PUCL Bulletin, April 2004

Tarkunde condolence meeting and messages

Passing away of Tarkunde on the evening of 22nd March, 2004 has saddened all those who are concerned with democracy, human rights, rationalism, and above all, humanism in India and elsewhere. He suffered from leukemia for the last few days and was admitted to Apollo Hospital, New Delhi on 9th March, 2004 for treatment and met his end there. Before being admitted to the hospital, he, as usual, kept himself concerned with various problems facing the nation. On 25.1.2004, he wrote a letter to Atal Behari Vajpayee and General Parvez Musharraf urging both of them to discuss the possibility of complete elimination of nuclear weapons by both the countries by mutual consent and within a period of couple of years.
As soon as the news of his death spread, it was felt that the era of struggle for democracy, civil liberties, and humanism had come to an end.

Large number of people turned up at the electric crematorium, Lodhi Road, New Delhi at 1 PM on 23rd March for his last rites, including I.K. Gujral, Soli Sorabji, F.S. Nariman, Justice B.N. Kirpal, Justice A.S. Anand, M.C. Bhandare, Surendra Mohan, and Arun Jaitley. Many judges of the Delhi High Court, social and civil liberty activists, and others were also present.

A Condolence meeting was organized at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on 27th March on behalf of PUCL, Indian Renaissance Institute, Indian Radical Humanist Association, Champa-the Amiya & B.G. Rao Foundation, Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity, Minorities Council, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Human Rights Trust, Co-ordination Committee on Kashmir, Committee against Communalism, and Citizens For Democracy to pay tributes to him. The Auditorium was overcrowded. Prof. Rajni Kothari, eminent political Scientist and former President of the PUCL, presided over the meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting two minutes’ silence was observed in memory of Tarkunde. Prof. Kothari, in his opening remarks, said that in the demise of Tarkunde India has lost a great champion of human rights and a fearless fighter against all that is illegal and oppressive. Other speakers included Justice A.S. Anand, former Chief Justice of India and presently Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission; Justice Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court; Ashok Desai and Shanti Bhushan, both Senior Advocates; Kuldip Nayar and B.G. Verghese, both eminent journalists; Dr. Gauri Bazaz Malik, Chairperson, Indian Renaissance Institute; Arun Shourie, Union Minister and one time General Secretary of the PUCL; Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties; Maulana Ejaz Ahmad Aslam, Forum for Democracy & Communal Amity; E. Yasir from Students Islamic Organisation; Ranjan Dwivedi, Manav Ekta Abhiyan; S.R. Bommai, former Union Cabinet Minister; Vinod Jain, Indian Radical Humanist Association; and Suhas Borker, General Secretary of Citizens For Democracy.

N.D. Pancholi mentioned some of the messages received by that time. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam sent a condolence message to his daughter. Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy (Retd.) in his message said that Tarkunde was a great humanist, and “….his passion was democracy, his passion was civil liberties, and his most ardent passion was humanism.” Soli Sorabji, Attorney General of India, who regretted his inability to attend the Condolence Meeting as he was out of Delhi to inaugurate a seminar under the auspicious of the Bar Council of India, sent a message saying that,”…Tarkunde has joined the ranks of immortals….. His passing is a deep loss to legal fraternity and the world of human rights. His passing away has left a void which would be difficult to fill.”

Mubashir Hasan, former Finance Minister of Pakistan, presently actively engaged in the campaign for improving people to people relations between India and Pakistan, sent his message from Lahore saying,”… In the demise of V.M. Tarkunde, South Asia is bereft of a compassionate and noble soul. Not only he was an untiring fighter for civil liberties but he saw the need of Pakistan-India friendship long before any of us had started working for it… Pakistan mourns for VMT as India does.”

Others who sent message for condolence included K.R. Narayanan, former President of India, Rabi Ray, Era Sezhiyan, Amrit Wilson, Lalita & Ramdas, Sumanta Banerjee. Fali S. Nariman paid his tributes by way of an article which was published on the front page on 24th March, 04 in The Indian Express titled: “He administered justice, not just law, the Bar’s noblest soul”. Shastri Ramachandran, Associate Editor of Tribune, paid his tributes by writing an article in his paper on 26th March, titled “Tarkunde: Gentle Giant”. Prashant Bhushan wrote his article for Tahalka: “V.M. Tarkunde: Father of Civil Liberties.” Messages are pouring in and articles are being published in national and regional language papers. Condolence meetings have been held in large number of cities & towns.

Among those present in meeting were Ram Jethamalani, Prof. Amrik Singh, Hasan Mansur (Bangalore), Sehjo Singh, Anwar Jamal, D.R. Sheth, Babu Lal Sharma

Condolence messages
§ Tarkunde has joined the ranks of the immortals. An outstanding lawyer, a brilliant judge, a progressive thinker, a valiant fighter for civil liberties of the oppressed and the exploited, and above all, an unwavering champion of human rights without counting cost. His passing away is a deep loss to the legal fraternity and the world of human rights. To me Bhau was a friend, philosopher and guide. His passing away has left a void which would be difficult to fill. -- Soli J. Sorabjee, Attorney General of India, 27th March 2004

§ In the sad passing away of Tarkunde ji, India and her teeming weak and helpless citizens have lost their philosopher and guide. By his commitment to human rights, he insured his name for all times.

We all have lost the noblest of souls. Please convey to his daughter our deepest condolences. -- J.S. Bandukwala, 29th March 2004

§ The news about Tarkundeji’s demise was very sad indeed. Although he was ailing for long, the fact of his passing away leaves a void in the human rights movement. Kanna ji had asked us to write to him and inform him about the work we are involved in as he felt Tarkunde would have been very happy to know about different activities taken by PUCL nationwide. Please accept our condolences on behalf of PUCL-Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. We will definitely send the condolence message to Tarkundeji’s daughter with a copy to you. Our district units have also been informed to do so at the local levels. This is for your information. -- Dr. V. Suresh, PUCL-Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry branch, 29th March 2004

§ The passing away of justice Tarkunde is a tragedy for the country; passing away of stalwarts of his eminence makes this country more and more amoral. We who care for humanist values have lost a guide, philosopher and ideal. may his soul rest in peace. We in Mumbai are thinking of having a condolence meeting and we are sure to pass a resolution. In that event the copy of that message will be sent to his daughter. -- Justice S.M. Daud (Retd.), 29th March 2004

§ This is such a sad news for us and for the PUCL. -- Vineeta Gupta, 28th March 2004

In memoriam: Justice V.M. Tarkunde (1909-2004)
People’s Union for Civil Liberties Karnataka branch deeply mourns the passing of Shri V.M. Tarkunde, one of the founding members of our organization.
*** *** ***
V.M. Tarkunde was a man of vision rooted in idealism. He believed that humanism was the fountainhead of democratic ethos; he wanted this to be the basis of civil society. He symbolized the spirit of humanism and human rights. Being a rationalist he had little patience for the mumbo-jumbo of what passed for religion. In its stead, he upheld values that transcended all faiths.
V.M. Tarkunde had a penchant for justice that made him uphold the rights of labour, hence he never appeared for the management. He was among the few who recognized early the genocidal nature of communalism and was uncompromising in his opposition to it. He found in it a great threat to the very concept of the inherent right to life with dignity. His sympathy lay with the rights of the people of Kashmir and the North East.

To apply the words of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, Shri Tarkunde was one of those who kept alive “the hope of a new day dawning” with the “recognition of he inherent dignity and of the equal and unalterable rights of all the members of the human family in the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It is a fitting tribute to the indomitable spirit of V.M. Tarkunde to keep green his memory and sustain his vision, “to keep alive the hope of a new day dawning.” -- Ramdas Rao, Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka, 30th March 2004)

Dear Manik ji,
As ill-luck would have it, the sad news of the death of Tarkunde ji reached me only now. I was shocked, as must be the entire nation.
Let me assure you that in this hour of grief, you are not alone; we are all with you. -- Abu Baker, Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission and Former President, Delhi State PUCL, 31st March 2004
(Inputs by N.D. Pancholi and PUCL (30th March, 2004)

Nainital - public meeting mourns Tarkunde
A chance phone call to Bombay late in the evening of 22nd March from Nainital gave us the news of Tarkunde’s death at Delhi that day. It was a bolt from the blue. Kannabiran, Rajindar Sachar, Kuldip Nayar, and I had reached Nainital a few hours ago for the annual JP Memorial function of the PUCL. It was decided that the function should not be cancelled. Instead, before presenting the Journalism for Human Rights Award and listening to the JP Memorial lecture, the public meeting should pass a condolence resolution and observe two minutes’ silence in memory of Tarkunde.

K.G. Kannabiran paid his tribute to Tarkunde on his contribution to the fight for civil liberties and human rights and read out the following resolution which was approved by the house: “This public meeting at Nainital for the 24th JP Memorial Lecture and the 23rd Journalism for Human Rights Award places on record its deep sense of sorrow on the death of its founding President and colleague of JP, Shri V.M. Tarkunde, at Delhi at 6.00 PM on March 22, 2004.

“No one can fully comprehend Tarkunde’s contribution to the movement for civil liberties and human rights. It is sufficient to say that all of us in the PUCL rededicate ourselves to the fight that he had started along with JP.”
There was a Full Bench reference to Shri Tarkunde in the Bombay High Court on March 31. There will be a Full Bench reference on April 7, 2004 in the Supreme Court of India. – Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary


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