SECULARISM, DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

INSAF Bulletin 156 April 2015
Editors: Daya Varma (Montreal) and Vinod Mubayi (New York)

DR. DAYA RAM VARMA (August 23, 1929 – March 22, 2015)

Editors

 

It is with great sadness that we announce the demise of the Founding Editor of INSAF Bulletin, Dr. Daya Ram Varma, who passed away on March 22, 2015 after a battle with lung cancer.  By any measure, Daya was an extraordinary person: he was a leading scientist and researcher in the challenging field of pharmacology, he had a deep and abiding commitment to secular, democratic and progressive politics in India and South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora in North America, and he was an extremely warm and generous person, ready to give his time and energy to whoever, wherever and whenever someone needed help. While we deeply mourn his passing, we also recall and celebrate the long, rich, and productive life he lived. Read more…

MY FATHER DAYA VARMA

Rahul Varma

 

My father, Dr. Daya Ram Varma, was a brilliant scientist with over 225 scientific publications and two full-length books — Reason and Medicine: Art and Science of Healing from Antiquity to Modern Times, and Medicine, Healthcare and the Raj: Unacknowledged Legacy — to his credit. He was the founder, editor and key writer of several political journals, including New India Bulletin, India Now and INSAF Bulletin, and was author of a boundless stream of articles, essays, critiques and chapters in prestigious scientific books and journals. A staunch secularist and socialist, he was the featured subject in world-class documentaries such as Bhopal: Beyond Genocide (Tapan Bose, Suhasini Mulay) and Bhopal: Search for Justice (Peter Raymond, Harold Crooks). He founded, supported or influenced many progressive organizations such as the Indian Peoples’ Association in North America (IPANA), CERAS, Kabir Cultural Center, the South Asian Women’s Community Center, Teesri Duniya Theatre, and many others. He championed the cause of peace and harmony between India and Pakistan and between people from these countries living in North America. He was a one-of-a-kind activist who combined science, politics and human rights, envisioning a society built upon the foundations of peace, equality and justice. Read more…

A GREAT SOUL SERVES EVERYONE ALL THE TIME

Dipti Gupta

 

A great soul serves everyone all the time – a great soul never dies – it brings us together again and again. Since Papa’s demise on March 22, I have been overwhelmed by the number of calls and messages we have received from all his fans and friends all around the world. I say fans because those of us who knew Papa well – knew that he had a magnetic persona that attracted and inspired people. Read more…

IF THERE IS ANOTHER DAYA VARMA, PLEASE STAND UP

Rana Bose

 

If there is another Daya Varma, please stand up. And nobody shall.  The room and the world will remain silent and still. Read more…

MY FRIEND AND COMRADE DAYA

Vinod Mubayi

 

Daya was my close comrade and friend for almost 40 years and it is very difficult if not impossible to accept that he is gone.  In what follows, I try to give a brief survey of some organizations and events where our interests and energies coincided.  I knew he was a distinguished researcher and teacher in pharmacology by virtue of his professional appointment at McGill University. But his work there is described below much more knowledgeably by those he worked with or taught. Read more…

MY FRIEND, MY MENTOR IS NO MORE

Feroz Mehdi

 

I spoke with Daya the day my father died, on 2nd January, and told him I am going to India for the funeral. I came back on 16 January and spoke to Daya again a few days later. He asked me how I was doing and about the memorial meeting that was held for my father in Delhi. Then he said “You have lost your father, and I am not doing well and can die any day. So, you will be left alone …”. This was one of the many ways he showed his concern for me. Read more…

WE WILL CARRY ON WITH THE IMPORTANT WORK YOU UNDERTOOK ALL OF YOUR LIFE!

Harinder Mahil

 

It is with great sadness that I write about Daya whom I have known since 1975. I came to know Daya soon after IPANA was founded in June 1975. The Vancouver unit IPANA often discussed Daya’ articles and other writings. Read more…

DAYA WILL REMAIN AS AN INSPIRATION TO ALL WHO WALK ON THE SAME PATH

Chin Banerjee

 

I first met Daya during the first convention of Indian People’e Association in North America (IPANA)  in Vancouver in 1976. But I knew of him as one of the founders and leading spirits of the organization that was established in Montreal shortly before Indira Gandhi declared Emergency in 1975, which I joined on my return from India at the end of that year. IPANA offered me a home in diaspora when the homeland I had left had been violated by a dictatorial regime. Daya’s wise and authoritative leadership in IPANA offered me the hope of reclaiming the homeland that felt I had lost. Read more…

HE WILL ALWAYS REMAIN IN OUR HEARTS

Anand Patwardhan

 

Daya Varma was a staunch supporter of revolutionary Marxism Leninism when I first met him in 1975. An Emergency had been declared in India in June 1975 to curtail the Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) led Bihar movement. I had just completed a film on this movement and most of my colleagues were already in jail and I would likely have shared their fate but escaped by getting a teaching assistantship to do a Masters degree in Montreal. Here I put an English voice over on our film and began to show it to raise public opinion against the Emergency. Read more…

ALL HIS LIFE, DAYA REMAINED A FIGHTER

Satinath Sarangi, Sambhavna

 

(Translated from Hindi)

 

On 22 March, Sambhavna’s research advisor and supporter, Dr. Daya Ram Varma, passed away in St. Johns, Canada, in the midst of his family and friends.  Daya was born in a small village in Azamgarh district of U.P. He began his education in a one-room school, and then went on to receive his MBBS and M.D. degrees from Lucknow University’s King George Medical College. In 1959 he came to Canada to do his Ph.D. in pharmacology and after obtaining his degree from McGill University he began teaching there and was a professor there until 2007. He was made Professor Emeritus in 2009. Read more…

A STAUNCH SECULARIST AND RATIONALIST

Pervez Hoodbhoy

 

I first met Daya Varma in early 1976 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while I was a graduate student at MIT. We had been introduced by my friend Deepak Kapur, his devotee, who later became his son-in-law. Daya had been instrumental in founding the Indian Peoples Association of North America, IPANA, immediately after Indira Gandhi had declared the emergency and acquired draconian powers to quell dissent. Though quiet and laidback by disposition, Daya was a formidable organizer. Soon there were chapters across North America and Canada. Though a Pakistani, I was a kind of honorary member since there was so much that I shared with my Indian friends. Read more…

I FEEL DEEPLY PAINED AND SADDENED

Arshad Khan

 

I first met Daya, through our mutual friend Vinod, in Montreal around 1989-1990. Some of us were trying to organize a function in North America for the birth anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz that used to be a hugely-attended annual event, known as Faiz Mela, in Lahore, until the Military Dictator Zia ul Haq banned it in the 80s. Some progressive friends, Faiz lovers all, had agreed to jointly host the function with progressive Indians in Montreal. Read more…

CONSIDERATION THE WAY PEOPLE THOUGHT

Herman Rosenfeld

 

I first met Daya over 40 years ago, in Montreal. He came much heralded, to the Afro-Asian, Latin-American Peoples’ Solidarity Committee, where I did most of my political learning and activist work at the time. Read more…

HE WAS SO COMMITTED TO THE DREAM OF A NEW SOCIETY

Alan Silverman

 

I first met Daya in the mid 1970’s in Montreal.  We met at some Third World support function. I was new to political activism and I had never met anyone like him. Read more…

DAYAJI WAS FOREVER HOLDING THE MOMENTUM

Swati Sharan

 

In 1999, our common friend Minoo Gundevia encouraged me to enter an essay contest on South Asian secularism and democracy for the International South Asian Forum or INSAF conference. As one of the chosen winners, I ended up in a life transforming experience. It was a place where many hearts were united for South Asian harmony and development and Dayaji was one of the organizers amongst them. Now, Dayaji, as we knew him, was a highly diverse individual. He was established as a researcher in Mcgill and later wrote two books on the history of medicine amongst many accomplishments. Read more…

DAYA DELIGHTED IN PUZZLES

Nitya Ramakrishnan

 

I have seldom met anyone quite as delightful as Daya. I doubt too, whether there is anyone so genuinely interested in things beyond oneself, as he. Read more…

COMPASSION GOD SHIELD

Maya Khankhoje

 

Daya Ram Varma: Compassion God Shield. Born with a name like that it is no wonder that Daya turned out to be the man he was, a man of infinite compassion who devoted a large chunk of his life to shielding the weak from the onslaughts of greedy corporations. He never let the world forget Union Carbide and its responsibility for the damage it caused to present and future generations. But he did not invoke God’s help for this task because the word God did not form part of his vocabulary. Daya’s vocabulary was that of science and rationality tempered by a radical humanism that brooked no compromise with the truth. Read more…

HE HAS LEFT US AN ENDURING MEMORY OF A PERSON WITH A HEART OF GOLD

Shireen Pasha (Anwar, Zaibun, Mariam and Qais Pasha)

 

How fortunate and blessed my family and I have been to have met and known Daya.  He had a remarkable insight, a quiet understanding, and generosity to give more than what he had already bestowed in terms of kindness, comfort and love…. and could intuitively sense people and what they were about. His generosity and kindness was bestowed on all the people lucky enough to cross his path. Read more…

PYARE (LOVING) DAYA

Zaibun and Mariam Pasha

 

You found us one winter day in the labyrinthine corridors of Royal Victoria, sitting at the edge of our seats, with fingers crossed, waiting to find out if our father would recover. We were looking for an apartment for ourselves but were finding it hard given the season, our limited resources and time. You heard of us through a common friend of my father’s, Vinod Mubayi, and wasted no time in finding us. Amidst all that uncertainty you offered us your home and your support and we accepted. Read more…

I KNEW THAT SEEKING ANSWERS TO SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS WOULD BE MY LIFE CAREER

Richard Gillis

 

I first knew Daya as a student at McGill during the 1960s.  He was a role model for me then and will remain so forever.  Read more…

DAYA WE WILL MISS YOU DEARLY

Sylvain Chemtob

 

I first met Dr Varma in 1985 when my PhD supervisor at the time (Jack Aranda) felt that I would benefit from a solid co-supervison through Daya’s involvement. Indeed I did, and very quickly I began to spend more time in his lab. Daya taught me how to write scientific reports (grants and papers). In this context I experienced a humbling event for my first paper as a PhD student. After having submitted my paper unsuccessfully to various journals, despite its approval by my main supervisor (Aranda), I finally decided to get a second opinion by consulting Daya. Daya gladly accepted and told me he would get back to me soon. Indeed, one week later, Daya asked to see me; upon meeting me, he said: “I hope you will not be offended, but the only text I left untouched is your name” – the paper was submitted and immediately accepted with minor revisions. Since, Daya and I co-authored 95 peer-reviewed papers. Read more…

RILLIANT SCIENTIST, INCREDIBLE HUMANITARIAN

Moshmi Bhattacharya

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Varma in 1995 when I first came to Montreal. I came to know about his laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology, McGill University having attended a course taught by his wife, Dr. Shree Mulay. Read more…

ALWAYS READY TO HELP

Jacob Aranda

 

Please accept my most profound condolence and sympathy for the loss of one of the most wonderful persons I know. Read more…

WARM AND CARING PERSON

Romir Chatterjee

 

Daya’s life will always be a testament to the unending quest for social justice.  His approach gave real meaning to the term ‘scientific socialism’: an approach to building a new world based on a verifiable understanding of events, as distinct from dogma.  He applied this approach to all that he did, and to his own role as a committed communist. Read more…

“YOU JUST DO IT.”

Dolores Chew

 

It’s hard to write this, because it means accepting the fact that Daya is no longer around.  Though for the last many years Daya no longer lived in Montreal, he was a constant presence for me.  Through email enquiries about INSAF Bulletin, or CERAS, suggestions about CERAS statements — he was there.  While Daya was an intensely political person, and many of us remember him as such, for me, the personal is very closely intertwined with the political. Read more…

TRULY FELT THAT I HAD KNOWN HIM ALL MY LIFE

Raza Mir

 

Gaye dinon ka suraagh lekar kidhar se aaya, kidhar gaya vo

Ajeeb maanoos ajnabi thha, mujhe to hairaan kar gaya vo Read more…

WHAT I LEARNED MOST FROM MY MENTOR WAS NOT HIS POLITICS BUT HIS VALUESS

Stephen Orlov

It has taken me some time to find words that adequately express my sense of loss over the passing of such a dear friend and mentor, Daya Varma.  Read more…

DAYA WAS ENGAGED NOT JUST IN POLITICS IN THE ABSTRACT

Sekhar Ramakrishnan

I knew Daya for nearly 40 years. Roped into IPANA by Nagu and Vinod in mid-1976, there was a lot of interaction, travel back and forth, phone calls, then emails (perhaps not) during IPANA days. Much less in the last 30 years, but we remained in touch. I felt very close to him, not just because he influenced my political thinking back in 1976 but much more because it seemed our views evolved very similarly. I like to think that we came to similar conclusions on many topics (relevance of semi-feudal/semi-colonial characterization, importance of communalism to us versus to the voting public, Obama as an exceptional public figure) because we were both objective and non dogmatic. But perhaps it was because of the ways to think about society and politics that I, like many others, learned from him. Or perhaps it was partly illusory, from his ability to stress what we had in common and work slowly to change me (or be changed) through friendly exchange, building on the shared analysis.  Read more…

DAYA-HAPPY, VALUABLE AND IRREPLACEABLE

Felicitas Santiago

 

I read the numerous pouring of condolence and reminiscence of the ways Daya had affected and impressed people whose lives he had affected…  The Indian diaspora has lost a bright light in the political, intellectual, social and extended-familial atmosphere in these parts of our present world. Read more…

HE WAS SUCH A CONVIVIAL AND COMMITTED PERSON

Anil Srivastava

 

I often talk in my head with Daya, ever since I met him in Montreal, and his book and another book he gave me on history of medicine, are on my desk my constant companion to help me get a leg up in an area I know so little about. I was taken aback to hear about his passing away and that I will not get to talk to him. Read more…

HIS PASSING AWAY IS A GREAT LOSS FOR ALL OF YOU

Navsharan Singh

 

His passing away is a great loss for all of you – his family but he had an extended family and I consider myself a part of it.  I feel very privileged to have received his affection and spent many, many rich moments with him in Canada and in Delhi.  Read more…

DAYA WAS AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN

Birendra Prasada

 

Daya was an exceptional man. Not withstanding his very substantial academic achievements, his contributions to the cause of social justice and seeding and mentoring of several organizations and institutions will have left a lasting impression. Even though he left Montreal many years ago, his vision flourishes in Teesri Duniya, Kabir Centre and several other organizations.  Read more…

DAYA TOUCHED SO MANY LIVES IN SO MANY WAYS

Rita Manchanda

 

I came to know Daya much later after Tapan had worked a mystique around him of the Bhopal days of someone with rare commitment a soul mate of sorts in politics, in idealism, in living life to the full ….. For him he was the repository of the last resort of all knowledge – medical, scientific and Tapan would constantly refer to him and .the wonderful days spent together. He was Tapan’s elder brother.  Read more…

YOUR LOSS IS IMMEASURABLE

Kiran Omar

 

We were all so very sad to hear of dear Daya’s passing. May he rest in eternal peace and Grace.  Arif and I have lovely memories of him visiting Norko whenever he was in town, even on visits from NFLD he would stop by, have a cup of tea with us then then proceed toy our house. Always smiling gently and brushing off questions about his health. Read more…

“GUFTUGU BAND NA HO”

Iqbal Niazi

 

I opened my Yahoo account this evening to read the April issue of Insaf and was shocked and numbed to know that Daya Ram had passed away more than 20 days ago. I do not find words to express the sorrow for the loss of a friend of more than 60 years – a friend like Daya.- one of  those very  few to whom I could  share my deepest feelings freely. Read more…

DAYA DID INFLUENCE ME MUCH MORE THAN HE PROBABLY EVER KNEW

Stephan Corriveau

 

It is with a great deal of emotion that Carole and I have learned this morning the passing of Daya. Read more…

PROF VARMA’S LIFE WAS EXTRAORDINARY

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

 

I write…in great shock when I received the news of sad demise of Prof Daya Varma. Though I had not met him yet, as a person working with people on secularism and social justice, I knew him. Of course, I have also been writing on these issues for the past 16 years. Read more…

OTHER TRIBUTES

Read more…

SELECT INTERVIEW OF DAYA

The following interview was conducted by Rana Bose in 2004 for the publication Montreal Serai:

 

(Dr. Daya Varma, Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine at Montreal’s McGill University, was recently interviewed by Serai’s editors. Dr. Varma, who hails originally from India, has been a stalwart for several decades in Montreal as an anti-war militant, from the time of the Vietnam War and an inspiring activist and supporter for progressive movements worldwide in the post-colonial period. Dr. Varma has always looked beyond the pedestrian thought processes in radical frameworks and his responses to Serai’s questions only reinforce that. Ed.) Read more…

Medicine, Healthcare and the Raj: The Unacknowledged Legacy

New book by Daya Varma

The book is a significant intervention in the debates and existing scholarship on colonialism and medicine. Equally critical of the postmodern perspectives and of those who claim modern medicine as ‘gift’ from the western world, virtually identifying modern medicine with ‘western’ medicine, Daya Varma sifts the irrational from the rational critiques of imperialism. He makes a strong defense of modern medicine, preventive care, hygiene and public health as core of a viable strategy for accessible medicine. Read more…

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