A Colossus Walks into the sunset by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (April 28, 2018)
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Justice Rajinder Sachar, who passed away on April 20, at 94, after a long life of fighting for public causes, was truly what we call salt of the earth. A judge in the illustrious tradition of VR Krishna Iyer and VM Tarkunde, who stood for a just order while serving as judges as well as in retirement.
Till the end he never seemed to tire and always found time and energy to attend public conferences and seminars on human rights, and made it a point to raise pertinent questions and make valid comments and suggestions. Pursuit of justice was his life-long commitment. Whenever we wanted to invite him to some seminar/conference of Institute of Objective Studies, or All India Milli Council, he suggested: “Check with my secretary. If I am free at that date I will surely come.”
We always checked with his office to make sure that he had no prior engagement, and he would invariably come and sit through most of the programme despite his advanced age and uncertain health.
He was an affectionate person. He never rationed his benign advice: “Manzoor isko aise kar lo” (Manzoor, do it like this). He would always explain the fine legal points in whatever we sought to do. Diminutive (like Gandhiji) in his physical aspect, he was a moral Colossus and a formidable character.
When the Prime Minister’s Committee on the educational and economic condition of Muslims was formed under him (popularly known as Sachar Committee), he told me to submit some of the publications of IOS on these issues to the committee. In course of time we submitted some of our books. Several times during our seminars and in personal meetings he said he was greatly inspired by these books and brought some of these aspects to bear down on the tenor and drift of the Sachar Report.
We found a sympathetic echo of Muslim community’s concerns in him. He said at one of our book releases (the book was a research work on lack of civic amenities in Muslim areas of Delhi) that protest was the soul of democracy. Among the traits he shared with Mahatma Gandhi (like love for justice, fair play, frugality, concern for the poor etc.) was his love for Henry David Thoreau. He said, “When Thoreau’s friend came to know that he had been sent to jail, he asked, ‘Henry, I can’t understand why you are in jail’. At that Thoreau replied, ‘Ralph, I can’t understand why you are still out’”.
He was making the point that when human rights were trampled, when justice was denied, when the state tyrannised common citizens, it was the moral duty of every man and woman to protest and demand the redressal of injustice. Like Thoreau, courting arrest and being sent to jail was the moral option, not remaining outside jail.
He was known for his restlessness and moral indignation in the face of injustice. He would not rest in peace till he wrote an article condemning murderous attacks by cow vigilantes or the murder of eminent persons like Gauri Lankesh, Pansare and Dabholkar by fascist thugs. He had been writing till his last days and participating in seminars, meetings and rallies to stop the march of fascist thuggery.
He happily paid the price of standing up for his principles. He was denied elevation to Supreme Court because he would not compromise with his principles to accommodate the government of the day. He had no regrets. Nearly a quarter century ago, when Muslims were almost exclusively being jailed under TADA (with a few other persons from weaker sections), he got up and fought manfully. The Milli Council was all the way with him.
The poor, the weak, minorities and women seeking justice will miss him for years.