Social Activist U Sambasiva Rao Lost His Life Due to Coronavirus
It was early January when I travelled to Vijayawada to participate in the World Atheist Conference and while returning, I thought to travel to Hyderabad too to meet friends. My dear friend Sujatha Surepally told me that I could stay at the office of Desidasa, the magazine, Usaa Sambasiva Rao Garu had started and which she has been the editor. I had not known much about Mr Sambasiva Rao though in our discussions, Sujatha would often speak about him and his passion. Several years back, many of these friends had come to Delhi to participate in a public programme on Social Justice and it was there, I had met him.
Hence, this time, I thought, it was an opportunity to meet him and discuss various political issues that we face. I got late and reached around 8 pm. He welcomed me at his home. He was busy with other guests too who had come from abroad. A fellow colleague took me to the guest room where I was supposed to stay. There was another person and we sat together. It was quite long and Mr Sambasiva Rao was busy with meeting so many people and ensuring that he listened to all. Suddenly he came and asked what would I like to have in the dinner. I asked for a traditional local Hyderabadi Biryani and he ordered that. We eat together around 11 pm.
In the morning, I found that he was in a rush as people were coming to his home. I made tea for myself and then had breakfast with him. He was feeling apologetic for not being able to give me time but I knew these are part of our work. Many times, when we are in public life and a friend visit us, we are unable to give time to our friends. That is the biggest crisis. Anyway, at 10 am he came to me and said, we must to an interview for the Bahujan Bahul Voices. We went up where he was building up a studio for the daily broadcast. I saw a number of youngsters there working. I was definitely impressed with his passion. During our conversation, he was fascinated by some of my remarks about India’s caste system and would want me to repeat that. Later, we sat after lunch and discuss the socio-political issues. I loved his range of thoughts from Jyotiba Phule to Antonio Gramsci and the organic intellectual he talked about.
He was absolutely fascinated by the ideas of Phule and his ‘Slavery’ and ‘Kisan ka koda‘. The most important thing that I found in him was the acceptance of the ‘diversity’ of the Bahujan Samaj and it is here to learn. For me, it was amazing to hear an ideologue speaking of diversity and that is what Bahujan Bahulata voices means. Often, we ignore this important aspect in our movements and deliberations and it finally results in the collapse of a movement.
I cannot claim to have known him much except that of these few meetings but a lot from hearing from Sujatha Surepally who has a lot to share with all those who have been readers of Desi Disa and their deliberations but one thing I would definitely say that there are very few people like him who could put his entire earnings into building up an institution. I can say this money is not an issue for many and there are much bigger people but very few put that into the public good. I could see, so many youngsters working with him and many of them staying his place and he taking care of all of their basic needs. So many people having their food at his home daily showed how much he cared for his friends.
He had a vision to develop Desi Disa into a professional channel devoted to the cause of Bahujan Samaj and their human rights. I have always maintained that building institutions is important if the Dalit Bahujan Adivasi voices have to sustain in the long term against the malicious Brahmanical propaganda against them. Mr Usaa Sambasiva Rao Garu devoted and dedicated his life for that cause and that is why I say that the mission must continue. His passing away is a tremendous loss for many of the youngsters who he was nurturing as well as to the Bahujan voices in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in particular.
At the end, my dear friends, I want to request you to please be careful. This year has been a disaster so far. It has taken away, many of our near dear ones. It is time for all of us to at least join hand, speak to each other and please protect yourself. COVID-19 has played havoc with our lives. There are lessons for us but the best is trying to protect yourself because each life is important, you all are important. Moreover, these are bad times, when people can’t even moan their dead one. It is more than pain when we can’t see and cremate people out of our choices. Families are not allowed to see the dead one and moan for them. These are definitely the worst moments.
My sincere tribute to Mr Usaa Sambhasiva Rao and I wish strength to his family and friends. The loss is immense but the movement that he built must continue and I sincerely hope that his friends and admirers will keep his legacy continue.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
July 25th, 2020