. When his family came to India as refugees, he saw with his eyes, the horrific carnage of people of Muslim faith. Right from those traumatic times, Justice Sachar devoted his life to oppose and expose state organised communalism and communal violence. Whenever any community was persecuted on account of their religion, Justice Sachar stood firm in its defence.

He took a bold stand against the genocide of Sikhs in November 1984 in Delhi and other places and actively worked for punishing those guilty of organising it. He took a firm stand against the demolition of the Babri masjid, the communal violence that preceded and followed, as well as the Gujarat genocide.

His love for humanity was reflected in his last wish. He wanted that after his passing away, prayers be offered both by a Maulvi and a Pandit, after the recital of prayers from the Gur bani. Through this, he wanted to convey to the Indian people his firm belief that the people of India, are one, irrespective of their religious beliefs. His loving family faithfully fulfilled this wish, bringing tears to the eyes of all present. It was a parting message from Justice Sachar to all the Indian people to defend the unity of our people like the apple of our eyes.

Justice Sachar’s life epitomised the truth that the Punjabi people, irrespective of their religious beliefs, have always opposed communalism and communal violence. He reflected Punjabiat, and Hindustaniat in their truest sense. It is the rulers who have organised most bestial crimes against this or that section of our people, on the basis of religion, and blamed the people as being communal.

Justice Sachar saw that the institutions of the Indian state had failed in their duty of ensuring Sukh and Raksha to all. He was aware that the present political system and process marginalised people from decision making. He enthusiastically contributed to the work for bringing about changes in the political system and process so as to ensure the empowerment of the people. We can never forget his encouraging words to us at a meeting organized by Lok Raj Sangathan on electoral reforms in June 2016. He said, “Keep your focus on this very important question — the empowerment of our people”.

Prakash Rao concluded his remarks pointing out that Justice Sachar stood for an India wherein people would not be discriminated against or persecuted because of their religion, caste or any other basis. He said, “Let us all step up our united struggle for such an India — one in which the state would fulfill its duty of ensuring security and prosperity for all.”

Senior Supreme Court Advocate, and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan spoke passionately about the life and work of Justice Sachar. He spoke about the boundless energy of Justice Sachar which made him look much younger than his years. Humility characterized Justice Sachar. Reflecting on his experiences with Justice Sachar in the seventies, Shanti Bhushan pointed out that in those times, a Judge of the High Court was regarded with great awe. But Justice Sachar never showed off his position. This was a man who would walk through the slums, visit workers colonies, and listen with deep concern about the problems faced by the working people. Nobody would believe that this was the son of a former Chief Minister of Punjab.

Justice Sachar was bold and upright in defence of human and democratic rights. When the Supreme Court meekly accepted the declaration of Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975, Justice Sachar openly expressed his opposition to it. For this, he was punished by transferring him to the Rajasthan High Court. But he refused to change his views.

Shanti Bhushan spoke about the Report prepared by Justice Sachar on the status of Muslims in India, sixty years after independence. This report thoroughly exposed the lie spread by the BJP that Muslims in India have “benefited” because of the policies of the Congress governments. It showed through irrefutable facts that the status of Muslims in India in terms of education and employment in government was even worse than that of SC/ST. The Report was submitted to the Central government headed by Manmohan Singh ten years ago, but none of its recommendations have been implemented.

Veteran Journalist and former MP Kuldip Nayar spoke movingly. Theirs was a lifelong association beginning from their college days in Lahore. As student activists, they had expressed their fears to Mohd. Ali Jinnah about the terrible consequences that would follow if the country was partitioned. Jinnah tried to allay their fears, saying that India and Pakistan would be friends, citing the example of Britain and France which had overcome their past history of mutual hostility. But life had proved their fears to be correct. He pointed out that for many years now, the two of them had been organizing peace meetings at the Wagah border on 14th August, the anniversary of partition.

Prakash Rao

  • Prakash Rao

Justice Sachar was deeply concerned about the terrible plight of the Kashmiri people. He led a number of initiatives for a just democratic solution to the problem of Kashmir.

Kuldip Nayar recounted examples of the uncompromising attitude of Justice Sachar. Once when Justice Sachar and veteran socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia were together in prison, they received a box of mangoes from then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. When Lohia offered it to Justice Sachar, he refused to eat them. Lohia said don’t mix politics with food, but Justice Sachar did not relent.

Kuldip Nayar recounted that Justice Sachar was in a demonstration on Parliament Street in 2007, when he received a call from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to head a commission to look into the status of Muslims in India. Justice Sachar was reluctant to take it up, as he did not have faith that the government was serious about addressing the problems facing the community. But he finally relented and did a thorough investigation, travelling all over the country, to come up with the Sachar Committee Report.

Abdul Rehman of the Popular Front of India recounted that Justice Sachar always wanted to know in depth about the conditions and feelings of the Muslim community. Justice Sachar was a rare personality. He felt that many political leaders who came from Pakistan as a result of Partition harboured hostility towards Muslims. But unlike them, Justice Sachar was deeply sensitive to the problems of the Muslim community in India and always stood in defence of its rights.

Advocate Shahid Ali spoke with passion about Justice Sachar. He said the Sachar Committee Report not only exposed the terrible conditions of Muslims in India, it also showed why and how this had happened. It gave concrete recommendations to the government on how to change this situation. No government has implemented them. We must wage a united struggle to ensure their implementation, he said. He declared that all Muslims in India regarded Justice Sachar as their leader. He recounted a discussion with Justice Sachar in 2014, soon after the NDA government came to power. Justice Sachar had said — they will try to coopt some people, they will try to terrorise you and weaken you. Don’t be afraid. You are courageous people, you are fighting for justice, carry on the struggle.

Ritu Kaushik of Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) spoke movingly about how much concern Justice Sachar had for women. Without worrying about his health, he would participate in protest actions. Once, when as the organizer of a meeting, she had remarked that Justice Sachar had come despite his poor health — he had admonished her. I am not a weak person, whenever any daughter of mine is attacked, I will be there in her defence, he said.

Senior Advocate and human rights activist ND Pancholi narrated how Justice Sachar always defended the rights of workers as a lawyer and trade union activist in his younger days. As a judge, he firmly defended the rights of workers. Following public uproar over the killing of a person in police custody, a Committee had been set up by the then Janata Party Government to suggest reforms in the police. By the time the committee submitted its report, Indira Gandhi had come back to power and the report was shelved. Justice Sachar forced the government to publish the report. However, nearly 40 years later, no government has acted on its recommendations for police reforms.

Dr. Nizamuddin Khan of the Social Democratic Party of India, Vishal of Bigul Mazdoor Dasta and Advocate Rajendra Pathak spoke with feeling about the contribution of Justice Sachar to the struggle for justice and rights. Rajinder Singh recounted the contribution of Justice Sachar to the struggle of workers for their rights, and to the building and strengthening of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha.

Rajinder Sachar

justice-rajinder-sacharJustice Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and staunch human rights activist, passed away on Friday, April 20, 2018. His death is deeply mourned by all those who stand up for the democratic and human rights of the people.

In his early years, Rajinder Sachar was arrested several times for being a political activist and trade union activist. Later, he became a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court until he was made an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court in 1970. He retired as Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court in 1985.

Rajinder Sachar took a strong stand against abuse of human rights. He showed no fear or favour in front of anyone, including the government of the day. He stood up strongly against the “Emergency” imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975. He was openly critical of the way the Supreme Court at that time legitimized the imposition of Emergency.

Justice Sachar showed a deep compassion for the victims of the 1984 massacres of Sikh people, when cases connected with them came before him in the Delhi High Court. On the basis of the affidavits presented by witnesses to those horrific events, he issued notice to the Delhi Police to file FIRs against leaders named for their role in these crimes. However, those cases were quickly taken away from his bench – something which he greatly resented.

The frequent incidences of state-organised communal massacres and violence were occasions for him to speak up against the administration for its role in aiding and abetting the violence and to actively taking up the cause of the victims. The communal bloodbath of 1984, of 1992-93 following the demolition of Babri Masjid, of 2002 in Gujarat and others deeply saddened him.

After he retired, Justice Sachar was elected President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in 1986, and honourably discharged the duties of this position until 1995. In 1990, he was one of the authors of the PUCL “Report on the Kashmir Situation”. As President of PUCL, he filed many PILs in the Supreme Court to uphold the human and democratic rights of the people. Most notably, in 2003, he argued for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) as a gross violation of human rights. Eventually, POTA was repealed in November 2004.

Justice Sachar was a prominent participant in various human rights tribunals and enquiries. These included his participation in the Indian People’s Human Rights Tribunal in 2000 looking into a huge slum eviction drive that was launched in Mumbai, and in a People’s Court in 2002 that investigated a similar slum clearance drive in Kolkata.

He was very well known for the thoroughly researched 2006 Sachar Committee Report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. With facts and figures, it showed the grim conditions of people of the Muslim faith in India sixty years after independence, and denounced the false notion being widely spread that they were benefiting from so-called “appeasement” policies.

Activists and organisations fighting for a wide variety of causes connected with people’s rights, not just in India but abroad, found that Justice Sachar was always willing to support them. Even at an advanced age, he was ready to take part in protests and movements for causes he believed in. As a true internationalist, he opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At no point in his life did he compromise with his principles. His was truly a remarkable life, and he will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

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