November 19 resonates for a day nine years ago. In 2005, an honest and promising youngster, who was trying to live his ideals, the ideals that are supposed to be followed universally, as parents expect from their children, as is taught in all schools, as all the scriptures scream to convey, was shot to death for following these universal principles of human civilization.

The 27-year old IIM Lucknow MBA and Indian Oil Corporation’s ‘Marketing Manager Grade A’ was killed while carrying out his duty honestly, living the ideals the way we all are supposed to do, the way the oath given to ministers, legislators and bureaucrats expects – not compromising on values of honesty and integrity while holding the office.

And that behaviour in office reflects the conduct in personal life.

And the universal norms expect them to be voluntary and not forced.

But he was living in a time when ‘honesty is equated with foolishness’ and when ‘honest people are fools’ had become, for long, valid themes for public discourses and when ‘corruption had become a way of life’. Corruption has, very much, become a way of life.

Yes, he was not alone. But humanity gets such souls rarely, the commoners who stand up and speak up for what is right, without fear, with an unflinching resolve. He was one among the rare breed of leaders who continue to show us the light in spite of our betraying attitude; they continue to put their lives in grave danger for the principles of humanity, for the social ethos of human civilizations, that societies tend to undermine.

I caught somewhere an article on a college debate on S. Manjunath titled ‘Was Manjunath idiotic or heroic?’ with the team behind the biopic ‘Manjunath’. Its director Sandeep Verma here talks about his meeting with Manjunath’s parents in Karnataka. The observations on conversation he had with them is an eye-opener on the social ethos today.

Here it goes:*

“I met Manjunath’s family in Karnataka. I knew that Manjunath had come from a humble background. I met his grief-stricken but proud parents. I could discern that his mother was shocked that people were implying that Manjunath could have exposed the scam in a different way. He could have been more patient, used different methods, that he was stupid or naïve, and that is why he was killed. People made them feel almost ashamed that they had a son who could not adjust to a situation. While the students absorbed Verma’s statement, the director looked angry as he stated, “This was really a barometer of how society treats its heroes. It was a reflection of us. I was angry when I heard this. Manjunath’s mother told me she does not want a single rupee from this movie. She only wants me to show that her son was not stupid but courageous.”””

People like Shanmugam Manjunath are the reminders of what we have become, in the name of civilized societies of a thriving democracy where a ‘Goonda Godman'(Rampal, Hisar, Haryana) takes on a state machinery and refuses to bow before the Constitution of the land.

What we have become reflects in her mother’s worries that people see his brave and honest son as ‘stupid or naive’, as someone who could not ‘adjust to the situation’ when we need to live the spirit with which he lived the ideals of personal and professional integrity.

People like Shanmugam Manjunath are the guiding spirit for them who still believe in the universal values of humanity, the human life and the societies should follow. For them, November 19 reflects more on lives like S. Manjunath than the ‘high and mighty’ names like Indira Gandhi whose birth anniversary also falls today.

Manjunath CollageCollage created from photographs sourced from Internet resources


©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –

*Was Manjunath idiotic or heroic? Mumbai college debates


It is 8 years since November 19, 2005 when Manjunath Shanmugam was found murdered in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. He was brutally killed and dumped in his own car by a petrol pump owner and his goons.

And the reason behind it was Manjunath’s honesty.

Body of the young brilliant engineering and management graduate of IIM Lucknow was found riddled with many bullets as he was re-inspecting a re-opened petrol pump he had sealed for three months for selling adulterated fuel.

He was just 27 then.

India has become notorious for victimization of activists and social workers who get into direct confrontation with the System to get its anomalies corrected and Satyendra Dubey and S Manjunath are probably the most talked about initial cases drawing wide attention on the need of serious discussion on whistleblower and activist protection in India. There is a long list from Satyendra Dubey to S Manjunath to Satish Shetty to Shehla Masood to Narendra Dabholkar if we just talk of the post-2000 period.

Yet, we do not have much to say on the developments in this direction apart from a piece of proposed legislature that, no one can say, when would see the final go and how effective would be.

Shanmugam Manjunath
(Wikipedia Photograph)

Sometime back, I had written an article while thinking on Manjunath. I found myself seeking answers to some questions that my thinking raised. It’s been some years since then, yet answers remain elusive.

Here it goes..


I hope most of us are still aware of Manjunath Shanmugam who sacrificed his life.

What for?

Many of us would dismiss that in just one go — for honesty — and for human values, values going deeper backstage with each passing moment, and this all is happening in the name of pragmatism.

On 19th November 2005, this IIML grad and sales manager of Indian Oil Corporation was found shot dead in his car in Lakhimpur-Kheri. He was just 27. And for what — he had raided and sealed some petrol pumps for adulteration. S Manjunath, the teacher of his IIML professors was no more among us.

But what was our responsibility?

Could we adopt even an iota of values of pioneers like Manjunath, Satyendra Dubey, Binayak Sen or Himanshu Gandhi?

A selfless struggle to bring the process of change on the horizon!

Some media reports pegged Naxals’ annual extortion operation at around 1500 crore and see, a Madhu Koda could easily outmaneuver them in just few years of political career.

Who’re mercenaries of debased interests then?

Finding that is getting tougher and tougher. Identities are coalescing and tentacles of vested interests are infesting virtually every area of our social habitat now.

We need the change. We desperately need to save our social habitat. We need functionality of values back. Surely we need messengers of change. We always need to see that the sacrifices like Manjunath and all others do not vanish in the pages of history.

We need to have discourses on this sensitivity. We need to see what has been the individual sensitivity? What has been the sensitivity of people as a whole?

Have we been able to question ourselves? I think we must question ourselves, our orientations.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –