This Day in History (22-Nov-1988) – Baba Amte wins U.N. Human Rights Award

Muralidhar Devdas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte, was the eldest son of rich parents. His owned over 450 acres of good cultivable land. At a very young age, Baba Amte owned a gun and used to hunt wild boar and deer. Later, he went on to own an expensive sports car, cushioned with panther skin. He studied Law and started a lucrative practice in Wardha, but was moved by distressed condition of the poor and downtrodden classes of society. Then he relinquished his ceremonial dress and started working with the rag-pickers and sweepers for sometime in Chandrapur district. Later, he resumed practicing but as a “defence lawyer” for the leaders imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India movement.

Baba Amte was deeply influenced by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. After pursuing a leprosy orientation course at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, Baba Amte set up 11 weekly clinics and started working for leprosy. Later in 1951, Baba Amte was given 250 acres of land by the state government on which Amte founded the Anandvan ashram. Inside the ashram premises, two hospitals, a university, an orphanage and a school for the blind were opened.

In the year 1985, Baba Amte started the Bharat Jodo or the Unite India movement beginning from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and then again from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in the year 1988. The main objective was to reinstate peace and whip up environmental awareness. In 1990, Baba Amte left Anandvan to join Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan. While leaving Anandvan Baba said, “I am leaving to live along the Narmada… Narmada will linger on the lips of the nation as a symbol of all struggles against social injustice.” In place of the dams, the Narmada Bachao Andolan demanded for an energy and water strategy based on improving dry farming technology, watershed development, small dams, lift schemes for irrigation and drinking water, and improved efficiency and utilization of existing dams.

He was awarded with the Padma Shree Award (1971), Damien-Dutton Award (1983) the Ramon Magsaysay award (1985), the Padma Vibhushan (1986), United Nations Human Rights Prize (1988), the Templeton Prize(1990), the Gandhi Peace Prize (1999), and many other humanitarian and environmental prizes.


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