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Press Release                                                 January 08 2000


VETERAN ACTIVISTS AVINASH B.J. AND CHHAYA DIE IN ROAD ACCIDENT IN SATARA
MAHARASHTRA LOSES GEM OF ACTIVISTS

Avinash B.J. and Chhaya, the main activists in the Koyana Project affected people's organisation and one of the leading activists in western Maharashtra, died in a road accident on Friday (January 7). Avinash and Chhaya were traveling in a two wheeler in Satara town when a speeding truck dashed them to death.

Avinash (39) and his colleagues founded 'Satya-shodh', a school for the blinds in Koregaon, in late 1980s. The school has been a novel one for the blinds and has undertaken new schemes. However, Avinash and his colleagues like Ravi, Chhaya and Chandrakant have been a part of the larger movement throughout Maharashtra and India. They have been participating in various movements like Narmada, Gosikhurd, Shoshit Jan Andolan, tribals’ rights movements, movements against the displacement due to sanctuary, large dams, factories.

It was natural for Avinash and his colleagues to take up the cause of the Koyana dam affected people. The people have been displaced for the last 30 years and have been living a precarious existence. The people were organised systematically under the aegis of 'Koyana Jeevan Hakka Samrakshan Sangathana'. The organisation has taken up the issues of resettlement, additional land, land rights of the oustees, opposition to the incoming sanctuary on the lands of the oustees on the fringe of the Koyana reservoir. The organisation has mooted a new concept of 'Jan Abhayaranya' (People’s Sanctuary). The organisation has also started the constructive work by introducing charkha spinning and honey producing in the villages. A smooth blend of 'Sangharsha’ and 'Nirman' (struggle and regeneration) marked Avinash’s work and personality.

Avinash has been taking initiative in larger work of Shoshit Jan Andolan, of which he was a convenor for two years. He was the western Maharashtra coordinator of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). He was at the forefront in coordinating the people’s movements against the anti-people forestry and national parks etc. He held regular workshops, camps of young activists and villagers for conscientisation and knowledge. He also was a writer-journalist and good orator, a poet and a vigorous mobiliser. He and all the 'Satya shodh' colleagues have been close friends of the hundreds of organisations and activists throughout Maharashtra and India. The soft spoken, affable Avinash and Chhaya were a really a source of strength and confidence for all those who have been concerned with the justice and the construction of a new society. He was one of the leading figures in Maharashtra activism.

Colleagues with the Narmada Bachao Andolan and NAPM remember Avinash and Chhaya with all the respect and affection, as a part of our beings. Sanjay Sangvai
Medha Patkar