Prof JS Bandukwala: The physicist, activist who tirelessly fought against ghettoization of Muslims
An active member of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Prof Bandukwala strived for ensuring justice to Dalit and Muslim victims of caste and communal violence
Prof Juzar S Bandukwala, who fought against ghettoization of Muslims promoted by the BJP-controlled Vadodara Municipal Corporation, died alone at his residence in a mixed locality of the city from multiple ailments. He was 77.
Prof Bandukwala, who refused to live in a Muslim locality even after his house was torched by a frenzied Hindu mob during the anti-Muslim state-sponsored pogrom in 2002, helped rehabilitate over 450 Muslim and Dalit families in mixed localities and provided financial help to more than 500 students belonging to underprivileged families through a charity trust of which he was a patron.
An active member of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Prof Bandukwala strived for ensuring justice to Dalit and Muslim victims of caste and communal violence perpetrated either by individuals or state and civic administration.
Prof Bandukwala lived alone in his house after his wife died following depression caused by mental trauma over the burning of their home by a violent Hindu mob in 2002. He refused hospitalisation despite suffering from Alzheimer’s and was being treated by his personal physician.
Prof Bandukwala, who taught Physics at the M S University of Baroda, was an anti-Nuclear activist who had expressed his strong opposition to the Vajpayee government carrying out underground explosion of nuclear bomb at Pokhran in Rajasthan in 1999 saying the experiment would have serious ramification on the fragile eco-system of the Indian sub-continent.
Prof Bandukwala was elected president of the teachers’ union of MS University in 1981 and took keen interest in the activities of the National Service Scheme (NSS) which encouraged students to take up social work.
Prof Bandukwala was an ardent advocate of reforms among Muslims and encouraged the youth of the community, specially girls, to pursue higher education.
Undaunted by virulent communal protests by a section of the majority community against the allotment of houses to the Muslim slum-dwellers in pre-dominantly Hindu locality and the Vadodara Municipal Corporation acquiescing to the protest and cancelling the allotment, Prof Bandukwala wrote to the then chief minister Vijay Rupani describing the civic body’s action as amounting to following a policy of Apartheid.
“The Muslims have the right to live anywhere, and not just in Muslim ghettos,” Prof Bandukwala asserted in his letter to the Gujarat chief minister. This is segregation as practised in the USA before Martin Luther King struggled to abolish it 50 years ago. This apartheid system last prevailed in South Africa. Does Gujarat want a repeat of this apartheid in 2018 with regard to Muslims?” he had asked.