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  A space for Mr Pattnayak

Alone among commentators, Yogendra Yadav mourned the passing away of Kishen Pattnayak, aged 74, on September 27. It wouldn’t have surprised or pained the deceased.

The man is difficult to recall and has little to show as ‘achievement’. But he has left behind a vast group of followers who are even less known than him. They continue to draw inspiration from this remarkable man.

Pattnayak was connected with the National Alliance of People’s Movements [NAPM] which agitates in favour of environment and local communities. Agitating, was how he ended a life that began in Orissa, in 1930. He was a socialist in his youth and a follower of Ram Manohar Lohia. He was elected to the parliament at a very young age, but for just one term.

Dissimilarities with other political ideologues begin there. Till he turned 60, Pattnayak refused to accept the perks and privileges of an ex-MP. He and his wife, Vani chose to have no children in order to devote themselves to public causes. Throughout an active political life, he declined several offers to ‘suitably’ settle him in some office or the other. Long before Mandal did, he discerned the need to do something about the inequities the lower castes are subject to. When he died, he left no property in his name.

As he grew older, he was drawn to the truth of India as enunciated by Gandhi. Not much of his writing is available on the net. But an idea of how he viewed the current Indian situation can be found in an an article he wrote in 2003: “… prosperity without any limit, means basically the centralizing of wealth and production. Modern technology specializes in centralizing wealth and its production. So ending inequality will necessitate a radical change in the use of technologies. The leftists of the twentieth century, the socialists and communists could not resolve this dilemma. So they met a dead end.”

In many ways Pattnayak was more radical than the leftists; he was Gandhian you would say. For example consider this very doable idea of his: “There should be no global trade in articles of daily necessity that can be produced in every region.” He concluded that the conflict was no longer between the rightists and leftists, who dominate the political scene. Pattnayak said that the barriers between them have broken down and that “the modern mind, addicted to the idea of great prosperity and centralized wealth, unites them.”

Many of Pattnayak’s ideas will make us uneasy, having come far as we have done, from the fork in the road, where we still had the choice. Can we ever trace back the steps? Quite unlikely. So Pattnayak’s ideas of stopping all mining, quitting WTO etc will evoke an affectionate pity for him.

He was undeterred. He ‘raged, raged into the night’. You decide if he deserves this space in GoodNewsIndia.


Read tributes to Kishen Pattnayak by Yogendra Yadav and Medha Patkar