By Gautam Thaker*
While Rajinder Sachar was the National President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) two decades ago, rare memories of having worked closely with him for the cause of human rights and civil liberties clearly emerge on the memory line even today, after his demise. Perhaps most of today’s citizens tend to recognize him merely as an authority to draft a report during the tenure of the UPA government on the social, economic and educational condition of Muslim community.
But before presenting this report, he was well-known as a sincere leader of the human rights. As national president of PUCL, on this front, he contributed a lot in the interest of the have-nots, victims and ailing majority which suffered at the hands of the ruling regimes. Whenever any case of violation of civil liberties and human rights was reported from any part of the country, Sachar would immediately rush there. In ensuring immediate arrangements for legal assistance and providing solace to victims, bringing to light at the national level issues of human rights violation, Sachar was next only to Justice VM Tarkunde.
Contribution made by Sachar on the human rights front was remarkable. All through his life, he struggled for constitutional and democratic rights of not only minority but all backward classes of India. I have had a rare privilege of working with this noble man, concerned with issues facing people, for over two-and-a-half decades. I would talk with him once or twice in a month. He would give guidance and directions on crucial issues. Whenever a conference was organized in Ahmedabad either by PUCL or by Indian Radical Humanist Association, Sachar definitely attended and thus enhanced our morale and enthusiasm.
Since we were on the opposite side of the Narmada Dam issue, I frequently persuaded him that our support was confined to the cause of irrigation and drinking water needs and rehabilitation of oustees only. We had affectionate but heated discussions. At times, he explained to me, admonishing as to how the main aim could be defeated by the rulers by misusing waters after allocating it to industries. He also suggested holding dialogues with senior leaders of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). This year, the ruling regime has wasted Narmada waters for pocketing votes. In the end, the foresight of Sachar has proved to be correct.
He showed deep concern for activists sincerely working for the poor people, and always remained prepared to offer legal or other forms of assistance in times of difficulties faced by them. His house was a shelter-place for the activist leaders injured in the battle-field, where all came across for applying ointment and bandaging with a commitment for re-thinking and administering justice. At the time of cases filed against leaders of NBA, while talking to me as well as with renowned environment expert engineer Mahesh Pandya, about a year ago Sachar had told us that “time has come when all should work harmoniously and together. Support of all of you is essential in for cases and counter-cases filed against one another”. This kind of concern expressed by him touched us.
The UPA government entrusted Sachar chairmanship of the high powered committee to inquire into social, educational and economic conditions of the Muslims in the country. With strenuous efforts, had prepared a 403-pages report in which he suggested that educational facilities to the Muslim community should be qualitative and free of cost. He also suggested that it is and polytechnic should be set up in Muslim areas, insisting, the share of Muslims in employment should be raised. Also, he said, credit facilities, including banking, should be extended to them.
He asserted that there should be better utilization of Wakf properties or resources and basic amenities should be made available to all Hindus and Muslims in every city and village. Government schools and health centres should also be set up. After making study of such a situation, he drew the conclusion that by every social and economic parameter, Muslims are trailing behind scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and hence insisted on redressal of their grievances by shedding prejudices against Muslims. He recommended setting up of an equal opportunity commission.
*General Secretary, PUCL (Gujarat) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org