K. G. Kannabiran passes away – Obits from CRPP, Saibaba

December 30, 2010

Jan 5 2011: The Visionary Democratic and Civil Rights Leader K G Kannabiran Is No More – G.N. Saibaba, RDF
Condolence meeting for Kannabiran on Jan 5th 2011 in Mumbai – CPDR
Jan 4 2011: Kanna: The Insurgent Jurisprudent! – Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners
Dec 30 2010: Press Note – People’s Union for Civil Liberties, New Delhi


The Visionary Democratic and Civil Rights Leader K G Kannabiran Is No More

Jan 5, 2010

Relentless Fight to Secure Democratic Rights of the People is the Only Way to Pay Homage to Him

K G Kannabiran, the veteran civil and democratic rights activist passed way on 30 December 2010 at around 5 pm in Hyderabad at his residence. He served the democratic rights movement in the country for five decades. In Kannabiran’s death, the democratic and civil rights movement in the subcontinent lost a great visionary leader, guide and friend.

Kannabiran worked as President of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) for fifteen years and National President of PUCL for ten years. Currently he is the President of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), Andhra Pradesh chapter. He worked and built several democratic organizations and movements in the past five decades. Above all, he worked all his life as an institution himself to secure rights of the people. He was a tireless advocate of the rights of the most marginalized in our society.

Within days after the passing away of Surendra Mohan, this great blow has come on the democratic and civil rights activists as a big shock. S R Shanakaran, yet another democratic died only a few months ago. With the passing away of K G Kannabiran at this crucial juncture of Undeclared Emergency in the country, in the context of war against people in the name of Operation Green Hunt, and proliferating state-sponsored armed gangs attacking the people all over the country, we all are facinf an irrecoverable loss.

K G Kannabiran is synonymous for democratic rights movement in Andhra Pradesh and in the subcontinent. He developed the concept of civil and democratic rights movement with his in-depth knowledge of constitutions of the world governments, history and trajectory of democratic rights movements worldwide. His public speeches and writings on the democratic and civil rights educated several generations of democratic rights activists. Kannabiran is an inspiration for thousands and thousands democratic rights activists in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere.

Kannabiran knew how to use law to save the people who have been targeted to be victimized by the same law. He argued hundreds of PIL cases, scores of conspiracy cases ferociously and won for the victims and the people at large.

Kannabiran himself along with his family which stood in the public domain all along was targeted by the statist forces in Andhra Pradesh. He faced every brutal attempt with a smiling face and approached incidents created by the state-sponsored goons with a sense of humour each time.

Kannabiran is the name that represents the aspirations of people for their democratic rights. He fought against the killings of Naxalites and ordinary adivasis, dalits or Muslims who have been killed in the name of encounter by the state. His crusade against the extra-judicial killings became a popular movement as the APCLC which he led for several decades, took it to every nook and corner in Andhra Pradesh and every other part outside it.

Kannabiran is the greatest crusaders of democratic rights of the people of our times. Let’s pay our homage to him with a strong resolve to dedicate ourselves to build democratic rights movement all over the subcontinent.

G N Saibaba

Activist, on behalf of RDF


Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) Condolence meeting for Kannabiran on Jan 5th 2011 in Mumbai.

Place: Press Club, Near Azad Maidan
Date: 05 January 2011
Time: 6.00 PM

Click here for Flier


*KANNA: The Insurgent Jurisprudent!*

Jan 4, 2011

* *

One of the pillars of the civil liberties movement in the subcontinent has left us in the twilight of 2010. An irreparable loss that the civil liberties movement in the subcontinent will have to weather in the days to come. Kannabiran’s life as a civil libertarian, as a human rights lawyer is a constant inspiration for anyone who was ready to walk the unbeaten track.

It was in the decade and a half from the early 80s to the mid-90s that he worked as the President of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and later as National President of PUCL for a decade did Kannabiran initiate and pave the path of radical jurisprudence in India. The early 80s were also the days of high tide in the civil liberties movement throughout the subcontinent. Making hitherto unchartered ventures into the interpretation and practice of law in the Indian subcontinent, thus radically looking at the Indian Constitution, Kannabiran’s entreaties, in his own words, “embarrassed the most sensitive among the judges”. And for Kanna, mere interpretation of the law or the unfolding fascist nature of the State was not enough. He believed in not mere “interpret[ions] but to *change* things”.

It was this vision and spirit that made him look at law and the Indian Constitution from the point of view of the most marginalised or the
voiceless, the exploited and the oppressed. If law was the fossilised expression of the prevalent morals of human relations and conduct,
Kannabiran always went a step ahead to instill life in the interpretation of law, to stretch its elasticity in so much as to accommodate the tensions of everyday life of the common people. He was always in defence of the ‘deviant’ who used to think ahead for the betterment of the community, for the people, society at large. For Kannabiran it was the paramount task of the civil libertarian to use the constitutional framework to relentlessly probe and enunciate the possibility of introducing new principles in jurisprudence. He thus made extensive use of the fundamental rights and the directive principles in the Indian constitution, trying to push its limits, in all of his cases.

Despite his ill health Kannabiran had readily agreed to be the President of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), Andhra Pradesh chapter. When we approached him to apprise about the plan to start the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) his anger and impatience for not being able to do much due to his failing health was evident as he wryly joked about him as a “non-performing asset”.

Today when we stand up with a lot of conviction against the draconian laws be it the TADA, POTA, UAPA, AFSPA or the PSA, this moral courage to face the wrath of a fascist state—or the “terrorist State” as he would prefer to call it—came from a tradition set by the likes of Kannabiran. It was Kannabiran who filed a petition in 1971 successfully challenging the Andhra Pradesh Preventive Detention Act, 1970 under which writers intellectuals and poets were arrested.

Later in the mid-90s when the Justice Ranganath Mishra along with Justice Fathima Beevi as part of the Commission’s inquiry heard the cases of fake encounter killings in various districts of the state of Andhra Pradesh, it was under the leadership of Kannabiran, braving even physical threats, that too before the very members of the committee itself that the first steps towards initiating criminal proceedings against the police officers involved in the ‘encounters’ was heard and accepted. But the State ignored the report of the Ranganath Mishra Commission. In 1997 again he fought and managed to get a judgement which recognised these killings as homicides. Notwithstanding the efforts of the state to return the judgement, a full five member bench of the High court of Andhra Pradesh endorsed the arguments made by Kannabiran and his colleagues. Today the same judgement is pending before the Supreme Court of India.

Besides being a jurist par excellence he was also a champion of the people’s causes and a virulent critic of the state’s policies of liberalisation,
privatisation and globalisation. The increasing penal nature of the Indian State, Kannabiran had argued, should be located in the outright selling of resources of the people in the subcontinent to the predatory needs of decadent monopoly capital. He lend his voice to the movements against displacement, destitution, destruction and death—the four dreaded Ds.

It was the constant efforts of the jurist to connect with the people so as to sharpen his radical interrogation of the law and the Indian Constitution for the betterment and in defence of the struggling masses that made him a people’s lawyer. While interpreting the law within the four walls of the courts and chambers, he was fully well aware of the ground level implications of each and every word that was chiselled to form the defence of the most marginalised and the ramifications that it may have for their lives. This made him and his likes in the APCLC stand apart from the ivory towers of legal parlance and practice—that had become the vocation for the rich and powerful—firmly grounded in the interests of the people.

No death can be timely. And more so the demise of Kanna. But one thing that marks his death is that he will live for ever. For his life was dedicated to the cause of the most marginalized, oppressed and exploited. And his vision of insurgent jurisprudence, to not only interpret but to *change* the reality. It is being in union with that vision and in trying to live up to that sensibility, responsibilty and compassion of the insurgent jurist that we do the real homage for Kanna!

In Solidarity,

*Gurusharan Singh*

*Amit Bhattacharyya*
Secretary General

*SAR Geelani*
Working President

*Rona Wilson*
Secretary, Public Relation



Press Note: People’s Union for Civil Liberties, New Delhi

Dec 30, 2010

Dear Friends

I have to inform you with a heavy heart that K.G. Kannabiran, former National President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), leading advocate of civil liberties and human rights and prolific writer breathed his last this evening at his home in Secundarabad. He had not been keeping well for the last few months.

K.G. Kannabiran, a distinguished human rights activist, was instrumental in mediating between the Naxalites and the State in Andhra Pradesh along with K. Balagopal who also passed away some time ago. He was also the President of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee. He had filed more than 400 public interest litigation (PIL) cases single-handedly. In spite of being a prominent lawyer instead of running for money, he chose social service instead and fought all these PILs and many more cases without charging any money. He had worked in the PUCL in the company of Justice VM Tarkunde, Justice Rajindar Sachar, Justice RB Mehrotra, Surendra Mohan and was for a long time President of the PUCL with Dr. YP Chhibbar as its General Secretary. For the tremendous amount of work done by him in the field of civil liberties he was considered to be a one man army by his colleagues.

Kannabiran was a prominent and most scholarly writer on civil liberties and human rights. He regularly wrote articles for the PUCL Bulletin apart from writing for various magazines and newspapers. He wrote many books. THE WAGES OF IMPUNITY: Power, Justice and Human Rights published by Orient Longman in 2004 is known to be his best and most read book.

In Kannabiran’s death the civil liberties movement in the country has suffered an irreparable loss. This loss is particularly shocking as it has come within a fortnight of the passing away of Surendra Mohan, another stalwart in the field.

Mahi Pal Singh, Secretary, PUCL
Kavita Srivastava, Secretary, PUCL