Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2014 > Remembering Sunil (1960-2014), Socialist Leader and Writer

Mainstream, VOL LII No 19; May 3, 2014

Remembering Sunil (1960-2014), Socialist Leader and Writer

Monday 5 May 2014, by Bharat Dogra


Sunil, the National General Secretary of the Samajvadi Jan Parishad and editor of Samayik Varta, breathed his last at New Delhi’s AIIMS hospital on April 21. Sunil will be remembered for long as one of the most inspiring socialist activists, ideologues and writers whose high ideals were fully in harmony with his actual living experiences. His life can be seen as an ever-continuing story of struggles as well as cons-tructive activities, all aimed at the realisation of socialist ideals so dear to his heart.

Most of the struggles, in which Sunil (he never used his surname) was involved, were rooted in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh, although he also contributed in very useful ways to many other wider social movements. He was a founder member and co-ordinator of the Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, an organisation which has been in the thick of many struggles of tribals in the Kesla area of Hoshangabad. While fighting relentlessly against exploitation, injustice and displacement, Sunil played a leading role in the progress of the Tawa Matsya Sangh, a co-operative of fisherfolk which rapidly emerged as a model co-operative.

Sunil was known to be a brilliant student in his JNU days, when he came under the influence of socialist ideology and the inspiring guidance of Kishan Pattnaik. During his student days he took up impossible-looking tasks such as organising cycle marches from Delhi to the country’s most troubled areas (in those days) like Punjab and Assam. Around 1985 he set up Hoshangabad as the base of his lifelong work. He served several prison sentences in the course of his numerous struggles here. His last arrest was as late as in early 2014, in the course of mobilisation of women against liquor vends. His last days were spent increasingly in strengthening women’s organisations in and around Itarsi.

In the middle of all his struggles and grassroots activities, Sunil found time to write thought-provoking articles for several news-papers and journals (mostly in Hindi and sometimes in English) as well as edit journals like Samayik Varta and (earlier) Samata Era. In what was perhaps his last election-time article in Janata, Sunil raised very relevant and uncomfortable questions before leaders of the BJP, Congress and AAP.

In the course of over three decades of his political work, even his worst opponent could never question the complete honesty and integrity of Sunil. He lived a very simple life with his wife, Smita, and they worked together for their shared ideals. Their two children have been studying at the JNU. Sunil’s father, Dr Rampratap Gupta, has been writing on socially relevant issues.

Sunil has left us at a time when his in- valuable experiences, scholarship and activism were most needed for evolving alternatives to the capitalist path of development. Sunil was absolutely clear and firm about rejection of the capitalist path. It will be very difficult to fill the void left by him. One question I’ll keep on asking is: Why did this blemishless, highly committed and brilliant leader not get a larger national presence?

Bharat Dogra
C-27, Raksha Kunj, Paschim Vihar,

New Delhi-63 (Ph.: 011-25255303)