Mukul Sinha: Man of many moments

Sanjay Kapoor

While Mukul may have passed away, he has infused so much life into Truth of Gujarat  page that it does not need his physical presence

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi 

In the last couple of years I have lost three of my friends to untimely death. However, when I open my Facebook page, I still find them alive as their accounts have been kept active by their loving relatives. For many of those who knew them—departed souls—only as “Facebook friends”, they could well be alive. It is also possible that many of these accounts may still be receiving “friend requests” from all those who want to reach out to all kinds of people.  Howsoever we may describe the immortality that FB is bestowing on ordinary lives, the truth is that it is helping to preserve the memories of those whom we hold dear. One such person was the Ahmedabad-based activist-lawyer Mukul Sinha, whose Facebook page, Truth of Gujarat, has acquired a life of its own. Having 50,000 odd followers, this page is committed to fighting against the subversion of law, and also helps provide justice to the innocent who have suffered in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots. While Mukul may have passed away, he has infused so much life into this page that it does not need his physical presence.

I first met Mukul Sinha a few months after the Godhra train incident in 2002. I had a theory on the burning of the train and I was looking for someone with some expertise on this subject. I was guided to Mukul by a common friend. I told him about the weird manner in which the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was gutted by fire. I shared with him how the coaches of other trains that had caught fire looked quite differently. Being a physicist from IIT, he told me that the train had not been burnt by kerosene or petrol—as was alleged by police investigators—but it could have been a fire triggered by the rubberized vestibule. Although there were no takers for this then, Hardnews carried the story that the fire could have been an “accident” rather than a deliberate fire by the Ghanchi Muslims from Godhra. Subsequently, this same theory with some modifications was approved by the Justice U C Banerji Commission. His report was trashed, as the narrative of a coach carrying Rambhakts burned by criminalized Muslims that live near the Godhra station had acquired a cast iron mythology. More importantly, the people of Gujarat did not want to hear a contrarian point of view suggesting that the train could have been burnt any other way.

While we moved on to other stories, Mukul was unrelenting. He took it upon himself to garner evidence and cross-examine many of the witnesses who presented themselves in front of the Nanavati Commission. He wrote articles and he was on point whenever there were issues of fake encounters, etc. He trained the spotlight on goings-on in the state that were largely ignored by others.

I am not really sure how much Mukul wrote for media before he met me, but I found that he had a sharp pen that was not given to the unnecessary verbosity that comes so easily to lawyers. Instead, he was a gifted writer who respected deadlines. I never had to remind him after he promised to deliver an article at a certain time.

When Govind Nihalini made Dev in 2004, with Amitabh Bacchan in the lead with the Gujarat riots as its backdrop, I asked Mukul if he would review the film. I promised to pay for his and his wife’s tickets. Mukul was scathing in his review and disclosed major flaws in the award-winning filmmaker’s conception. Nihalini was so rattled with the review that, when a Hardnews reporter went to interview him subsequently during a visit to Delhi, he was more curious about Mukul and his review than anything else.

There were other qualities in him, too! He never hesitated from contesting an election, even when he knew that he would lose. Last time, when he was contesting from Sabarmati assembly seat, I called him to find out how he was doing and he said he was getting a good response from the unemployed and the minorities. While swinging by his assembly constituency, I spoke with some people about Mukul’s poll prospects. The consensus was that he was the best candidate, but that he would never win. “Good guys rarely win”, they said.

A few months back, when I called him, he was in Jaslok hospital undergoing chemotherapy. Here, again, in his slow, lyrical voice, he told me that I should not worry about his illness, but follow another Gujarat-related story. He promised to email me the documents. They never arrived. I knew that Mukul’s condition had worsened. A few weeks later, we heard that he had died. RIP my good friend—I am sure the country will never ‘unfriend’ you. 

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2014

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