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Octogenarian Dr Jonathan Fine who dared to go where even Indians did not dare #RIP

by- Kamayani Bali Mahabal
As I opened my inbox today….. Tributes to Dr Jonathan  Fine in PHR newsletter, made me just Jump and Scream. And there was a flashback of almost  7 years .
Let them call me rebel and welcome.
I feel no concern from it;
but I should suffer the misery of devils,
were I to make a whore of my soul…
                    – Thomas Paine
This was his signature on the his mails …….

Dr. Jonathan Fine died at age 88 on January 17  in his house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jonathan Fine had been one of the founders of Physicians for Human Rights in Boston in 1986, and was a very outspoken Director.He was convinced that medical testimonies of human rights violations were important and pivotal in establishing human rights violations, in bringing the perpretators to court and in rehabilitating the victims.Fact-finding missions, facilitating forensic investigations of mass murders, and torture cases made Physicians for Human Rights a key player in the international community of human rights organizations.


I met Jonathan in 2009, as a part of my series of lectures  in USA on the issues of  women rights with support of AID India .Jonathan  was   Secretary, AID Boston he was 80years young  and active . At his age he was good on mails  and always with his camera too . All his event mails would have line

Out of respect for others, please arrive on time.  Thanks!

Jonathan clearly had a burning conviction for the rights of the poorest especially their right to health and someone who would inspire many of us with his energy, passion and ability to bring structure and purpose to our endeavors to help the most marginalized.

He told me that  he was inspitred to viist India after listening to Yogesh Jain  of Jan  Swasthya Sahyog of Chhattisgarh speak in Boston , he then decided to visit  remote Chhattisgarh at the young age of 80+! He knew he had to do something and do something he would!He also  took it upon himself to spread the word and seek health professionals looking for short or medium term internships at JSS.

He was in Bilaspur for a month from Jan -Feb 2010  80 + Jonathan managed with no western toilet, had no qualms sitting with tribals on floor and eating. No airs at all from a man, who was also one of the founders of IFHHRO in the late 1980s. Together with the then Chair of the Dutch Johannes Wier Foundation for health and human rights, Dr. Adriaan van Es, Jonathan Fine decided that health-related human rights advocacy should have an international forum.

Therafter , he started his blog

The Story of Dasrath, Part II: http://povertyandhealth.blogspot.com/2010/02/dasraths-story-part-ii-harshness-of.html

After a month he writes

03 February 2010 -Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Ganiyari, Bilaspur District, Chhattisgarh, India

Dear Friends,

I am this week concluding a one month’s visit to Jan Swasthya Sahyog / JSS (The People’s Health Support Group) in Chhattisgarh, a state in Central India.

I write to you now because JSS, which serves the most destitute of India, is critically short-staffed and volunteer opportunities abound. (I personally will return in July 2010 to assist with a documentation project, based on personal histories, on how poverty and ill-health interact, each re-enforcing the other.)

Founded ten years ago, Jan Swasthya Sahyog/JSS (People’s Health Support Group) is one of India’s and the world’s most spectacularly successful experiments in the delivery of health care to impoverished rural communities. JSS provides comprehensive primary care services to 53 remote, extremely deprived, forest communities but also receives poor patients from a total of 1,500 villages in central Chhattisgarh at its hospital and outpatient facilities in the village of Ganiyari, Bilaspur District.

JSS is a leader in low-cost technologies it has designed for rural diagnostic, preventive and curative health services. The group is equally renowned for its publications and advocacy for fundamental reforms needed to bring access and equity in health care to all of rural India. Many of the founder members were trained at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi or at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.

With an ever-increasing patient load, and the provision of all levels of clinical services, public health, and even sponsorship of agricultural development, its medical staff is severely overtaxed and short-staffed in clinical, research, public health initiatives and supporting specialty roles.

The hope is that volunteers may be found to come to Ganiyari for periods ranging from three months to two years. Each will make an enormous difference in the lives of severely impoverished villagers and have the experience of a lifetime working with world-class physician and non-physician professionals and allied staff.

Recently, I interviewed Yogesh Jain, one of the founding physicians of JSS, on the volunteer professional staff that SS urgently needs to recruit. That interview is immediately below.

If you or any friends may be interested, you may write to me personally if you wish or to Dr. Jain and his colleagues at JSS directly at the e-mail address that follows.

Please also consider forwarding this message to others. Thanks!

–  Jonathan E. Fine, M.D., M.P.H.


Jonathan again came to India in 2011,  to  volunteer for JSS and to show solidarity for Dr Binayak sen who was still incarcerated in Jail, We as part of the campaign organised a talk at KEM hospital on “Why physicians should engage with Human Rights”


the pics of event on the link


Here is his speech


During his visit to give impetus to  free binayak sen campaign, Jonathan fine suggested we start a chapter of physicians for human rights in India.

Following statement was issued on Jan 4,2011, Binayak Sen;s 61st Birthday

‘Physicians for Human Rights’ is a worldwide organisation established in 1981 with a solid
foundation of over two decades of investigation, advocacy and accomplishment. It has
campaigned vigorously for the human rights of health care workers in various countries and
has been in the forefront of the International campaign for justice for Binayak Sen. In fact its
founder Jonathan Fine has been in India closely following the case and was present at
Binayak’s trial.

We choose to offer the position of Honorary Chairman of Physicians for Human Rights /
India to Dr Binayak Sen who has given his life to these principles and to serve the poorest
among us. Without neglecting others equally worthy, we will work tirelessly for his release
from prison and complete exoneration of unjust accusations. His prompt return to the fight
for human rights, civil liberties and service of India’s masses is essential for the sake of our
nation. We strongly communicate our dismay and call for the dropping of charges,
recognition of his exceptional contribution to Health & Human rights, his sacrifices & his
deep commitment, & rare integrity, his proclaimed consistent support of Non-Violence. It was
for the above human values reflected in his life & work he was awarded for being a role
model for Medical students, by CMC Vellore his Alma Mater, R R Keithan award for
demonstrating the values of the “father of the Nation” and Johnathan Mann award for his
work with the Tribals.

‘Physicians for Human Rights’–India will mobilize health professionals to advance health,
dignity and justice, and to promote the right to health for all.
‘Physicians for Human Rights’–India will join with physicians and health professionals
similarly organized in other countries to add our voices in support of persecuted fellow health
professionals in all countries. We will speak out against torture, physical and psychological
abuse, and all forms of repression harmful to the public health. We will work tirelessly to
bring our medical skills to the struggle for the attainment of human rights for all people. We
pledge to uphold the finest traditions of the medical and allied health professions to
investigate and report objectively on all findings of abuses in contravention to the constitution
of India, the United Nations Covenants on Social, Political and Economic Rights and the
Geneva Conventions and Protocols.


1.     Dr Amte   Bharati  , Maharogi Seva Samiti, Anandwan, Warora, Maharashtra

2.     Dr. Amte Sheetal , Maharogi Seva Samiti, Anandwan, Warora, Maharashtra

3.     Dr. Amte Vikas , Maharogi Seva Samiti, Anandwan, Warora, Maharashtra

4.     Dr Anand R K, Paediatrician, Mumbai

5.     Dr  Bal Arun, Surgeon, Mumbai

6.     Bali- Mahabal Kamayani, ,  Health and Human Rights Activist,Mumbai

7.     Dr Bhojraj Shekhar , Orthodepic Surgeon, Mumbai

8.     Dr  Chatterjee Garga , Researcher and Physician Kolkata

9.     Datta, Saurav ,  Law Teacher and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

10.   Duggal Ravi, Health Activist, Mumbai

11.  Dr.Gangolli Leena V  Public Health Physician, Mumbai

12.  Dr  Gupte Manisha , Feminist and Health rights activist, Pune

13.  E Pinto, Premdas Health Activist, Bangalore

14.  Dr Gaitonde, Rakhal Community Health Researcher, Bangalore15.  Jesani Amar ,  Health Activist, Mumbai

16.  Dr  Kalantri, S P  Physician, Wardha

17.  Dr  Karmarkar  Santosh ,Paediatric surgeon Mumbai

18.  Dr  Korde Vivek  Family Physician, Mumbai

19.  Dr  Lokhandwala, Yash Cardiologist, Mumbai

20.  Dr Morparia Hemant Radiologist, Mumbai

21.  Dr  Nagral  Sanjay GI surgeon ,Mumbai

22.  Dr  Naik Deven, Family Physician, Mumbai

23.  Nohira Sathyashree , Health Activist, Bangalore

24.  Dr   Pai Sanjay , Pathologist, Bangalore

25.  Dr Pandya Sunil, Neurosurgeon, Mumbai

26.  Dr  Roy Nobojit , Surgeon, Mumbai

27.  Dr  Shiva Mira , Public Health Physician ,Delhi

28.  Dr  Singh S P , Gastroenterologist, Cuttack

29.  Dr   Thomas  George , Orthopaedic surgeon, Chennai


Jonathan Fine also played a  crucial role ,  in  Free soni sori campaign after medical reports were recieved from Kolkata, he personally campaigned with Physician for human rights and amensty intrenational to declare soni sori as  prisoner  of conscience.

Dr. Fine was one of the seminal figures who launched an entire movement of doctors and other health professionals bringing their expertise, all the tools they have, to the human rights struggle, Jonathan was not only fearless himself, but he instilled this passion in others  to defy convention, to do what’s necessary. He was an inspiration, to health professionals and human rights activists,

Physician for Human Rights- India , has been defunct, I hope we all can revive it as a real tribute to Dr Jonathan Fine . For me he was human rights activist first and health professional later, his passion for human rights violations always vociferous and still his loud voice reverberates .




1 Comment

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  1. The yeoman services of Dr. Fine towards human health care and rights of deprived persons cannot be forgotten. RIP

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