Adv P A Sebastian, the Doyen of Civil Rights Movement Passes Away
Our friend and comrade P A Sebastian, who was the face of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) for decades, has passed away this morning around 10 am. As per his two caretakers at the old age home in Goa, where he was lodged for the last six months, after shifting from Kerala, he was given medicine and breakfast through nasal pipe as scheduled. Around 10 am when they wanted to take him for bath he just went cold. They called nurse and then doctor, who
declared him dead.
Sebastian, Sabby for his friends, was an integral part of the radical movement in Maharashtra. Despite his polio affliction disability, he left his home in Kerala all alone after his matriculation and made Bombay his home. He studied to complete his graduation and law degree
and practiced in the High Court. He was always part of the radical students movement. Sebastian remained in the forefront of civil rights movement in Maharashtra. He was one of the founders of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) after the Emergency and remained its General Secretary until his health rendered him immobile. He fought many valiant battles, inside and outside courts. He participated in numerous fact finding team all over the country. He
was elected Chairperson of the International Association of People’s Lawyers and Vice President of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners.Despite his disability he travelled all over the country and abroad.
Sebastian was one of the pioneers of the idea of people’s tribunals. He had contributed immensely taking cudgel for the hapless victims of Bombay riots in December 1992 and January 1993, in which around 900 people (275 Hindus and 575 Muslims) lost their lives. Sebastian worked tirelessly in presenting their cases before Shrikrishna Commission.
His indomitable spirit came alive in protest against the draconian laws and anti-people legislation. Two years back, in one of the public meeting, he dared the government to arrest him on the charges of sedition. He thundered that criticizing the government was actually a democratic duty of a citizen and hence to charge people for sedition for doing that is the most unlawful act one could imagine.
I had a good fortune to have his acquaintance for many years. For quite a few incidents in and around Bombay, such as Ramabainagar Dalit Hatyakand, Kalyan riots, Mubra riots, just we two formed an impromptu fact-finding team and rushed off to the sites. Sebastian inspired many people to work for civil rights. Personally,
CPDR mourns the loss of its senior comrade.
Sebastian’s mortal remains are taken to a hospital where he would be
kept in mortuary and funeral will take place at 4 pm on 25th July
Anand Teltumbde is current General Secretary of CPDR, Mumbai