Author and historian Achyut Yagnik passes away

Achyut Yagnik.
| Photo Credit: File

Achyut Yagnik, author, historian, public intellectual and social activist passed away following a cardiac arrest at his residence in Ahmedabad on Friday. He was 77. 

He is survived by his wife Bharati, a retired professor from Civil Hospital Medical College, and son Anand, a lawyer in the Gujarat High Court. 

The writer was active in public life, raising his voice against injustices faced by Dalits, tribals and minorities and was extremely critical of the communal forces in the State. 

Besides writing and teaching, he was associated with progressive movements to work for the marginalised communities through the Centre for Social Knowledge and Action (SETU), Ahmedabad, a grassroots organisation that he set up.

He coauthored several important books: Creating a Nationality: Ramjanmabhumi Movementand Fear of the Self with Ashis Nandy; The Shaping of Modern Gujarat: Plurality, Hindutva and Beyond with Suchitra Sheth; and Ahmedabad: From Royal City to Megacity with Suchitra Sheth. 

“Achyut Yagnik was the most generous of scholars, who saw knowledge as ‘commons’, sharing his insights, his encyclopaedic knowledge, and his hunches freely with all those who went to SETU. His sense of the political realm remained sharp, always aligned as an ally of the dispossessed. His legacy will live through the work of his many associates and scholars he engaged with,” said noted author Tridip Suhrud. 

From 1982 to 1984, Yagnik was the Gujarat coordinator of the Lokayan project of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (Delhi) and also the general secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gujarat. 

In 1986-87, he was a consultant to and a Fellow of the United Nations University, Tokyo. 

In 2005-06, he was Fellow at the Hebrew University at Jerusalem.

“Achyut, a friend of Dalits, Adivasis and all oppressed for more than six decades breathed his last today morning… He stood by them during anti-reservation upper caste movements in the 1980s. I have personally lost a dear friend and comrade,” said former JNU Professor and a senior social scientist Ghanshyam Shah. 

“He was influenced by Lohia in his early days. He was activist as well as scholar. His understanding of Gujarat society and politics was a source of inspiration for many. SETU was an important place for any scholar and activist to visit and benefit from Achyut’s knowledge and analytical mind,” Prof. Shah added.