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Monday, June 14, 2021

Mahavir Narwal dies of Covid: ‘He was a restless social activist, magnetic orator’

Last rites of activist Natasha’s father, Mahavir Narwal, performed in Rohtak

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh |
May 12, 2021 9:18:24 am
Mahavir Narwal with daughter Natasha Narwal and son.

“We used to keep a watch to alert our student leader Mahavir Narwal to prevent his arrest during Emergency days when he had gone underground,” recalls Baljeet Singh Bhyan, while speaking about his student days in 1975 at Hisar’s Haryana Agricultural University (HAU) in 1975. Narwal, the father of Pinjra Tod activist Natasha Narwal, spent 11 months in Hisar jail after his arrest in 1976. On Tuesday, the 71-year-old was cremated in Rohtak after he passed away due to Covid-19.

In Haryana’s academic circles, Narwal was known as a “humble gentleman and social activist” who actively campaigned to promote science in the state.

In a state which is known for its patriarchal set up, Narwal favoured inter-caste marriages. Narwal himself had opted an inter-caste marriage.

Not only this, he had given consent for inter-caste marriage of his younger sister too in 1986 when such marriages had almost no acceptance in a state like Haryana.

“Narwal was a rare student of Haryana who was imprisoned during the Emergency. He was a magnetic orator. He was a restless social activist. He was a secular from the core of his heart,” says historian M M Juneja who earlier used to teach in Hisar’s CRM Jat College.

Narwal spent his childhood in Banwasa village of Sonipat district. His father, Subedar Pratap Singh, was a person of modern thoughts. Soon after his schooling, he got admission in HAU to pursue study of BSc (agriculture) in 1970 and became a prominent leader of students. Still, he secured a gold medal in BSc in the university. He was one among the prominent faces of Haryana Students Union which was later merged into students’ body SFI.

Narwal’s friend Baljeet Bhyan says, “I had just got admission in 1975 when the police were behind Narwal and other activists like him after the imposition of emergency. He used to stay in the rooms of new students like me. Whenever exams used to take place, we were assigned duties to alert him. We used to stand at the distance of almost every acre near the exam centre so that he could be alerted. Once, the police had landed at an exam centre to take him into custody but Mahavir immediately left the spot after handing over his answer-sheet to the examiner.”

“Apart from activism, Narwal even used to teach the students like me who were initially uncomfortable in English being from the rural background,” adds Baljeet Bhyan, who later became an officer in the state agriculture department and was subsequently promoted to the post of District Horticulture Officer.

After completing his PhD in plant breeding, Narwal joined the HAU as a scientist where “he was a key member of a team which had developed an improved variety of bajra”.

He also remained president of HAU Teachers Association (HAUTA). Even after his retirement, Narwal remained active to promote science among the masses being president of Haryana Gyan Vigyan Samiti, a platform of intellectuals and activists in the state. He was also a guiding force for the volunteers during the literacy campaign in the state.

Narwal stood by his daughter, Natasha, when she was arrested by the Delhi Police in May 2020 under the charges of UAPA in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots. Being in judicial custody Natasha, who had lost her mother 20 years back, could not meet her father even during his last days. The Delhi High Court Monday granted her interim bail for three weeks.

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