HYDERABAD: It was the perfect ode to the civil rights activist and lawyer K G Kannabiran, a gesture which would “not weigh him down but a tribute which would cheer him,” in the words of his daughter, Kalpana Kannabiran. The screening of the documentary film The Advocate directed by Deepa Dhanraj explored the political ideology of the former president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) who passed away in 2010.
“Even today when there is a complex issue at hand for discussion, I miss him as talking it out with him would make it simpler and easily debatable,” said an emotional Vasanth Kannabiran at the end of the screening.
Reminiscing his enthusiasm to educate people on the subject of human rights and law, Deepa Dhanraj quoted the activist — “It is important to work at the level of sessions court as the lawyers, magistrates and litigants need to be educated in the practice.”
The movie represented Kannabiran’s foray into civil rights, initially as a lawyer for those persecuted in the era of Emergency in the country to the victims of police atrocities during the Naxal uprising in Andhra Pradesh.
Admittedly, the concern for Andhra Pradesh came first than a role in the workings of the apex court. “The fear that something will happen in my state kept my visits to Delhi restricted to a day or two and that is the reason I never wanted to take up work at the Supreme Court,” says Kannabiran in a footage.
Events which build the history of Andhra Pradesh from 1969 onwards and Kannabiran’s association with them were presented chronologically in the documentary. His arguments on charges of sedition and Preventive Detention Act, his proactive role in Tarkunde committee which unveiled the police atrocities committed on tribals in the Emergency-era and his role as a mediator between People’s War Group and the state government brought alive Kannabiran’s spirit to uphold human rights above all.
The two-hour film also highlights the witty side of the activist through his anecdotes. “I was asked by a judge, why do I want to protect those who want to overthrow the constitution, on the basis of constitutional rights. I clearly explained that it was the constitution which was on trial in these cases as it cannot deny justice to a person who does not believe in it,” says Kannabiran.
The feminist dialogue on women’s role in revolution and expanding revolution to address the violation of rights in general rather than limiting itself to civil rights of political activist formed an important part of Vasanth Kannabiran’s take on the life of KGK.
“The law and literature conference is a fitting tribute to him as we are vexed of the ritual memorial meetings. He was not idolized by family and friends and open to criticisms,” concluded Kalpana Kannabiran. The papers discussed at the conference will be compiled into a volume by the end of the year.