Hari Vasudevan

Eminent historian Hari Vasudevan succumbed to Covid-19 in Kolkata. He was 68.

Vasudevan was a scholar of European and Russian history and politics. In 1995, he played an invaluable part in visiting Russia and securing documents on the Comintern from the newly opened Soviet archives on Indo-Russian Relations : 1917-1947. He was especially dedicated to archiving and making available the documents pertaining to Indian revolutionaries in the Soviet Union, a task he did with his colleagues Purabi Roy and Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, in the teeth of opposition from the "official" Left establishment in Kolkata in times of Left Front rule.

In a piece written for NewsClick on 22 April 2020, he wrote of the Covid-19 pandemic and migrant workers' hunger and distress: "The problem of the migrant’s hunger may, correctly, easily be put down to an errant state allowing want against a background of abundance, a situation so brilliantly depicted in Satyajit Ray's Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder (1973)), or to the misadventure of ignorant informal labour that is a victim of political machinations. But, let us make no mistake about both. In today's India, they are the outcome of something that reveals a terrifying truth: a social innocence about genuine starvation and want that limits public capacity to make demands of the state; insensitivity to the message in the Malayalam language hit film Ustad Hotel (2012) that relish for food is empty if it ignores the plight of those unable to savour it. This is an appalling comment on where India’s Republic has arrived, when much of its original project was to deal with these very problems.

Liberation pays its respects to Hari Vasudevan, and joins his family, friends and progressive people everywhere, in mourning his untimely loss.

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