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.


We met first in Montreal in June 1975.  Indira Gandhi had declared the dictatorial Emergency in India as we met and some 30-40 left-wing progressive activists of Indian origin gathered in Montreal to collectively found IPANA, the Indian Peoples Association of North America. Daya was among the leaders of this effort.  But even at this initial meeting, I was struck by his humble and courteous demeanor, his non-dogmatic approach to political discussion and his refreshing candor about policies and personalities. While he was taken with the ideology of the Indian Marxist-Leninists or Maoists at that time, he was completely open to debate with those less persuaded of this ideology.


IPANA, in fact, was constituted as a broad united front of all progressives of Indian origin in North America who were opposed to the dictatorship exemplified by the Emergency and supported democratic and economic and social justice for the people in India. This was shown by the IPANA publications: New India Bulletin, a left-wing Marxist theoretical journal published from Canada, India Now, a popular monthly tabloid-style newspaper published from New York, and Wangar, a progressive Punjabi-language publication from Vancouver. But, as the sectarianism among the Indian Maoists intensified, it had its impact among a section of the IPANA leadership and members; in addition, there were personality issues and differences, which caused IPANA to cease existence as a North American organization except in Vancouver.  Daya by this time had shrugged off much of the conceptual and theoretical understanding of the Indian Maoists and their policies and programs. He was closer to the CPI (M-L) Liberation led by the late Vinod Mishra and the mass organizations it gave rise to – the (ex-) Indian Peoples’ Front and the current All-India Peoples Front.  But, lately, in his heart and mind he returned to the enthusiasms of his youthful days when he was attracted to the programs and efforts of the undivided Communist Party of India and joined the party; in particular, he rediscovered his admiration for P.C. Joshi, once General Secretary of the CPI, as the only leader with mass appeal that the communists in India had produced. In an article in the magazine Mainstream in 2009, he elaborated on Joshi’s achievements:

“The only [communist] leader who could foresee the necessity of a United Front of secular and democratic forces, not for electoral gains but as a prerequisite for the national regeneration of India, was Puran Chand Joshi.”


Organizational political commitment aside, his restless energy and search for social and economic justice found many new outlets. The Bhopal disaster in December 1984, where an accidental leak of toxic methyl isocyanate gas from a fertilizer plant owned by the US corporation, Union Carbide, killed thousands and maimed hundreds of thousands, brought together his professional knowledge and talents and his passion and concern for the poor and deprived sections of Indian society to the fore. His critique of the medical procedures employed by the doctors to treat the victims and the callous indifference of the Indian state’s institutions to the plight of the injured were acknowledged by many groups working to ameliorate the suffering of the affected.


The rise of an aggressive Hindutva in the late 1980s capped by the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992 by mobs led by the Sangh Parivar was an issue that he felt very strongly about.  We participated in numerous meetings and campaigns to oppose the pernicious ideology of Hindu rashtra that was being propagated by Hindutva’s votaries in the U.S. and Canada.  Daya also realized that promoting secularism in India needed a South Asian focus, in particular, fostering peace and friendship with Pakistan.  Accordingly, he became active in the advocacy group Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) composed of activists with similar views and agendas from both countries and visited Pakistan to discuss and promote this agenda.


To spread this effort to people of Indo-Pak origin in North America, Daya was instrumental in organizing the International South Asia Forum, INSAF (the acronym stands for the word “justice” in Urdu and Hindi) that was founded in 1999 following the nuclear bomb tests by both India and Pakistan that year.  One hundred and twenty four delegates with origins in different countries of South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and from both sides across the Line of Control in Kashmir met in Montreal on September 4 and 5, 1999 at a Conference hosted by South Asia Research and Resource Center (CERAS).  Participants came from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland, Quebec, France and England. There were also specially invited guests from India, Pakistan and France.  The International South Asia Forum (INSAF) was founded as a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to the promotion of peace and social justice in South Asia.  The meeting called for a peaceful resolution of all conflicts in the region, demilitarization, an end to the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan, and the promotion of friendship among the people of the region. There was a follow-on meeting of INSAF in Vancouver two years later in 2001 that was also well attended with participants from India and Pakistan.  Although INSAF as a central organization did not last, it gave birth to a baby, with Daya as the midwife, which is reaching the age of 13 with this issue.


In May 2002, Daya produced the first issue of INSAF Bulletin as its founding editor.  It has come out every month since then; this issue is No. 156, completing 13 years of continuous monthly publication. He had asked me to be on the editorial board initially and a couple of years later requested me to become co-editor. Since both of us had full-time jobs, producing INSAF Bulletin took time and effort but the encouragement we received from readers spurred us on.  Over time, our joint editorial efforts came to resemble the saying about the old couple who complete each other’s sentences. Daya would send me a few paragraphs or a few lines in the middle of the month on some topic or call me up with an idea and I would complete it, or vice versa.


This issue, dedicated to his memory, is the first one he will not see and it is very, very difficult, emotionally, for me to face that fact. The goal of his life can be summed up in a few lines of the progressive Urdu poet Faiz:


Haan, talkhi-e-ayyam abhi aur badhegi (the poison of the age will continue to grow)


Haan, ahle-e-sitam mashk-e-sitam karte rahen ge (tyrants will continue their tyranny)


Manzoor ye talkhi ye sitam hum ko gawaara (I acknowledge the poison and the sorrow)


Dam hai to mudava-e-aalam karte rahen ge (As long as I live, I will try to right the wrongs of this world)

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