Renowned humanitarian and Magsaysay award winner Baba Amte (94) was laid to rest in the shaded grounds of Anandvan, his primary mission project for leprosy patients, amid state honours on Sunday morning. Amte, who was suffering from leukemia for the last six months, passed away on Saturday.
Amte is survived by wife Sadhana and two sons, Vikas and Prakash, both social workers. The messiah of lepers had founded the Anandvan ashram in 1951 as a home for leprosy patients. He and his wife took care of the patients’ medical and social needs.
Amte’s funeral was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. After some initial debate on whether Baba was to be buried or cremated, the Amte family decided on a burial, in keeping with with his wishes. A burial, Baba felt, made the body useful for micro-organisms in the soil as against ash immersion in the river, which pollutes the water.
Thousands of people from all over the country thronged Anandvan to pay their respects to the ‘messiah of lepers’. Queuing patiently to take a last glimpse of the body draped in the tricolour, they raised slogans in memory of his work as the funeral procession made its way to the burial spot in Anandvan.
Several Maharashtra ministers and political leaders were also present. Activists like Medha Patkar, with whom Amte was associated for the Narmada Bachao Andolan, volunteers of the Knit India mission for peace started by Amte in the mid-80’s and people from all walks of life from social work to the judiciary were present.
While paying his respects, Deshmukh said that Amte’s work was a continuing one and expressed confidence that it would be carried forward by the family, and assured all help from the government in this mission.
Deshmukh, who had earlier conferred the the state’s highest award, the Maharashtra Bhushan on Amte, said that awards like these did not adorn the man, rather it was Amte’s acceptance of the same which increased its importance.