Pushpendra was a local journalist, a stringer, of a Hindi daily and as such had no income. The income that such stringers earned was from blackmailing corrupt government servants by saying that they would publish their wrong doings. Pushpendra, never did that and instead used to report the wrongdoings. One story he did was about the abhorrent practice of burying alive of leprosy patients in connivance with the police. Naturally, he soon became friends with us and took up the cause of the Adivasi fight for rights. So he became our point person in Alirajpur and provided the communication with the world at large that was so required. On our suggestion, he set up the NGO, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and we got him a legal aid project through which he was able to take up our many cases in the courts by employing lawyers. Throughout the decade of the 1980s up to 1993, whenever the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath faced serious challenges, Pushpendra provided the crucial communication and legal support in Alirajpur that eventually helped the organisation to make a mark and considerably improve the situation of the Adivasis in Alirajpur.
After 1993, the non-Adivasi activists all moved out of Alirajpur as the local Adivasi activists like Khemla, Shankar and Kemat had become capable of running the show on their own. Pushpendra also moved out to Bhopal and became a full time journalist. He then continued to provide support from Bhopal not only to the KMCS but also to other mass organisations in Madhya Pradesh. As an accredited journalist he got a government quarters and his house in Bhopal became the rallying point of activists. He had a great knack of reporting and writing investigative pieces and soon made a name for himself, becoming an editor over time. However, given his unbending attitude towards corruption and his commitment to the cause of socio-economic justice he could not hold on to his editorial jobs and had to later survive on freelance work instead.
I am particularly grateful to him for the support he provided during the huge crackdown on our organisation in Dewas in 2001 when the government killed four of my Adivasi colleagues in police firing and packed me into prison for two and a half months. Subhadra, my wife, escaped by the skin of her teeth with our son Ishaan who was then just seven months old and landed up at Pushpendra's house in Bhopal to lie low. Pushpendra and his wife Renu gave refuge to them and then Pushpendra launched a scathing attack in the news papers against the government.
So, the passing away of Pushpendra last week in his sleep due to a massive heart attack came as a deeply hurting shock from which I have still to recover. The Government quarter he was staying in was due for demolition and was the only one that was still standing in that colony which is to be redeveloped as a swanky mall and up market residential colony. While all others being government servants had vacated their quarters, Pushpendra, had doggedly stuck on saying that he wouldn't move without getting another quarter. Probably all the tensions did him in and he lost the battle for his life leaving all of us shell shocked.
At a time when the fight for rights is on the back foot and we can only look back on those heady days of the 1980s with wonder at what we had achieved, the passing away of a brave comrade in arms from that time has left me shattered. A few years ago another great comrade from that time, Khemla, had passed away and now Pushpendra also has departed. Reminds me of the famous number by the rock band Queen, which is about comrades dying in the face of bullets of the enemy - Another One Bites the Dust. We had set out to fight injustice with great enthusiasm in our youth but have failed to achieve a just society and now one by one our comrades are leaving us.