Assassination of anti-liquor lobby activist A.T. Babu in Karnataka

Brutality of India’s Boom

The murderous death of A.T. Babu on 21st July is a direct product of the ongoing much hyped one-sided boom. 58 year old Althar Tejappashetty Babu was leading decade’s long campaign against the well entrenched and formidable liquor lobby of Karnataka. A.T Babu was also a leading activist against the neo-liberalism perpetrated by all the pro-rich political parties of the country irrespective of the ideological colour.

The gruesome, well planned, cold blooded murder of A.T. Babu is surely the handiwork of the liquor & land mafia of Karnataka. A T Babu and his fellow colleagues of the Anti- liquor lobby agitation were continuously being lured, threatened & intimidated by the hired goons of liquor mafia. The police, with whom the request for protection was made, went unheeded; this goes to show that the state administration was complacent to the possible act of crime.

Though stories are being told in the gutter press and criminal channels about the political affiliations of A.T. Babu, irrespective of the party to which he belonged to at the present time, Babu was mainly a pro-ordinary people activist who was seeking radical changes to the unequal system that working poor suffer today. A T Babu was known to the political activists as a fighter for people’s causes, who firmly believed in mass action rather than individual adventurism. A T Babu was also actively participating in National Association of People’s Movements {NAPM), last October he was elected as the State Co-ordinator of NAPM- Karnataka.

It goes to the credit of Babu and his fellow activists of ‘Karnataka Rajya Madhyapana Virodhi Andolana Samithi’ who have led heroic long drawn struggles against the liquor mafia of the state, they have been instrumental in closing down more than 1000 liquor shops which were flouting all the norms set by Excise department. A T Babu inspired by the time tested methods of agitation such as mass protest and direct action successfully involved scores of urban and rural women to confront the unscrupulous opening of liquor shops near schools, colleges & places of worship.

Babu hailed from village Althar, Udupi district of Karnataka; he comes from a family which engaged in agriculture. Babu came to Bangalore in the mid-seventies of last century in search of a livelihood, started his career as a Tailor. Babu entered Congress in the late eighties and even became a block president; disenchanted with the increasingly neo-liberalist and pro-rich Congress, Babu became an independent activist staunchly identifying himself with the poor and minorities. It was the plight of the women folk who took most of the brunt of alcoholism drove Babu to choose anti-liquor campaign as his life’s mission.

Babu is survived by his Wife Smitha, daughter Soujanya & son Abhinaya, Babu and his family have paid a very heavy price for the cause they believed, eight years ago Babu’s first daughter, a very bright student of Pre- university at MES college, Bangalore committed suicide leaving a note directly accusing the police of brutality meted out to her father in connection with an anti-liquor agtation.

It is arguable whether Babu consciously joined BJP in the last elections, but he did campaign for the defeated BJP candidate in the Rajajinagar legislative constituency.

He had stood steadfastly against the communal politics of the BJP, in the recent period after the last Karnataka elections, he had put enormous pressure on the BJP government for a more stringent Excise policy, but to his dismay the BJP announced 1500 licences for new liquor bars to be opened across the state. Babu had publicly protested this announcement and was planning an agitation against it.

It is an irony of the political times that we live, genuine people’s activists such as Babu are forced to stray into pro big business and communal parties such as BJP and Congress for “political support”, it is the failure and absence of the left in this country that scores of such exemplary fighters are lost to the enemy camps. Babu’s active association with NAPM is an indication of the dilemma that he was in, those who new Babu closely would agree that he was in search of a genuine mass alternative to the existing system of unscrupulous profit seekers.

The New Socialist Alternative had long term association & friendship with Babu, and co-organised several struggles especially of the working poor. A T Babu was a regular reader of Dudiyora Horaata & was keen to understand the ideas of genuine socialism. We recall the visit of Comrade Joe Higgins (formerly Socialist Party MP from Ireland), Babu attended the Public Meeting addressed by Joe and was very interested in the anti-Bin charges campaign conducted by the Socialist Party, Ireland at that time.

New Socialist Alternative pays homage to this courageous fighter A T Babu and owes to keep the fight on to achieve the goals shared by Babu such as Social Justice and Equality.

Socialist Salute to A T Babu