Vimal Bhai breathed his last on 15 August at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. He was 60.
He will be remembered for a long time for his contributions to many ecological and social movements, but perhaps most prominently for the movements against the excess of several ill-planned hydro-electricity projects in Uttarakhand. He was involved in this from an early stage, from the days of the anti-Tehri dam movement. Later he formed an organization Matu to carry this forward. Matu became an important voice on this issue.
His work on this issue had a long continuity. He also worked hard to collect a lot of important information on this issue and brought it to the attention of many people, using his own writings as well as media contacts, helping in the mobilization efforts. Here as well as in other places, he contributed to better understanding and organizing of social and environmental appraisal of projects. He was both learning several important aspects relating to the details of proper project evaluations and also taking this knowledge to people of remote villages which he visited frequently in difficult conditions. Several of these villages faced direct displacement or indirect displacement as a result of very adverse impacts of harmful projects.
Most of this work was concerned with protection of Ganga river and its tributaries in the Himalayan region. Later he contributed also to the Yamuna protection campaign in and around Delhi.
He was a familiar face for a long time at various meetings and mobilizations on environmental and social issues in Delhi where I met him several times. He was also a familiar face in the offices of the various Gandhian organizations located near Rajghat in Delhi and was helpful to several senior Gandhian activists visiting Delhi for short periods for urgent work relating to various movements.
He also contributed in several important ways to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. This also brought him close to the National Alliance of People’s Movements and he became involved with this organization at several levels for a long time.
He was active on the front of communal harmony also. He had worked for some time with Fr. Thomas Kocherry as well. Another struggle he participated in related to mining issues in Rajasthan. He often worked in difficult conditions and was also arrested a few times, although not for long.
In the course of all these efforts he travelled a lot, perhaps most often to Uttarakhand, although Delhi and nearby areas remained as a sort of base camp for him. His last days were spent in Faridabad, where he contributed to efforts for the rehabilitation of people of Khori village in Faridabad district. It may be recalled that in a massive demolition drive the working class people here had been rendered homeless, an action taken up in the middle of COVID and adverse weather which was widely condemned for its violation of human rights.
Vimal Bhai was also active in asserting rights of sexual minorities.
A man of many parts, Vimal Bhai had made a documentary film and written several articles on the issues on which he was campaigning. He was well skilled in hand- spinning of yarn and had acquired good tailoring skills as well. He enjoyed cooking and was a good cook.
He will be remembered by many people and fellow activists in social movements for his many –sided contributions.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine–A Path to Peace and Planet in Peril.