Retired SFU sociologist and community leader Hari Sharma dies

South Asian academic and community leader Hari Sharma died on March 16 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer.

Sharma, the Indian-born son of a railway station manager, inspired many young activists during his career as an SFU sociology professor and as the long-time president of the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy.

His nephew, Sameer Sharma, described him as an “extremely dynamic” person with an incredible zest for life.

“He was a very people-oriented person,” Sameer Sharma told the Straight by phone. “He was always for the underdog.”

Sharma, a left-wing intellectual, once told the Straight that the Congress-led government of India under former prime minister Indira Gandhi wouldn’t give him a visa to visit the country for a while because of his political activism.

In another interview, Sharma described how his Hindu mother once saved a Muslim boy’s life after Partition in 1947 by nursing him back to health and dressing him in Hindu clothes so that he could safely leave the area. He said that this incident, which occurred when he was a teenager, contributed to his lifelong opposition to religious communalism.

During his academic career and after he retired, Sharma retained a keen interest in how communism developed around the world and particularly in China.

On November 15, there was a celebratory dinner for Sharma in Surrey, which attracted people from across the region, to mark his 75th birthday.

A service will be held on March 21 at 3 p.m. at Riverside Funeral Home in Delta.

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Mar 17, 2010 at 8:38pm

The service is on March 21 at 3 pm at Riverside Funeral Home in Delta. Open to anyone who would like to attend. RIP Hari bhai, safe passage and lal salaam. Your life and legacy is with us always.


Mar 18, 2010 at 12:19am

So inspiring. I hope people realize and remember just how inspiring.


Mar 18, 2010 at 4:35pm

We first met at a sociology conference in the 70s in Saskatoon. He inspired many a left wing intellectual & activist & he never SOLD OUT!


Mar 18, 2010 at 9:58pm

Hari's legacy indeed lives on with all of us, as Harsha wrote above, particularly among friends who continue to be in the front line inspiring us to engage in for secularism, democracy and social justice to help make the world we live in a better place.

Inkalaab Jindaabaad, Hari bhai


Mar 19, 2010 at 4:34am

I never met him but his story is awfully moving-- I have tears in my eyes. RIP fellow. I am sure you will be deeply missed!


Mar 19, 2010 at 3:45pm

A whirling dervish, a flaming paradox, an impish raconteur. Someone who fought the good fight in his own singular manner. R.I.P.

Charlie Smith

Mar 21, 2010 at 1:13am

Gurpreet Singh e-mailed me this comment to post on the site:

Hari Sharma's death is a setback to the civil society in BC. It goes to his credit that he had encouraged activism in the Indo Canadian community. From racism to the farm workers' abuse he had addressed all the sensitive issues in his campaigns both consistently and passionately. He had opposed state oppression against the minorities in India and was critical of both the Hindu nationalist BJP and the so called secular Congress party for orchestrating pogroms against the Muslims and the Sikhs respectively. Besides, he had exposed the misery of the tribal and the poor in India and was equally critical of the mainstream Communist parties for not doing enough despite being a leftist himself. Occasionally he had disagreements with many people, including myself, but his legacy of activism will always be remembered. Holding his funeral on the International Day against the Elimination of Racism is a right thing to do and a fitting tribute to Hari.
Gurpreet Singh


Mar 21, 2010 at 4:16pm

Prof Hari Sharma was a great intellectual and indo canadian academic
Who struggled for spreading secular values in indian society.His contribution towards
harmony and social justice will always be remembered. We indocanadians
will always remember him for his efforts towards building a society without
race,language or religious discrimination.

Rajinder Sandhu

Mar 31, 2010 at 7:59pm

I met Mr. Sharma at a women's solidarity conference: a testament to his broad and far reaching activism. He took a great deal of time to educate me on the violence in Gujarat that year. I recall seeing him several times on the streets in the Punjabi market in Vancouver, greeting people with his warm smile and spreading awareness on social justice issues to the South Asian community. Always inspiring and always a joy. I imagine he rejoiced in his final days knowing that he lived a righteous life, true to his beliefs to the end.