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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 18, April 18, 2009

Tribute: Smitu Kothari

Saturday 18 April 2009, by Praful Bidwai


Nothing sums up Smitu’s involvement with civil society organisations and social movements—that is to say, the core of his life-activity—as eloqu-ently as the brilliant calendar his organisation, Intercultural Resources, produced three months ago.

The calendar is right in front of me as I write this. It is called “Social Movements in India”. Each month is devoted to a specific theme, such as agitations against land acquisition and displace-ment, movements for women’s rights, unorganised workers’ rights, environmental justice, secularism and communalism, campaigns against Special Economic Zones and privatisation of natural resources, struggles against the Narmada reservoir and large dams, and so on. There are attractive photographs, posters and drawings and detailed notes on major events pertaining to special dates.

In many ways, the calendar gives expression to Rajni Kothari’s celebratory vision of social movements and non-party political formations.

Although Smitu conceptualised the calendar, and his wife Bindia Thapar, a graphic artist and designer, designed it, scores of people and organisations were involved in researching its subject matter, collating visuals and preparing notes, etc. Such collaboration collaborative or collective efforts were typical of Smitu’s style of working.

Many of us worked closely with Smitu on militarisation and nuclear disarmament (the principal agenda of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace), on globalisation and neoliberal policies, and most recently, on India-Pakistan (and more generally South Asian) people’s solidarity. In fact, Smitu had just returned from a meeting of People’s SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) in Kathmandu the day before his health sudeenly deteriorated.

As Miloon and Ashish continue the legacy of his work and commitment to justice and peace, Smitu will remain a source of inspiration for many people, especially the youth he mentored, and the countless friends he made as a Citizen of the World who was strongly rooted in India.

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