M A I N   N E W S

K.R. Narayanan dead
7-day national mourning; cremation today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
The first Dalit President of India, K.R. Narayanan, breathed his last at the Army Research and Referral Hospital here today. He was 84 and is survived by his wife Usha and two daughters, Amrita and Chitra, who is India’s Ambassador to Turkey.

According to the Commandant of the hospital, Major-General O.P. Mathew, the former President died at 5.45 pm. He was admitted to the hospital on October 29 and was suffering from pneumonia and renal failure.

His condition began to deteriorate on October 31 and he was put on the life support system the same day.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the former President at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital to inquire about his health.

Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed also visited Narayanan at the hospital and inquired about his well-being from his daughters and the treating physicians.

Mr Narayanan was the President of India from July 25, 1997 to July 25, 2002. Prior to joining politics in 1984, Mr Narayanan was a career diplomat. He was elected from the Ottapalam (Reserved) constituency in Kerala thrice — in 1984, 1989 and 1991. He became Vice-President in 1992. He had also served as Minister for Science and Technology and Minister of State for Defence in the Rajiv Gandhi government.

During his distinguished career in foreign service, he served as India’s Ambassador to China.

He will be cremated tomorrow evening with full military honours at a spot between Shantivan and Vijay Ghat in the Capital, the Union Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided here tonight.

The Cabinet, which met within hours of the former President’s demise, hailed his contribution to the nation and declared a seven-day national mourning from today.

The National Flag will fly half mast and there will be no official entertainment during the period.

Narayanan’s body will be kept for public homage at Kapurthala House between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and will be cremated at 4.30 p.m. at a spot near the place where former Presidents Zail Singh and Shankar Dayal Sharma were cremated, Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal announced the Cabinet decisions here.

On hearing about the demise of Mr Narayanan at a function of the National Legal Services Authority late on Tuesday afternoon, the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, mourned his loss during his speech. Dr Kalam said, “I condole his passing away on my behalf and on behalf of the entire nation. He was indeed a great inspiring leader with good heart.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his condolence message said: “Braving numerous hardships and difficulties in life and overcoming social prejudices, he emerged as one of the outstanding personalities of our country.”

Describing Narayanan “a sagacious personality of our public life”, the Prime Minister said his life “symbolised the triumph of social justice and recognition of his immense talents as a diplomat, writer, humanist, and above all as an original thinker and a fine human being.”

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Haryana Chief Minister were among the first to mourn the loss of the former President. Expressing shock over his demise, Mr Vajpayee said, “In the passing away of Narayanan, India has lost a seasoned diplomat and a statesman. His inspiring life is a story of hard work and positive attitude over social and economic hardships.”

The Vice-President, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, said Mr Naryanan was a true nationalist, an acclaimed democrat and a messiah of the downtrodden.

BJP President L.K. Advani said Narayanan served the nation with distinction handling all responsibilities — as a distinguished officer in the External Affairs Ministry, as a minister in the Union government and as Head of State.

In a condolence message, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda remembered Mr Narayanan as a multi-faceted personality who rose to the highest Constitutional office with sheer hard work.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, also expressed profound grief and sorrow over the sad demise of former President of India.



First President from weaker sections
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
Kocheril Raman Narayanan, the first person from the weaker sections to rise to the post of President of India, was a multifaceted personality who epitomised the best in the country’s liberal traditions.

He was born in a small village named Uzhavoor, a remote village of Kottayam district in Kerala on October 27, 1920.

Limited economic means meant that he had to go through personal difficulties during his school days, like walking 10 miles every day to school.

In his long career, K R Narayanan worked as an academician, administrator, journalist, diplomat, and as a politician.

Few Indian Presidents have had as eventful a tenure at the Rashtrapati Bhavan as Narayanan had between 1997 and 2001, speaking with candour on issues ranging from economic liberalisation to nuclear proliferation.

Narayanan assumed the office of the President on July 25, 1997. His nuanced views were not always in toto with the ruling political establishment.

In 1997, he returned a recommendation of the then United Front Cabinet for imposition of President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh, which the government had to retract.

During the BJP-led government’s time, he sent back a Cabinet recommendation for imposition of President’s rule in Bihar.

At the peak of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, Narayanan had some strong views to give to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on law and order.

Hailing from a Dalit family with limited economic means, Narayanan could not often pay fees on time.

He obtained merit scholarship at the intermediate level.

He passed the BA (Literature) Honours examination and won the first rank in the University of Travancore.

The university denied him a chance to work as a lecturer, which he well merited and desperately wanted, simply because he hailed from a backward community.

Instead, the authorities offered him the job of a clerk, which he did not accept. In protest, he refused to accept his degree.

Not being able to become a teacher, Narayanan left for Delhi and to pursue journalism. As a journalist, he sought and got a cherished interview with Mahatma Gandhi.

While working there, he wrote to J.R.D. Tata, seeking scholarship that eventually took him to the London School of Economics.

On return from London, Narayanan joined the prestigious Indian Foreign Service in 1949 and represented India as a diplomat in many key world capitals. While posted in Burma, he met Mark Twint, his future wife who later changed her name to Usha.

An avid reader and a gifted writer, he contributed articles on social, political, international and literary matters in various magazines and periodicals on a regular basis.

Narayanan was appointed India’s envoy to China in 1976 following resumption of Ambassador-level relations between New Delhi and Beijing. He was also instrumental in improving India’s relation with Britain.

He had the distinction of having been India’s ambassador in the Soviet Union, China and the USA - the last posting ending in 1984.

Subsequently, he entered politics and became an MP in the 1984 election from Ottappalam in Kerala. He was appointed minister for Science and Technology in Rajiv Gandhi’s Government.

As a politician, Narayanan was respected by all in the political spectrum. After serving five years as Vice President, the support for his candidature for Presidency was almost unanimous across the political spectrum.

Narayanan showed the post of president is not a ceremonial one. He never remained a mute spectator to erosion of liberal, socialist and secular values of India.

Narayanan served as member of the Indian delegation for the Non- Aligned Nations Conference as well as the Indian Delegation to UN Conference. Various Indian and foreign universities conferred upon him honorary doctorate degrees. He was also given the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship during 1970-72.

He adorned the President’s chair of various institutions like the Indian council for Cultural Relations and Indian Institute of Public Administration.


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