Former Jamia student leader dies, tributes pour in from across world
A former student leader of Jamia Millia Islamia collapsed to death during his routine morning walk in South India a few days ago, according to sources.
KS Gopa Kumar Panicker, who died on January 13 in his hometown in Kerala, was the founder member of Jamia unit of All India Student’s Federation (AISF) in 1979 and was well known among the Jamia community during his stay on the campus. He was general secretary of the English Association of Jamia.
Unlike many, even after leaving Jamia, he was in touch with many alumni.
Born on March 1954 to K Sreedharan Pillai in Parampath Perakath, KV Puram, Karakkal, Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta district in Kerala, Gopa, a journalist with more than 35 years of experience and award-winning naturopath, had gone out for a morning walk on January 13 and collapsed and hurt his head and rushed to the hospital where he could not be resuscitated as internal bleeding could not stop, said the deceased’s long-time friend and Jamia alumnus Ghizal Mahdi.
He told the OT over phone that Gopa’s son-in-law called him a day ago to inform him about his death and how it all happened.
As news of his death spread in the virtual world, tributes poured in from across the world with Jamia biradri expressing their shock.
Mahdi, who was in touch with him for years, wrote on his timeline: “With a very heavy heart, I inform you about the departure of one of my very close friends and co-travellers, Gopa Kumar Panicker, who joined BA (H) English in Jamia in 1979, and did MA (Sociology). He passed away on 13 Jan 2022 in his hometown in Kerala.
“Gopa and I founded the Jamia unit of All India Student’s Federation (AISF) in 1979 with Asna Nausheen…and others. Subsequently, he held posts in the Delhi State Committee of AISF. After his return to Kerala, he adopted journalism as his profession and, till his last breath, remained committed to working for the disadvantaged and the downtrodden of society. He left behind a wife, a retired teacher, and a daughter.”
Gopa after completing MA Sociology from Jamia went on to his State to do LLB from Kerala Law Academy, Trivandrum. Besides command of English, Malayalam, Tamil, he was well versed in Spanish too. Also, he visited UAE, OMAN, CUBA and USSR.
He worked with several publications, including Cochin Herald, Grand Kerala Broadcasting and other national and international publications. For two years he was associated with the National Herald (Madras edition). He contributed to Indian Express, Cochin, Eenadu Daily, Hyderabad, Passline Financial fortnightly, Cochin, Newsline an English News Agency at Trivandrum and Malayalam Dailies Punnyabhoomi, Thaniniram and Prabhatha Vartha published from Trivandrum for 3 years.
He won several awards, including Trivandrum Press Club Award for Excellence in Journalism 2014 and others.
Besides journalism and writing, he was attracted towards naturopathy and won the Remarkable Contributions to Naturopathy in 2014 given by India Certified Senior Naturopaths Association of India.
Panicker’s death has left not his family members grieved but the whole Jamia community, who knew him for years.
Dr Mohammad Talib, who taught Sociology at Jamia, from 1979 to 2001 and currently teaching at Oxford University London, wrote: “I was deeply saddened to hear that Gopa has left us forever.”
Professor Talib, who taught Gopa in Jamia, further wrote: “My sorrow took me to 1980 at Jamia when Gopa joined MA sociology and I had the opportunity to interact with him as his teacher. Gopa and his cohort were in a way my teachers too when they allowed me to share their experiences of their politics at Jamia. Gopa’s political expressions would leave their mark on the university walls, and confident questioning of the university authorities. When this brought them to the proctorial attention, I remember being called to explain why my student was sometimes absent from the class but present elsewhere, not in the best interest of the university…”
“I distinctly remember accompanying Gopa and his classmates to Gujarat to see how the white revolution worked, how Amul dairy was organised in Anand. Gopa in his simple manner would ask the right questions about those who worked at the plant, and questioned the official version. Some of his classmates, Delhi born -private school bred would make faces when Gopa would raise questions about the workers’ rights, and their organisations…” he wrote.
KM Manikfan (IES), a Jamia alumnus and senior adviser to a Central Ministry, sent the following message: “I am extremely saddened to hear this news. It is indeed a very close personal loss to me. RIP.”
Hasan Abdullah, a Marxist scholar and author of the renowned book ‘Evolution of Ghalib’ and Jamia alumnus sent the following message offering his condolence on the sad demise of Gopa: “I am saddened to hear about the departure of Gopa…
As a Left sympathiser staying in Jamia area, I got to interact with Gopa and other Jamia student comrades. Gopa always stood out and commanded respect because of his personality. He was cool and calm and was aware about society. It was remarkable that he was one of the founders of AISF unit in Jamia of 1979-80, though he came from a completely different culture. Jamia of 1979-80 was quite small and highly different from the Jamia of today in most respects.
“Gopa’s sincerity and commitment to the people’s cause were in evidence at that time, and throughout his journey, he remained concerned and active about the issues of the people at large. The memories of Gopa shall never dim. Good bye comrade!”
(The condolence messages were sent to Ghizal Mahdi who shared them with the OT. Other information about Gopa shared from his CV )