January  2004 
Year 10    No.95


Adieu Krishna Raj, Salma Apa

Krishna Raj, editor, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), a renowned social science journal, passed away in the early hours of Saturday, January 17. Krishna Raj has been the editor of our outstanding publication for the last 35 years. In recognition of his journalistic achievements, he was awarded the RD Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1996 (along with KM Mathew, chief editor of Malayala Manorama) for his "adherence to the highest standard of integrity and selflessness".

Krishna Raj became the editor of EPW in November 1969, succeeding Dr. RK Hazari when the latter moved over to the Reserve Bank of India as deputy governor. Krishna Raj had in fact joined the journal in 1960 when it was being edited by Sachin Chaudhury, a versatile personality whose 100th birth anniversary has just been celebrated on this New Year. At that time, the journal was known as The Economic Weekly and it was started by Chaudhury in 1949. The weekly passed through a difficult patch in the midst of the economic difficulties in mid-1969 and briefly closed down. But a group of intellectuals came together, supported Chaudhury and helped to institute a public trust to run the weekly with the rechristened name, Economic and Political Weekly.

Since then, EPW has been turned into a journal of international repute – a journal which is necessary reading for all scholars, activists, policy planners, students and researchers in economics and the social sciences.

To be brief, one is tempted to recall what the editorial obituary in the Economic and Political Weekly of December 24, 1966, the first issue after Sachin Chaudhury’s death, said: "Without giving a single lecture in any university classroom, he was a great teacher; and without having a single published research work to his credit, he was a great inspirer of research in the social sciences. By his proddings, encouragements and scrupulous editing, he reared unto maturity and wisdom an entire generation of social scientists".

These were obviously Krishna Raj’s words, written more than three decades ago. Krishna Raj himself was an embodiment of that silent, self-effacing and selfless intellectual who solely devoted himself to EPW and built it to fame. Yes, he had declined all invitations from universities except a brief three-month stay at the Oxford University a couple of years ago.

(The above statement was issued by the EPW team following Krishna Raj’s sudden demise on the night of January 17-18, 2004).

… and Salma Apa

It is with a profound sense of shock and loss that CC informs its readers of the demise of a comrade-in-arms, Salma Sobhan of Bangladesh who passed away suddenly late on Monday, December 29, 2003 at her home in Dhaka after suffering from breathing difficulties followed by a cardiac arrest. Salma Sobhan, or Salma Apa, as she was popularly known to fellow activists on the sub-continent was one of Bangladesh’s foremost human rights activists, a barrister and former executive director of the legal aid and human rights organisation, Ain-o-Salish Kendra.

Communalism Combat was introduced to her, her work and her dynamic and courageous stand on gender and human rights issues through the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) network. Regular readers of CC might recall her clear and forthright views expressed during an interview with CC and published in the April 1996 issue of the journal. She spoke amongst other things of the need for a secular uniform code for women under any and every religious dispensation (see www.sabrang.com). CC and the entire Sabrang team extend their condolences to Salma Apa’s husband and soul-mate Rehman, and two sons Babar and Zafar.

Paying rich tributes to this outstanding women’s rights and human rights activist, the Bangladeshi daily, Daily Star wrote in its edition of December 31, 2003: "Salma taught law at Dhaka University from 1962 to 1981. She lost her eldest son Taimur in an accident in 1981. She worked with Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) from 1981 to 1988, and served as editor of the Supreme Court Law Reports (SCLR) for several years.

"In 1982, she co-founded the human rights organisation, Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK) and was its first executive director until her retirement in 2001. Salma also helped establish Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). She was on the boards of many organisations working on human rights and social justice including BRAC, BLAST, BILIA, the international network Women Living under Muslim Laws and UNRISD, Geneva.

"In 2001, Salma was honoured by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York for her contribution to protecting human rights. Her major publications are Legal Status of Women in Bangladesh, 1975, Peasants Perception of Law, 1981 and No Better Option-Women Industrial Workers (co-authored), 1988. ‘She was a wonderfully warm person, with a great sense of humour,’ said Dr. Hamida Hossain of ASK. ‘She had a lot of friends all over the world and used to spend time mailing them. She was very keen on swimming and loved sight-seeing,’ she added. ‘This sitar enthusiast woman had keen interest in politics, but had no desire to be a politician,’ said Val Arnold-Forster, a journalist and a family friend who knew her since 1947. Salma left behind her husband professor Sobhan, sons Babar and Zafar, brother Enam and sisters Naz and Sarvath."

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