With the death of Ram Narayan Kumar in Kathmandu on June 28, I lost a friend whose work inspired me. Many Punjabis also feel the same, because of the tireless manner in which he fought for human rights in the state, and outside it in India and abroad.
I first met Ram in the 1980s because of my friend Nitya, who continued her association with Ram and his causes till the very end, often taking up the legal aspects of much of his work.
The book, Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab, written by Ram Narayan Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran Kaur, is a one-of-a-kind documentation of those who had disappeared in Punjab during the 1980s.
Please click here to read a review of the book titled They did what CBI could not by A J Philip, former Senior Associate Editor of The Tribune.
Ram, Ashok, Nitya and others took many risks to get to the truth, and it was their dogged, focused quest that has brought some justice to the victims of Punjab Police atrocities through the National Human Rights Commission.
My association with Ram and his work continued over years, and every time he visited Chandigarh, we met, often over a meal. Last year, in April, Ram was kind enough to ask me to join him and speak at the release of his book Terror in Punjab: Narratives, Knowledge and Truth, where I also met Harsh Mander, a former civil servant dedicated to the cause of justice in Gujarat and Prof Abdulrahim P. Vijapur from Aligarh Muslim University.
I wrote about Ram in Punjabi, since it is the mother tongue of the people who really benefited from his work . Please click here
to read my article, which was published on July 3, 2009, in the Punjabi Tribune. Its a PDF file.
For the English readers, I recommend Harsh’s article, An epic life, which was published in The Hindu on July 19, 2009.