Harekrishnaji, born into a fishing community in the then East Pakistan, came to West Bengal in 1964 after a major riot there. Having seen the hard life and marginalisation faced by the members of his community, it was natural that he chose the path of struggle. He was part of the National Fishworkers Forum since its inception and then later became its Chairperson in 2000. He played a crucial role in the fishworkers movement and helped forge newer alliances and steered NFF to newer paths of struggle.
Harekrishnaji played an active role in the struggles against the Umargaon port in Gujarat and Haripur Nuclear Power Plant, West Bengal among many other struggles. Most recently he led the Macchimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan in 2008, a two-month yatra that traversed the entire coast of India from Kutch to Kolkota, mobilizing support for better implementation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification and for scrapping the controversial draft Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification. These efforts led to the withdrawal of the CMZ Notification, a major victory for fishing communities.
Known for his grasp of issues as well as humility and soft spoken ways, he was sensitive not only to the struggles and issues but to every one near to him. Many of us would remember him as someone who saw those in the struggle as his family and chose to live with them. He took great pains to actively promote younger leadership in struggles and always motivated youth.
He was detected of lung cancer sometime in 2008. Despite the pain and agony of the treatment, he continued to be in touch with the struggles around and has been active till his end. He passed away on December 30 at his residence in Kolkata. He was 60 and but for his health would have continued to lead.
“I know that my days are numbered but we still have a long way to go, and it’s time not for mourning but to think of ways of taking the struggle for securing rights of the traditional fishing community in coming years.” Harekrishna Ji said these words before the executive Committee meeting in Kolkata in June and then in December 2009.
NAPM salutes his numerous contributions and will miss his presence ad humane ways in struggles. We strive to carry forward the continuing task of securing justice, dignity and commons.
Medha patkar, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Gabriel Dietrich, Shaktiman Ghosh, Debjit, Madhuresh and other members of NAPM family…