Manjunath Shanmugam

Manjunath Shanmugam's life stands for truth and honesty.

He was born on February 23rd, 1978 in Karnatka. He finished his engineering from SJCE Mysore, and after that did his MBA from IIM Lucknow graduating in 2003. After finishing MBA he joined IOCL (Indian Oil Corporation Limited), and was a sales officer in Lakhimpur Khiri region of UP.

Lakhimpur Khiri is a known hotbed of petroleum adulteration. Manjunath was known as a honest officer. In 2005, he had sealed two petrol pumps for selling adulterated fuel for three months. When the pump started operating again a month later, Manjunath decided to conduct a surprise raid around November 19, 2005. He was beaten, and then shot dead by the petrol-pump owner Monu Mittal and his employees.

He was only 27 year old when he was murdered. His murder brought him into the public consciousness. But it's not his death, but his life and values that makes him great. He choose to stand against corruption, when he could have easily taken an easy route out.

Along with Satyendranath Dubey, he stands for all those unknown dubeys and manjunaths that are fighting the battle in different parts of India. And this is not their personal battle, they are fighting for all of us. They are independent India's freedom fighters. They are our torch bearers, when most of us choose to take an easy path focusing only on our personal goals; ignoring, accepting and becoming the part of the growing corruption and lawlessness in the country.

There was lot of discussion everywhere after his death about 'the value of his death'; and whether it's going to solve the corruption problem. An article written in Indian Express by his friend has remained in my mind. Here goes the relevant excerpt:

My mind goes back to the Business World case study written on Manjunath, soon after his death. There were many comments posted in response to the case. Most people debated on whether or not it was worth it. I had posted my comments too. I’d said:

‘‘When I first heard of Manju’s death I used to wonder if it was worth it. If Manju lived, he could have served his parents in their old age, gotten his sister married and so on—all the things every well-bred Indian takes pride in doing. So I wondered, couldn’t Manju have done the slight paap of going a bit easy on his values—with the long-term punya in view? Was this death worth it really?’’

In response, a reader had written something that made me hang my head in shame.

‘‘I don’t understand why for everything in life we ask ourselves— was it worth it? There are some beliefs, actions and motions that are above this ‘‘deal evaluation’’ exercise that we apply on everything. Like in love. It doesn’t matter if you can or cannot justify the effort and time spent in chasing a dream. What is important is that you believed in the dream and the need to take the journey. Let’s not trivialise what Manju did by even pontifying on whether it was worth it or not. Let’s not demean a believer! If you need to do anything, try dreaming the dream that he probably had.’’

On reading this, I realised that I had never really understood my friend. This anonymous reader had. Honesty is like love. Inexplicable. Unjustifiable. Just do it. Like Manjunath.

Happy Birthday Manju. You will go on living in our hearts!!