Veteran Gandhian, perhaps the oldest living one, a man who devoted his life to Gandhi, Vinoba and JP’s movements passed away during the night of 18th or early 19th December morning.
As a young man he participated in the Bhoodan movement initiated by Vinobaji in the 1950s and ’60s and devoted his life to public causes.
He was among the most courageous of Sarvodaya ‘karyakartas’, never shying away from standing up for a cause. Not only did he have the moral strength and energy to pursue his beliefs even if he was in a minority, he’d be willing to be a one-man army if the situation demanded so. It did not matter if he had to pick up a fight with the whole State machinery.
The stance Chunikaka and Bhumiputra (Gujarati Magazine of the Gandhians) took during Emergency in mid 1970s, the campaign against corruption in the ’80s, the leadership he provided in face of Umargam atrocity in ’90s, the role he played during Gujarat violence in 2002 or the energy he pumped into the anti-Nirma struggle in Mahuva, anti-nuclear struggle in Mithi Virdi and other struggles in Gujarat are shining lights in his glorious story.
A good fight was not Chunikaka’s only forte. He worked with as much commitment and vigour to search for alternatives and reconstruction. Coming from the water-scarce North Gujarat the Right to Water was his primary preoccupation through the 1980s and 1990s. He first toiled to mobilise the farmers affected by Dantiwada and Sipu dams, and then for Narmada waters to North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch. In spite of his advancing age he dedicated his best energies to building ‘gupt bandh‘, ‘hidden dams’ in the Banas river in Radhanpur area.
As a person Chunikaka appreciated good humour. He could both give and chin punches on the chin. You could differ violently with him and yet remain friends and continue to work together.
That was Chunikaka – the Giant. We pay our respects to him and mourn his passing away and with that also of an era.