Many who worked relentlessly for the people, especially for the oppressed, poor and vulnerable left us earlier than expected. We talk of them for sometime and forget or remember occasionally. Just wondering whether anyone, who is associated with Balagopal can forget him. Even today, somewhere the heart refuses to accept that he cannot come back, it feels like he may be busy in some meeting or some tour and would be back again soon that I may see him after sometime or call him.
Thousands of people attended his funeral, saw him for the last time , some more were there in the memorial meet organised by Human Rights Forum at Sundaraiah Vignana Kendram, Hyderabad. Many felt that the hall was too small to accommodate all those who want to attend the memorial meet and share moments of one’s association with Balagopal.
Speakers at the meet, several of them, each one added a different dimension of Balagopal, the great man who was with all of us till the other day and is now gone so far and for ever. One wonders how could a person be so multi-dimensional and so beautiful and so much selfless. It is difficult for those who met him because he looks like what a nice person and what an activist and what a true scholar could be. He looks beyond a normal man. That’s why there is no expression and the tears roll down. One feels difficult to explain why one breaks down because he lived a life that was not normal. Not routine and not like the scores of scholars and leaders that we see today parading with several organizations or political parties. He was not with any of these. Yet he was far beyond all these people.
I was curiously watching all the people. You name the section they were there-.right, left, NGOs, non NGOs, academicians, lawyers, journalists, politicians, spokespersons fo several political parties- .everyone form almost every group. Adivasi representatives form nook and corner of the state, dalits, women, among others in good numbers. What made him to catch the imagination and command respect of so many people? These days its very difficult to satisfy one section of people with whom one works with regularly.
Seshaiah, APCLC, said, Balagopal never used to go to people with a pre-mind set, that he was open to anything new and to learn form anyone. He learned from issues, understood and conceptualized the agony of the people and the nature of forces responsible for the tragedy. Is it the reason for him to become so dear to the people and so much one with the masses? Haragopal said, he was never afraid of anything, fear of death, fear of counters and encounters. Whatever Balagopal wanted to say, he said it openly and it was in unambiguous manner. He said what he believed to be true, told Haragopal. Varavara Rao told that, all his life was bonus to Balagopal, because death couldnt reach him or missed him on many occasions. Mrunalini, his sister said so many nice things about him that he is so caring and used to spend time with family, and how he used to spend time with his son. There were moving songs by Vimalakka and others.
My experience with him is unforgettable. Not a long association. It was last year, friends suggested that Balagopal is the right person to be consulted on Polepally issue for any legal advice. First time I called him and he invited me home. I went with a question mark wondering whether he will give enough time or not as we are not famous or experienced persons, don’t have any big tags or background. All my apprehensions disappeared within minutes. He was friendly and heard everything patiently. He was already well informed of what is happening in Polepally. I took some liberty and asked him whether he will be in the Anti-SEZ committee. He agreed. Adding to my surprise, he also said that we shouldnt depend much on court. ‘They only give us some partial relief and only people’s movement will survive’ he told. I never thought that a famous lawyer would be so frank of things and willing. From there the journey started with him. Many times I phoned him to clear my doubts. He encouraged several activities and we did Public hearing, bhu satyagraham, bhu nirvasitula Ikya Vedika. He always encouraged us, and many times advised that we should fight on the streets, that he will join the dharnas, and that we should block the road or sit in front of the companies etc..
After sometime, we forgot that he is only a lawyer. He was an advisor and we sought his opinion and advice on anything. Whenever we were upset, faced with problems because of police or the politicians, or any other crisis we did call him. We would call him even during the night and say ‘sir, what we have do now that one of the women in Polepally took poison? Or they have arrested our people, or they are not giving us jobs’ Any problem, we would call him if there was need for advice. His answers were clear and crisp. He gave us confidence.
All possible things we did in Polepally, some achieved and some left incomplete for want of resources, time. Finally, people became so strong that now they only inform us of certain issues and they are managing themselves. The struggle is still on.
‘Bbhunivrvasithula ikya sanghatana’, was organized recently with several struggle groups from Andhra Pradesh, right from Araku to Bhupalapalli, open casts, dams, minings, SEZs. Balagopal was main speaker for the event. That day, as usual he came early to the meeting hall with his HRF publications, pamphlets and sat alone near the gate, people came late. Many activists wanted to see him and talk to him. He was listening to everyone. He told in the meeting that he was trying to organise such event/ process since a long time, and that all displaced people coming together is good sign for movements. Fortunately we had Vanaja and another friend to record the whole process.
That time we thought of polavaram, first meeting is planned with Balagopal, VB Rawat, Ratnamala akka, Dr. Madhavi. Just two days before the meeting bandh was declared by Maoists, but balagopal didnt compromise, asked me to inform local police and i did. Meeting day we were told that roads were blocked, he said lets go and see.. we moved to Kunta of Chattisgarh on the borders of Chintur (Bhadrachaam). We found one huge mango tree and sat there..I was embarrassed with the situation, with problems of police permission and also delayed trickling of people joining the meeting. I was worried about Balagopal, what he will think about the programme, poor arrangements and planning etc. But as he said that number is not important, lets wait for some more time. Slowly people gathered and he gave wonderful speech. He also promised them that whenever they call he will come.
For the next meeting he asked me to invite P. Trinadha Rao, advocate and friend of Balagopal. That meeting was organised in V.R. Puram, Bhadrachalam. It went on well, local people cooked food, Balagopal had very late lunch. During the meeting a man came from out side and spoke to him that someone was arrested and they need his help. Immediately, Balagopal went along with Trinadha Rao and Madhavi . With his guidance, support and some other friend’s advice ‘Polavaram Vyathireka Ikya sanghatana’ was formed..
Balagopal’s dream is to organise one big rally in Bhadrachalam with large number of tribal masses. We tried and are still trying. But, suddenly he left without seeing his dream. He used to say that “how can we keep quite when lives of lakhs of adivasis are submerging, something we must do”
We will definitely fight these problems. We will definitely fulfill his dream. And why not, Friends, with all your support
Salute to our dear Balagopal!