A champion for Equality and Diversity: Tributes pour in for Prof Shamnad Basheer

Bar & Bench August 14 2019
Shamnad Basheer

Friends and well-wishers gathered in Bangalore on Sunday to pay tribute at a remembrance meeting held in honour of Prof Shamnad Basheer.

Among those in attendance were graduates of Prof Basheer’s alma mater, National Law School of India University (NLSIU), and students from Increasing Diversity through Increasing Access (IDIA) - the organisation he spearheaded.

A number of his close friends delivered speeches at the meeting, expressing their shock at his untimely demise, and evoking fond memories of Prof Shamnad Basheer.

The speakers included NLSIU alumni Rohit Mammen Alex, Navneet Hrishikesan, Aditya Vikram Bhat, IDIA Trustee Shishira Rudrappa, and Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya.

Shishira Rudrappa recounted the first time he met Prof Basheer, who was travelling on a plane with a boarding pass that had Pravin Anand’s name on it. He went on to say,

“It was too early for him to go. IDIA needed him, a whole bunch of us needed him. 

We did an analysis of the number of lives Shamnad touched, and it came up to more than 30,000. Over the last ten years, we have trained these many people in various disciplines.”

In his speech, Rohit Mammen Alex recounted the 30 years he spent with his best friend. He went on to say,

"Shamnad was always helpful and kind and patient to everyone and willing to lend a shoulder to anyone in need of help. He was truly a giant amongst men.”

He went on to liken Prof Basheer to the Greek mythological hero, Achilles.

“…Odysseus, war hero, describes the Great Achilles, saying, “there’s not a man in the world more blest than you— there never has been, never will be one.” 

Shamnad's Achilles heel was his unexplained failing health. But he will he remembered and not forgotten…”

Said Poovayya during his speech,

“All of us know a little bit about Shamnad; I don’t think there is anyone who knows it all…

…People who demand monuments seldom deserve one and people who deserve monuments seldom demand one. Shamnad belonged to the latter.”

Director & Head of Service Provider Legal - Asia Pacific & Japan at Cisco, Navneet Hrishikesan, painted a picture of Prof Basheer in the prime of his health. He went on to say,

“He had this naive faith in people. He would reach out, again and again, to try and reach out to them, even when some of those people insulted him.”

Navneet Hrishikesan

The need to perpetuate Prof Basheer’s vision to increase diversity in legal education through IDIA was also touched upon by all the speakers. Aditya Vikram Bhat, who closely worked with Prof Basheer on matters related to IDIA, said,

“I would like to continue to ensure that the annual [NLSIU] alumni dinner in Bangalore is a rocking success. I hope that it continues to make a healthy contribution to IDIA year after year. We have treated it as a dinner whether the excess of the proceeds would go to IDIA. This year, we sent around Rs. 2 lakh to IDIA; this year, I would like to double or triple that number.

While he rests in peace, I would like to be able to ask him to rest assured that IDIA will never be wanting for funds, and that no IDIA trainee, scholar, or project will ever be wanting for funds.”

Current and former IDIA scholars also paid tribute to their “father figure”, recounting the many ways by which Prof Basheer helped them out of their difficult circumstances.

Kartika Annamalai, a former IDIA scholar currently working with AZB & Partners said,

“For many of us IDIA scholars, Prof Basheer was a fatherly figure who always had our backs, no matter when we approached him. It was his courage and conviction to stand up for equality that inspired many of us to even dare study the law and accomplish what we thought to be impossible.”

Kartika Annamalai

Another former IDIA scholar Yugal Jain said,

“He was the one person who accepted all of us for who we were. He believe in our abilities to excel without trying to change who we were.”

Yugal Jain

Yamuna Menon, a current IDIA scholar at NLSIU Bangalore said,

“I remember the aura of positive energy that he had and how he transferred that to everyone he met.”

Yamuna Menon

Another IDIA scholar at NLSIU, Thangminlal Haokip, said,

"He taught me to inculcate the spirit of altruism. A more apt word would ‘Agape’, which means unconditional love in Greek. That is what he always gave, and kept giving, without expecting anything from you."

Thangminlal Haokip

NLSIU alumnus John Daniel ended the meeting with a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way, a befitting tribute to the life of Prof Shamnad Basheer.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

John Daniel

 

Professor Shamnad Basheer recently passed away in a tragic accident at the age of 43. He was the founder of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA), a non-profit organisation working in India which aims to empower underprivileged children by giving them access to quality legal education. To donate to the cause, visit the IDIA site.