POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Oct 09, 2009 AT 23:45 IST ,  Edited At: Oct 12, 2009 22:03 IST

I did not know Kandala Balagopal personally. But I heard about his death with an indescribable sense of loss. Ironically, in these pages we remembered him on the occasion of another death recently -- for his 2004 EPW essay that documented YSR's rise to power through terror.  A couple of  years back, Outlook featured him in its alternative power list:

A relentless crusader for human rights for three decades now, Andhra Pradesh HC lawyer Balagopal has fought cases from extra-judicial killings of political dissenters to atrocities against Dalits and women. And he has often suffered personal attacks for his efforts, by the police and others shamed by his exposes. But he has never faltered. His reports on encounter killings, backed by painstaking investigative work, had such credibility that even the state could not ignore it. He doesn’t take legal fees from poor clients. And he travels endlessly across rural India, giving a voice to the opinions and problems of the poor—from farmers and tribals being displaced by SEZs in Nandigram or Visakhapatnam, to beedi workers seeking minimum wages, to tribals trying to protect their homes and forests. One of the most respected civil liberties activists in the country, Balagopal has inspired an entire generation to engage with the causes he espouses.

Lawrence Liang has a moving tribute at the Alternative Law Forum that deserves quoting at length:
A sense of irony is the only way for me to describe how I felt when I heard about Balagopal’s death. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives die of heart attacks. And despite the simplicity with which he led his life and interacted with people, every time one met Balagopal or heard him you always  knew you were in the presence of someone extraordinary. Whenever he left after any meeting, Balagopal left you a little scared about whether you would ever see him again. As a result of the position that he took- against the violence of the state as well as the violence of the Maoists, you were always left with the lurching fear that any point of time, you would be given the news that Balagopal had been killed in an encounter.

At the same time it is perhaps not surprising that despite living a life which was scripted towards a violent death, it was only appropriate that his death transcended any partisan act of violence...If Balagopal was a regular anti violent activist or a pacifist, then there would have been nothing surprising about his stance on violence, and to argue for the importance of non violence would hardly be an act of courage. But for someone who had spent a better part of his life in struggles, and in battles against the impunity of the state, the commitment to an ethical position on violence becomes a deeply ethical choice of bravery.
In an ironic way Balagaopal could be seen as a true inheritor of the Gandhian legacy, of leading a particular kind of life, and through such a life aspiring to change the world around you...
Read more here
The Alternative Law Forum has also put up two useful documents that provide a bit of the flavour of the man's ideology:

ETA: A group of human rights activists have set up a wonderful site to act as a permanent memorial and an archive on the work of K Balagopal and to highlight the work of human rights initiatives: Remembering K Balagopal

POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Oct 09, 2009 AT 23:45 IST ,  Edited At: Oct 12, 2009 22:03 IST
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Daily Mail
Nov 07, 2009
03:58 PM
Ramachandra Guha has a fine tribute "to that altogether rare animal, a genuinely independent Indian intellectual, whose moral clarity and commitment to the truth meant that he could not resort to special pleading for any party or interest"

Sundeep Dougal
New Delhi, India
Oct 12, 2009
10:01 PM
A group of human rights activists have set up a wonderful site to act as a permanent memorial and an archive on the work of K Balagopal and to highlight the work of human rights initiatives:

Remembering K Balagopal:
Sundeep Dougal
New Delhi, India
Oct 12, 2009
05:54 PM
His articles were (linked here) were clear and lucid. Great sociological analysis.
Narasimhan M.G
Bangalore, India
Oct 10, 2009
09:26 AM
I apologise for misspelling the name in the last post - I meant Balagopal, of course
Thank you for putting up that extract by Lawrence Liang - reminded me too of Krishna Raj, late editor of the EPW, who passed away Jan 2004. He wasn't as public a campaigner as Balagopal, but in his shaping of the EPW, he upheld the many freedoms that a democracy takes for granted, including the value attached to every human life. I never saw Balagopal, but in this photo he looks remarkably like KR did.
I apologise too for making this more personal than I intended.
delhi, India
Oct 10, 2009
09:18 AM
His passing couldn't possibly have come at a worse political juncture when the State seems locked in a irreconciliable standoff with the Naxalites (maoists). In his reportage and pieces on Andhra Pradesh (most of which appeared in the EPW), Balagapol presented a dispassionate analysis of the violence and doubletalk that both sides often resorted to.
delhi, India
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