In the demise of Dr Swaraj Prakash Gupta, Ph.D., D.Litt., on October 3, 2007 (11.45 p.m.) the nation has lost an ardent patriot, a great scholar and an intellectual Kshatriya. Dr Gupta (born on December 22, 1931) was a rare and unique combination of patriotism, social commitment, superior intellect and a master organiser. His 76-year-long chequered life is an inspiring saga of single-minded devotion to nation and scholarship. He imbibed idealism and activism from the RSS since his childhood. In 1948 he went to jail at the age of 17 and never flinched from his creation and commitment to nationalism. That was the central thread in his lifelong activism. Being a chronic asthma patient, he was living on oxygen for the last one year, but was intellectually active throughout.
About one and a half month back, he told me, ?Now I have separated myself from the body, I am witnessing its gradual decay, and therefore, I am in a hurry to complete all my intellectual projects including an atlas on Indus-Saraswati civilisation, which is going to be a monumental contribution on Harappology.? On September 25 when I met him on his deathbed in the Rockland Hospital his face glimmered with joy when he told me that the atlas project is now complete and may be out soon. In that last meeting he remembered many event of our 57-year-long association starting since 1950 at Allahabad. Face to face with death, his will to survive was simply thrilling. He repeatedly said, I shall come out of the hospital and continue my life-work.
Swaraj'sintellectual brilliance, originality and dynamism had established him as an archaeologist of international repute. Starting with the National Museum, he served as Director of the Allahabad Museum, and devoted most of his time to field activism. Unmarried himself, Swaraj looked at the RSS and the vast fraternity of archaeologists and historians as his family. He energised the dormant Indian Archaeological Society, made its journal Puratatva a very prestigious international journal. In 1977-78 he created a forum for historians under the name ?Indian History and Culture Society? and in 2000 started its own research journal History Today.
It goes to the credit of his resource mobilising capacity that single handed he was able to construct a multi-storeyed building with a pleasant campus in Qutab Institutional Area, Delhi. S.P. Gupta has been the moving spirit behind the joint annual conference of three institutions?the Indian Archaeological Society, the Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quarternary Studies (ISPQS) and the Indian History and Culture Society (IHCS). In last year'sGwalior Conference he with an oxygen cylinder by his side was able to guide it. After many decades this year'sRaipur Conference will miss him.
Dr Gupta conceived and carried out the project of the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management (DIHRM) in the year 2000. He started a journal on Marine Archaeology, perhaps, first of its kind in India. In Swaraj, Indian archaeology was fortunate to get a very talented, selfless whole timer.
Dr Gupta will be remembered as an intellectual warrior par excellence. Fighting vigorously against the Aryan Invasion Theory, he successfully changed the nomenclature of Indus Valley Civilization to Saraswati Civilization, thereby establishing its Vedic origin. The warrior in him manifested itself fully in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Swaraj played a key role in the Central Government sponsored two dialogues between the Temple Party and the Babari Party, one in 1990 and the other in 1992. After the demolition of the disputed Babari structure on December 6, 1992, Swaraj made frantic efforts for the preservation of archaeological artifacts and inscriptions recovered from the debris. Against the risk of imprisonment he with Dr Sudha Mallya rushed to Ayodhya on December 12 to somehow procure video photographs and a scientific estampage of the historic inscription that was found in the debris, which were essentially needed for its decipherment.
I am thrilled to remember the scene of December 19, 1992, when the Delhi Police had cordoned off the Himachal Bhawan, where we had called a press conference to publicise the deciphered text of the convention. Swaraj managed to keep the police team waiting and disappeared. His life story is replete with many such thrilling episodes.
Swaraj was a self-made man. His demise has left a void difficult to fill. Let us pay homage to the departed soul and seek inspiration from his memory.