My earliest recollection of Yasser Arafat is from a live telecast on Doordarsan, decades ago. In response to Indira Gandhi's extended hand for a shake, he gave her a big bear hug on the podium during a NAM summit. That somehow touched me and lakhs of other Indians, for whom Yasser became the face of the Palestinian struggle.
Over the years, inspite of all his miscalculations and errorenous decision, the one thing that no one can fault him on - His commitment to his cause. He biggest contribution for that cause, in my opinion is not what he strategized; it is his success in not letting the story of Palestine blot from the collective psyche of the world. If Palestine has not been relegated to some hidden compartment at the back of our brains, like Rawanda, Fiji, Checnya and scores of such other places of human tragedy, it is because Arafat strove and succeeded in keeping it in the forefront.
I don't understand his politics, never did. One thing I know is that terrorism that targets common people, what ever be the cause and whoever be the perpetrator can never be condoned. I also know, that behind that benign Grandfather-like smile, lurks a soul hardened by violence and struggle.
But in a world of plagued by mindless terrorists, Yasser Arafat towers as a real Freedom Fighter, a tag no Indian can take lightly. He may not have been put on a pedastral like Gandhi or Mendela, but he has certainly made the world sit up and take notice.
Arafat has played out his part in the world stage, but his quest for freedom lives on. And with it lives on Yasser Arafat.