Andhra Pradesh

Atheist leader Goparaju Vijayam passes away

Social activist and atheist leader Goparaju Vijayam died at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, in the early hours of Friday. He was 84. The atheist leader was suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past sometime. He was the fourth child of social reformers Gora and Saraswathi Gora.

A professor in political science, he had relentlessly worked to promote peace and environmental causes. His body was donated to the NRI Hospital for the purpose of medical research.

Born in 1936 at Machilipatnam in Krishna district, he had travelled extensively around the world and played a vital role in strengthening the humanist and atheist movements, secular spirit, critical thinking, and free inquiry.

He was the Executive Director of the Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, founded by his parents in 1940 and actively contributed to studies on peace and conflict resolution, Gandhian philosophy, non-violence, social development, and civil society movement.

After schooling at Mudunuru and then in Patamata in Vijayawada, Vijayam pursued a degree course from SRR and CVR College in the city and went on to complete MA in political science from Andhra University in Visakhapatnam in 1961-63. He had also worked as a lecturer in the same university before leaving for the US in 1968 where he went to the Martin Luther King School of Social Change, Chester, Pennsylvania, to study the problems of minorities, black communities and the relevance of non-violent social change and Gandhian movement. The next year, he worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Delaware and had taught political science, political theory and Constitutions. In 1970, he earned his second Masters in Political Science from the University of Delaware.

Marriage sans rituals

Vijayam married Sumathi in a Harijan basti (a hamlet of untouchables then), which is currently Varalakshminagar in the city, in 1966. The marriage was a social event with no rituals except exchanging of garlands made with vegetables. The dining session involved communities from the lowest rung of the social ladder. Sumathi was a botanist with double Masters in Sociology and Political Science, who dedicated her life as a teacher at the Vasavya Vidyalayam, an experimental school started by the Gora family members Mythri and Hemalatha Lavanam.

After returning to India in 1971, he worked as the Director of the research wing in the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, for five years. He returned to Vijayawada in 1975 to continue the activities of the Atheist Centre after Gora’s demise.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 2:18:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/atheist-leader-goparaju-vijayam-passes-away/article31653774.ece

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