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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 12, March 23, 2024

Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy Pays Homage To Laxminarayan Ramdas

Saturday 23 March 2024


Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy pays our homage to the life and spirit of Laxminarayan Ramdas, who passed away on the 15th of March 2024 at the age of 90. His demise brings tears and desolation to all of our members in India and Pakistan, most of whom have had the opportunity to meet him and interact with the former chief of the Indian Navy on several occasions.

Ramu, as friends fondly called him, did not function individually. For all of us in the Forum and peace movement, Ramu & Lolly (Ms. Lalita Ramdas), came as a unit. Shadows of each other and complimenting intellectuals, they sang and danced with people to the songs of resistance, freedom and democracy. They came with no prejudice and it has been testified by the pouring in of homages from Balochistan to Kashmir, Dhaka to Ladakh and Jaffna to Nagaland.

Admiral Ramdas, the Chairperson Emeritus of PIPFPD, was one of the longest serving chairpersons of the Indian chapter of Forum (1997-2003) and saw it’s activities through the tumultuous times post the nuclearisation of South Asia, the ‘Kargil war’, Vajpayee-Sharif bonhomie as well as the Gujarat pogrom and the Parliament attack in early 2000s. He was preceded by Late Shri. Nirmal Mukherjee and was succeeded by Late Shri Ashok Mitra, Shri Tapan Bose and Dr Syeda Hameed.

In his post-retirement life, Adm Ramdas was greatly impressed and influenced by ‘Didi’ Nirmala Deshpande, Kuldip Nayyar, Dr. Mubashir Hassan, B.M. Kutty, I. A. Rehman, Praful Bidwai, Parvez Hoodbhoy, Asma Jahangir, Gautam Navlakha, Karamat Ali, Achin Vanaik and many others. He held the Forum’s positions like a badge of honour and was extremely principled about the organisation not sacrificing internal democratic principles.

‘Ramu Da’ would engage in long debates with his passionate contemporaries and juniors, especially regarding the position of the Forum on Jammu & Kashmir. Ramdas presided over the 3rd and 4th Joint Conventions of the Forum and national conventions during his term. Despite the official Indian government position, which he ones adhered to as a soldier and Naval chief, Ramdas took to the PIPFPD democracy and agreed to the Forum’s position that J&K is not a land dispute between India and Pakistan, but instead a historical battle for justice for the people of the divided region. That the people of Jammu & Kashmir must have the primary stakes in deciding their future. The initiation of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of a Civil Society (JKCCS) surely had the solidarity of Adm Ramdas as Chairperson of Forum. He also never hesitated to issue statements and petitions demanding the end of political incarceration of the civil rights activists and journalists of Kashmir.

It was unbelievable for many people in the early years to see a war veteran take such staunch positions on peace, democracy and people’s rights, in the subcontinent. Ramu surprised many people by his adherence to the fundamentals of disarmament and de-nuclearisation in South Asia and the world. He passionately spoke on the issue of defence budgets of South Asia diminishing the allocations for universal education and public healthcare. He paid the price for such positions and earned the criticism of right wing hate-mongers.

Lolly and Ramu actively participated in the human rights movement and extended solidarity to ecological rights, civil liberties and minority communities’ constitutional rights. One could find them standing in solidarity with the people of Bastar and Manipur, the struggles of Narmada and fish workers of India and Pakistan and see their active role in building an environment-friendly South Asia.

He also went on to be a founding member and leading voice of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), the India Palestine Solidarity Forum as well as the Indo-Pak Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSI) and enthusiastically associated with newer platforms and initiatives for peace. The Hind-Pak Dosti Manch, Aman Ki Asha, Aman Chaupaal, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), Aaghaz-e-Dosti and the more recent coming together of South Asian peacemongers as South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) and South Asian Solidarity Collective (SASC), all saw the active participation and blessings of Lolly and Ramu.

A passionate speaker, a calm and caring leader, a compassionate comrade and above all a beautiful human - in Ramu’s demise, we lose all this and more. At a time when India is headed for its next general elections when the people of Gaza are subjected to the worst forms of brutality and genocide, Ramu’s departure is greatly saddening. His physical participation in the Bharat Jodo Yatra was a clear indication of his opposition to the majoritarian and authoritarian regime in the country - for a return to constitutional democracy and secularism.

Ramu will live in the hearts of every South Asian, who prioritise peace over ultra-nationalisms, war and hostilities. His ideas and spirit will live through the millions of people across the globe who want equality, justice and human rights to prevail over oppression, imperialism, exploitation and patriarchy! His charming smile, infectious determination and indomitable spirit will continue to inspire Indians and Pakistanis to work towards lasting peace and democracy in South Asia.

Rest in Peace and Power Admiral Ramdas. As we place your mortal remains to rest, the Forum re-commits itself to taking forward our collective dreams and commitment.

We join Lalita, their three daughters - Kavita, Sagari and Mallika, and the family of Ramu, in this moment of grief. We join the larger peace movement in celebrating the life and contributions of Admiral Ramdas to progressive politics.

Saathi tere sapnon ko manzil tak pahunchayenge!

Joint statement issued on 16th March by PIPFPD National Committees of Pakistan and India
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