Many of Kannabirans writings are collected in a 2004 book,  The Wages of Impunity: Power, Justice and Human Rights.   His funeral was conducted  quietly  soon after he passed away, as his wife, Vasanth Kannabiran, explained in a guest post on Kafila:


As per his wishes and ours, and based on previous discussions we declared that the last rites would be simple, speedy and secular. The secular part we ensured. There were no flowers, no lamps, no mantras, no ceremonies. But the clamour for progressive  traditions  was what I found troubling in the extreme. In doing away with religious orthodoxy, all we have done is replaced it with other orthodoxies….


We all need symbols and some reassurance. But the slogans we raise however loud and clear   can Kanna hear them? Will they, like the traditional mantras, take his soul to heaven? Who are we reassuring? Why are we afraid of silence? Why are we making our radical orthodoxies more rigid and meaningless than the reactionary ones? What is reactionary and what is radical? Why are we in such haste to raise monuments to the people we love? If Kannabiran cannot live in the hearts of people, are tributes and memorials going to bring him to life? To be loud in praise is easy. It dies out in a moment….


Instead of recreating the dead man in imaginative ways that would bring him alive to the public that loved him, we would rather show the dreary details of his funeral. How many people? How many placards? How many organizations? … It is not enough to write obituary pieces and hold meetings without any reflection of our conduct and attitudes.


The dead need no reification. Kannabiran was the voice of the poor. He never projected himself. He never needed to. [Kafila]


Sudhir Krishnaswamy, constitutional law professor:


The typical Indian lawyer revels in their anti-intellectual approach to law. They scoff at any attempt to theorize law and insist on the irrelevance of these academic efforts to their everyday practice. Kannabiran was similarly disenchanted with academic theorizing that employed obtuse prose and neologisms that required an academic translator to make such texts intelligible. However, he practiced and refined an ecumenical approach to legal scholarship that would stand the most rigorous academic scrutiny. He engaged with the case law of the courts which he subjected to close reading and critical analysis in his court room practice as well as writing….


Kannabiran advocated an old-fashioned engagement with substantive law and the legal system. At a time, when revolutionary commitment was assessed by the shrillness of your denunciation of law and the legal system and ones distance from the practice of law in the courts, Kannabiran stood out as a beacon of rationality and moderation. While he was aware that in a perpetually misgoverned society, any movement for good governance… according to law becomes rebellion he did not recklessly conclude that law was irretrievably an oppressive device that should be shunned and disregarded. [Law and Other Things]


V.R. Krishna Iyer, former judge of the Supreme Court of India:


This great man’s demise is a national loss for the cause of humanism but his memory will long remain an inspiration for the cause of liberty and against all forces which are Fascist and State terrorism…. It is men like Kannabiran who in their heroic struggle for civil liberties really stand for the daring challenge against authoritarianism. [The Hindu]


Anant Maringanti:


When was it the first time that I got to know Kannabiran? The state as terrorist those are the words through which I got to know Kannabiran and they remain etched in my mind. They conjure up in my eyes, the many life worlds that Kannabiran touched. It was the title of an article in the Indian Express, published on a Sunday after the Emergency. Right after the Emergency? Five years later? I cannot tell. I wish I can find the article now. It was not until 1995, that I really found myself in a place where I could speak with him in person. I was writing an article and I wanted to know if the police had killed more people or the Naxalites killed more people in the previous year. That question is not going to help you understand anything, he said. I hung up and went to see him right away. If you try to make a balance sheet of killings and brutality by the state and the Naxalites, you will probably find that in some years the Naxalites have been much more brutal and killed many more people than the police. And you will soon get trapped into the mindset of a petty shop accountant, he said. May be that was the time when I got to know him. When he saved me from becoming a petty shop accountant.


Mahi Pal Singh and  Kavita Srivastava

(Secretaries, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, New Delhi)


K.G. Kannabiran, a distinguished human rights activist, was instrumental in mediating between the Naxalites and the State in Andhra Pradesh along with K. Balagopal who also passed away some time ago. He was also the President of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee. He had filed more than 400 public interest litigation (PIL) cases single-handedly. He had worked in the PUCL in the company of Justice VM Tarkunde, Justice Rajindar Sachar, Justice RB Mehrotra, Surendra Mohan and was for a long time President of the PUCL with Dr. YP Chhibbar as its General Secretary.  


S.Jeevan Kumar, President and V.S.Krishna, Secretary, Human Rights Forum (HRF):


HRF mourns the passing away of K.G. Kannabiran at his home in Secunderabad at about 5 pm on December 30.  Known to the legal fraternity as the “prosecutor of prosecutors”, Kannabiran agreed to take on the role of special public prosecutor only in one instance in his entire career when he appeared for the prosecution in the Shankar Guha Niyogi murder case.  It was his relentless work in nailing the prosecution’s lies in scores of conspiracy cases all over Andhra Pradesh and in public interest petitions on encounter killings that laid the foundation of a creative application of the law towards building a human rights culturein the courts. He constantly strove to make the Government accountable to its Constitutional obligations.


Pritam Singh, Oxford, UK (EPW, Jan 15, 2011): In the early 1980s when the Punjab crisis was brewing up, I spoke on the crisis at a meeting in Hyderabad organized by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties. The meeting lasted for several hours. Kannabiran and the others asked searching questions about the class, nationalist, religious, linguistic and regional dimensions of the crisis. They were interested in developing a holistic human rights perspective on the conict. It was the best meeting I ever had on Punjab and the human rights situation there.


Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners ( New Delhi):  The Insurgent Jurisprudent! (Source Liberation News Service): One of the pillars of the civil liberties movement in the subcontinent has left us in the twilight of 2010. An irreparable loss that the civil liberties movement in the subcontinent will have to weather in the days to come. No death can be timely. And more so the demise of Kanna. But one thing that marks his death is that he will live for ever. For his life was dedicated to the cause of the most marginalized, oppressed and exploited. And his vision of insurgent jurisprudence, to not only interpret but to change the reality.


(Gurusharan Singh, President; Amit Bhattacharyya, Secretary General; SAR Geelani, Working President; Rona Wilson, Secretary, Public Relations)

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