Our friend Vijay Nagaraj tragically passed away on 25th August 2017. Vijay was a co-investigator on this project and a dear colleague. He was a highly respected political economist, who had been the Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva, Switzerland and the Director of Amnesty International in India before becoming Head of Research at the Law and Society Trust in Sri Lanka. His many publications include:
Prosecuting War-Related Rape and Sexual Violence Against Women in Sri Lanka: Lessons from Feminist Perspectives (2017), Law and Society Trust (co-authored with Zainab Ibrahim)
- From Smokestacks to Luxury Condos: The Housing Rights Struggle of the Millworkers of Mayura Place, Colombo (2016), Journal of Contemporary South Asia.
- Disconnecting the Egregious from the Everyday: Sexual Violence, Economic Precariousness and the Politics of Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka in Paul Gready and Simon Robins (eds.) From Transitional to Transformative Justice (Cambridge University Press forthcoming)
- War, Conflict and Development: Towards Reimagining Dominant Approaches (2015) Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 50, Issue No. 9, 28 Feb.
- ‘Beltway Bandits’ and ‘Poverty Barons’: For-Profit International Development Contracting and the Military-Development Assemblage (2015) Development and Change, 46: 585–617.
- ‘A Very Highly Political Job’: Human Rights Practice, ‘The Political’, and Practitioners’ Dilemmas in Sri Lanka (2014) Journal of Human Rights Practice 6 (3): 399-421 (co-authored with Shermal Wijewardene).
- Human Rights Practice in Sri Lanka: Towards a Thick Description (2014), International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo (co-authored with Shermal Wijewardene).
- Beyond Reconciliation and Accountability: Distributive Justice and Sri Lanka’s Transitional Agenda, Opendemocracy.org, 18 May 2016
- Global Human Rights: For Futures Unlike the Past, Opendemocracy.org, 31 July 2013
Below are some reflections from network participants on Vijay, and how working with him affected them. Most of us had only known Vijay for a few months when he died, but the comments below show what a mark he made. He will be so sorely missed for his critical intelligence, his deep ethical commitments, his wicked sense of humour and his profound care for others. Rest in peace, our brother.
“I didn’t know Vijay for long. He was one of those rare people who instantly touched everyone he met with his inspirational humanity, his sharp wit, his unbeatable spirit, and his incessantly inquisitive and critical mind, and left them with permanent marks of what it means to be a good human being. I feel truly lucky to have met him and profoundly saddened to say goodbye so soon. My condolences to all who are affected by his passing. His compassion will live on.”
“When I met Vijay in Bogota for the first time it felt like I knew him 20 years ago. We connected and partied like high school buddies. In Kampala, he was all smiles and I can’t forget that long trip to Gulu, his ride on a boda boda as we waited for the broken bus, he gave me his sandwich, and oh my God I vividly remember his wide eyes when the elephants charged at us in the Murchison Falls Game Park, leave alone the crocodile scare, but most memorable was his humour and caring personality that infected us all. We shall miss him dearly. May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.”
“Upon hearing of Vijay’s passing, I was struck not only by deep personal sadness but also by a profound sense of regret for all those who had never had the chance to meet Vijay. It may sound like a cliche, but I feel immensely fortunate to have spent time with Vijay, even if it was far too brief. Vijay was the rarest combination of the charming and the critical, the incisive and the playful. I have yet to meet someone whose smile, often seemingly shared impromptu, was so disarming.
Among the many things that I admired about Vijay was his ability to take work seriously but not himself. He retained some child-like admiration of the world, its people, its animals, its absurdities — an admiration we too often see extinguished in adults. There was always enough time for a joke, for a smile, for a roadside drink, for an adventure.
Vijay was a true companion. He had the rare ability of making you feel as if you knew him, even when you didn’t. His generosity of spirit made all of those who shared their time and space with him feel valued.
Many people sit beside you. Vijay always sat with you. I will miss him terribly.”
“In the short time I knew Vijay I was greatly struck by his deep sense of ethical responsibility, his evident commitment to social justice, and his willingness and ability to speak truth to power. He was considerate beyond measure, and always aware of the needs of those around him. He was warm and supportive and he will be much missed. In Ireland we say “NÍ bheidh a leithead arís ann” – we shall not know another like him again. This is true about Vijay.”
“I arrived in Kampala for our second workshop with a terrible headache after a 14-hour almost continuous flight from Canada. The next morning I woke up late by a knock on my room door. It was Vijay. He had come to check if I was okay and then he ran to the restaurant to grab some sandwiches and fruits, insisting I should eat something before we go to Makerere University. After the workshop, both of us took a boda boda for an amusing ride back to the hotel. He paid the rider for both of us. Aside being one of the sharpest and most critical minds I have met, these acts of timely kindness characterized Vijay’s interaction with me during our workshops and bus trips in Colombia and Uganda. It is unbelievable that Vijay, an epitome of friendship and wisdom in our group, has gone so soon. Sleep well in eternal peace, my dear brother. We will always remember you.”
“Vijay had a tremendous intellect, forged from study and experience, yet he had a child-like wonder over life’s simplest things. He was not naive, he could be quite cynical actually, but seemed to have a boundless sense of optimism and faith in people. I got to spend far too little time with him (and now regret being unable to stay awake through some of the bus rides we spent together), but I am grateful to have gotten to know him.”
“Vijay will be greatly missed. I only knew him for a very short time but was touched by his critical wit and intelligence, but more importantly his humanity.”