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.


Daya was one of the founder members of IPANA (Indian Peoples Alliance in North America) and IPANA took the lead in fighting the Emergency from outside India. Most IPANA members had a “far left” understanding of politics and were skeptical of non-violent struggles like the JP movement. Daya was an exception in that he understood that the anti-Emergency struggle had to include all democratic forces. It is this broad vision that brought us together and from then on we cross-fertilized each other, with me learning more about the ML movement and Daya opening himself to an appreciation of those who chose to fight injustice through non-violent means alone.


After I returned to India our meetings became less frequent but we remained close personally and ideologically. He was ever generous and open-minded, both materially and intellectually, and the spirit of justice burned brightly in him wherever he went and whatever he did. I spoke to him just a few weeks ago and was amazed to find that his mind was as acute as ever and he had not an iota of self–pity even though as a medical practitioner he knew that his time was running out. He was still writing, but instead of the book he had wanted to complete, he was focusing now on finishing an article. By the time this little piece is published, Daya may not be with us physically, but he will always remain in our hearts.

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