August 15, 2022: Indian activism lost one of its biggest pillars, Vimal Bhai, on August 15. It’s a major jolt for the country’s environmental justice movement.
Vimal Bhai was a well-known social and environmental activist and one of the key leaders of National Alliance Of Peoples Movement (NAPM). He dedicated his entire life to protecting the hills and rivers of Uttarakhand.
The past six days were extremely harrowing for Vimal bhai and everyone caring for him, as he eventually succumbed to his illnesses at AIIMS Delhi.
On August 10, he was taken to Safdarjang hospital and the same evening admitted to AIIMS, because of severe complications related to lungs, liver and kidney. On August 15, he had multi-organ failure.
Vimal Bhai touched thousands of lives in a deeply personal and political way. Be it with the Ganga or Narmada, his passion for rivers to remain free and flowing, remains the hallmark of his activism that spans over four decades.
He worked relentlessly to oppose mindless damming of rivers, pollution and supported people’s rights to be involved in the ‘developmental processes’, especially in the Tehri-Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, as part of Matu Jan Sangathan.
Vimal Bhai represented the true rainbow of resistance in his work of struggle and solidarity.
From being an active organizer in the anti-dam and ecological movements to supporting basti-dwellers of Khorigaon, to helping anti-mining struggles in Rajasthan, being at the forefront of campaigns against hate and communal violence via Aman ki Pehel, to standing up for trans and queer rights, to supporting release of political prisoners and asserting the right to self-determination of Kashmiris, he was always with people and nature.
He was an active supporter of India’s LGBT movement and was a key bridge between queer and other movements.
He immersed himself in assisting thousands of families in Khorigaon who were brutally evicted by the Haryana government and denied fair rehabilitation. Fondly addressed as Kakaji, Khoriwasis, old and young, waited on him day and night at the hospital and did all they could to save him.
His last letter was to the new President Draupadi Murmu, on July 25, 2022 in which he called upon her to take substantive steps to end the repression of adivasis, uphold their rights in Scheduled areas and protect their unique cultural, linguistic, religious life style.
He was also associated with the 37-year-long Narmada Bachao Andolan. He strongly believed that the Indian president would meet the adivasi students of the Narmada Jeevanshalas, to understand the ill-motivated attack on the Narmada Abhiyan by the current regime.
A person who remained down-to earth and non-consumerist throughout his life, Vimal Bhai was often one of the go-to persons for many movement saathis who would head to Delhi with plans for dharnas, demonstrations and delegations.
His home was always open to karyakartas (associates) of all movements. He was an excellent artist, poet, and documentary filmmaker.
He was extremely resourceful as a movement activist and diligently used all democratic tools to hold authorities and institutions accountable to people’s rights and laws of the land.
He firmly believed in building up a fight from the ground level to the courts to the parliament. His influence on many of the SC and NGT judgements, legislations over the years on environmental matters are part of his legacy.
He was always keen on engaging with and training young people to motivate them to do rights activism.
Indian activism will sorely and eternally miss Vimal Bhai, but activists will cherish him in their hearts. as they continue to save democracy from corporate onslaught.
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