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Obituary

Darryl D’Monte: mentor to a generation of journalists

Peter Griffin

The Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) and the Mumbai Press Club (MPC) hosted a memorial meeting in tribute to Darryl D’Monte, the revered senior journalist and environmental activist who passed away last Saturday.

“You’re either networking or not working,” said Joydeep Gupta, FEJI’s vice-president, quoting an aphorism D’Monte frequently used — before recounting incidents to exemplify D’Monte’s use of the power of networks for the environment. “Darryl obviously left behind a void,” he said, “but he has also left behind a whole generation of journalists.”

Senior journalist and former MPC president Kumar Ketkar recalled his long association with D’Monte, and that though they were around the same age, he had looked upon him as a mentor. “I wondered what drove him,” he said, before answering it with one word: people. D’Monte did not describe himself as a liberal — in those days no one did — or secular, he said, but at the heart of all he did was his concern for people.

“Environmentalism meant people. Rights, food, activism, meant people.” Unlike many activists who could be dry, D’Monte was witty and humorous, Mr. Ketkar added, before concluding: “Darryl practised catholicism, not as religion, but as a virtue.”

MPC president Gurbir Singh recalled how D’Monte had pushed the club to include a category for environmental journalism in its Red Ink awards.

FEJI’s founding trustee, Keya Acharya, said the organisation has begun as an organisation with a similar name founded by D’Monte in 1988, the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India. When his health issues first surfaced, he asked her to take over and the body was reconstituted with D’Monte as its Chairman Emeritus.

She said he brought journalists together to understand ecosystems before words like that were in common use, and was instrumental in forming networks internationally too. On his support for environmental issues, she said, “Darryl taught us that we get it on the front page of the paper, not just on an environment page. He was the first to tell us you could write about toilets and manual scavenging; we spent a day talking about nothing but shit.”

FEJI, Ms. Acharya said, is planning to set up a memorial award in his name, to which Mr. Singh promised MPC’s support to the initiative.

Members of the audience, some of who had come from other cities just for the memorial, also offered their memories of the facets of Mr. D’Monte, as colleague, mentor, educator, community member, and companion.

Samir D’Monte, D’Monte’s son, talked of his father’s strict routine while working from home, a discipline that never got in the way of his being there for his family, before thanking the attendees and promising the family’s support for efforts to take his legacy forward.

A portrait of Darryl D’Monte at the memorial meeting.
Obituary, Wildlife

TV wildlife enthusiast Johnny Kingdom killed in digger accident

The 79-year-old who came to fame in A Year on Exmoor has died in his beloved Devon

Television wildlife film-maker Johnny Kingdom has died at the age of 79 following an accident on his land involving a digger. Kingdom, who specialised in his local area of Exmoor and north Devon and had appeared extensively on the BBC, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services in a field near Wadham Cross in Knowstone, Devon, following reports confirmed by police that a digger had rolled over on Thursday night.

His family said in a statement: “Unfortunately a legend has been lost. Johnny would want you all to continue with his love for Exmoor as you all meant so much to him. “As the loving man himself would have said: ‘Farewell to all you lovely people’. RIP 23/02/39–06/09/18.”

His television agent, Hilary Knight, described him as one of the last true characters of rural Britain. “Johnny Kingdom embodied all the attributes that are associated with true countrymen,” Knight said. “Born and bred an Exmoor man through and through, he loved his Devon patch and all the flora and fauna within. He lit up our TV screens with his enthusiasm and passion.”

Last night’s TV: Johnny’s New Kingdom

Kingdom worked variously as a farmer, quarryman, forestry worker, gravedigger and poacher before he became a film-maker when he was lent a video camera following a tractor accident. He soon developed a passion for recording wildlife and was particularly well known for taking pictures of stags and badgers.

In 2006, the BBC broadcast a 10-part series about his life, Johnny Kingdom: A Year on Exmoor. The animal lover wrote an accompanying book, A Wild Life on Exmoor, for the series, which was followed by Bambi and Me and West Country Tales.

BBC Countryfile presenter Richard Taylor-Jones paid tribute to a “wonderful, magical” friend. “He taught me so much and reminded me why we all need nature in our lives and how to enjoy it in the best possible way,” Taylor-Jones said. “On our last day filming together, he gave me this feather from his hat. It still sits on my desk today as one of my most treasured possessions.”

Source: The Guardian

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Obituary

Former UN chief, Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan dies at 80

He passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness, the Kofi Annan Foundation said in a statement.

Geneva: Former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan died at the age of 80 on Saturday after a short illness, his foundation announced.

“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” the foundation said in a statement.

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It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…

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“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.”

The Ghanaian national, who lived in Switzerland, was a career diplomat who projected quiet charisma and who is widely credited for raising the world body’s profile in global politics during his two terms as UN chief, from 1997 to 2006.

He quickly became a familiar face on television, with his name making newspaper headlines, and he was a sought-after guest at gala events and New York dinner parties.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres voiced deep sadness at the news, describing his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”.

“In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations,” he added.

“He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.

“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor.”

The first secretary general from sub-Saharan Africa, Annan led the United Nations through the divisive years of the Iraq war and was later accused of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal, one of the most trying times of his tenure.

In 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 attacks, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the world body “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.

‘Humanity’s best example’

Born in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Annan was the son of an executive of a European trading company, the United Africa company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever.

After ending his second term as UN chief, Annan went on to take high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria.

He later set up a foundation devoted to conflict resolution and joined the Elders group of statesmen which regularly speaks out on global issues.

The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was grief-stricken over Annan’s death.

“Kofi was humanity’s best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world’s loss becomes even more painful,” he said.

“He was a friend to thousands and a leader of millions.”

UN News

Obituary

AB Vajpayee: The PM who consolidated India as a nuclear power

Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure as Indian prime minister brought his country’s emergence as a nuclear power, triggering fears of conflict with Pakistan.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressing the media in Delhi, 2007

But he gained a reputation as a man who fiercely defended India’s interests.

Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh state, on 25 December 1924.

He studied politics and became a journalist and social worker while, at the same time, becoming active in the Quit India Movement, which campaigned to end British rule in the subcontinent.

After independence Vajpayee became a close aide of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) party.

He was elected to parliament in 1957 and, despite his relative youth, was seen as a rising star.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee swearing-in as Prime Minister by President KR Narayanan at Rashtrapathi Bhawan
Image captionAfter forming a coalition government in 1998, Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister

Like many BJS activists, Vajpayee was detained by the Congress party government of Indira Gandhi during the so-called “emergency” of 1975-77.

The BJS joined a number of political groups to form the Janata party, which swept to power in the ensuing elections.

As external affairs minister in the government of Morarji Desai, he made a historic visit to China in 1979 as well as making attempts to improve relationships with Pakistan.

Vajpayee resigned in 1979 and, when the Janata coalition lost power in 1980, he joined others in founding the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), becoming its first president.

Warring factions

The BJP, an avowedly Hindu organisation, supported Indira Gandhi’s crackdown on Sikh militants who had occupied the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

However, Vajpayee strongly condemned the outbreak of violence against Sikhs that followed the assassination of Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards.

Throughout the 1980s the BJP attracted a new wave of hardline Hindu activists, many of whom took part in clashes against Muslims in December 1992 that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (L) shares a joke with Britain's Prince Charles during an Asian Summit on Youth Enterpreneurship and Employment conference at India's Parliament in New Delhi, 2003
Image captionVajpayee (L) and Prince Charles (R) at a summit in New Delhi in 2003

In 1996 a demoralised Congress party lost the elections and the BJP became the largest political party in the new parliament.

Vajpayee was asked to form a government but, unable to pull together the various warring factions in parliament, resigned after only 13 days.

Two years later the BJP finally managed to form a coalition, known as the National Democratic Alliance, and Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister.

It was an uneasy and creaking coalition but the failure of any coherent opposition kept Vajpayee and the BJP grouping in power.

Strengthened

Just weeks after the new government took office, India shocked the world by undertaking five underground nuclear explosions, the first tests since 1974.

Vajpayee’s announcement that the tests had taken place was made to popular acclaim in India and did much to boost the standing of the BJP.

He declared: “Our nuclear weapons are meant purely as a deterrent against nuclear adventure by an adversary.”

Taliban Islamic militia commandos ride in the rear of a truck towards an aircraft of Indian Airlines hijacked by Islamic Kashmiri militants
Image captionHijackers of this Indian aircraft in December 1999 forced the release of Kashmiri militants

However, the fears of many countries about India’s action were strengthened when Pakistan carried out its own nuclear tests just weeks later.

The crisis in Kashmir, the mountainous territory between India and Pakistan claimed by both states, dominated Indian foreign policy.

Continual skirmishing between the armed forces of the two countries and Kashmiri separatists raised the spectre of an intensification of the conflict.

Throughout this period Vajpayee was constantly struggling to hold together a coalition of 17 diverse parties.

Majority

However, in the aftermath of the nuclear tests, he went out of his way to prevent any escalation of the conflict with Pakistan.

He boarded a bus to travel to the Pakistani city of Lahore for a remarkable summit with Nawaz Sharif, then Pakistan’s prime minister.

The two men, both under immense pressure and politically weak, agreed a number of confidence-building measures although the problem of Kashmir remained.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif ride a bus from Delhi to Lahore in 1999
Image captionHe boarded a bus to Lahore for a historic summit with Nawaz Sharif

In 1999 the BJP finally achieved a stable majority in parliament and Vajpayee was again sworn in as prime minister.

Tensions with Pakistan continued after the seizure of power by the Pakistani army under Gen Pervez Musharraf.

And in December 1999, an Indian airliner was hijacked by Pakistani militants en route from Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, and Delhi and was flown to Afghanistan.

There was anger that the Pakistani authorities had allowed the aircraft to land and refuel in Lahore.

Vajpayee was forced to bow to the hijackers’ demands and release a number of Kashmiri militants in return for the hostages on the plane.

Economic expansion

A free marketeer by inclination, he was criticised by unions and civil servants for his policy of privatising some of India’s government-owned corporations.

But his support for new hi-tech industries made India a global IT player and fuelled the country’s economic expansion.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf shakes hands with former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Delhi, 2005.
Image captionThroughout his time in office, he continued to negotiate with Pakistan

Tensions with Pakistan, never far below the surface, erupted again in 2001 after an armed attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi.

Police later discovered that many of the militants involved were Pakistani nationals and Vajpayee sent half a million troops to the border with Pakistan.

The stand-off lasted two years before Vajpayee began to make new peace overtures to Islamabad with an exchange of visits by high-profile officials.

He also cemented Delhi’s ties with Beijing by recognising Tibet as part of China and thereby improving Chinese investment in the Indian economy.

The BJP and its allies were widely expected to win the elections in 2004 but suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party.

A new Congress-dominated coalition took power with Manmohan Singh being sworn in as prime minister.

In 2005 Vajpayee announced he was retiring after more than 40 years in politics.

Like many Indian leaders before him, AB Vajpayee found himself having to hold together a sometimes fractious coalition to wield power.

But he was seen by many as a unifying force when divisions threatened Indian society and as a staunch defender of his country’s borders.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressing the media in Delhi, 2007

Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure as Indian prime minister brought his country’s emergence as a nuclear power, triggering fears of conflict with Pakistan.

These worries were heightened by increasing tension over the disputed region of Kashmir and a long confrontation between Indian and Pakistani troops.

Throughout his time in office, Vajpayee struggled to hold a diverse coalition of parties together.

But he gained a reputation as a man who fiercely defended India’s interests.

Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh state, on 25 December 1924.

He studied politics and became a journalist and social worker while, at the same time, becoming active in the Quit India Movement, which campaigned to end British rule in the subcontinent.

After independence Vajpayee became a close aide of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) party.

He was elected to parliament in 1957 and, despite his relative youth, was seen as a rising star.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee swearing-in as Prime Minister by President KR Narayanan at Rashtrapathi Bhawan
Image captionAfter forming a coalition government in 1998, Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister

Like many BJS activists, Vajpayee was detained by the Congress party government of Indira Gandhi during the so-called “emergency” of 1975-77.

The BJS joined a number of political groups to form the Janata party, which swept to power in the ensuing elections.

As external affairs minister in the government of Morarji Desai, he made a historic visit to China in 1979 as well as making attempts to improve relationships with Pakistan.

Vajpayee resigned in 1979 and, when the Janata coalition lost power in 1980, he joined others in founding the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), becoming its first president.

Warring factions

The BJP, an avowedly Hindu organisation, supported Indira Gandhi’s crackdown on Sikh militants who had occupied the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

However, Vajpayee strongly condemned the outbreak of violence against Sikhs that followed the assassination of Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards.

Throughout the 1980s the BJP attracted a new wave of hardline Hindu activists, many of whom took part in clashes against Muslims in December 1992 that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (L) shares a joke with Britain's Prince Charles during an Asian Summit on Youth Enterpreneurship and Employment conference at India's Parliament in New Delhi, 2003
Image captionVajpayee (L) and Prince Charles (R) at a summit in New Delhi in 2003

In 1996 a demoralised Congress party lost the elections and the BJP became the largest political party in the new parliament.

Vajpayee was asked to form a government but, unable to pull together the various warring factions in parliament, resigned after only 13 days.

Two years later the BJP finally managed to form a coalition, known as the National Democratic Alliance, and Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister.

It was an uneasy and creaking coalition but the failure of any coherent opposition kept Vajpayee and the BJP grouping in power.

Strengthened

Just weeks after the new government took office, India shocked the world by undertaking five underground nuclear explosions, the first tests since 1974.

Vajpayee’s announcement that the tests had taken place was made to popular acclaim in India and did much to boost the standing of the BJP.

He declared: “Our nuclear weapons are meant purely as a deterrent against nuclear adventure by an adversary.”

Taliban Islamic militia commandos ride in the rear of a truck towards an aircraft of Indian Airlines hijacked by Islamic Kashmiri militants
Image captionHijackers of this Indian aircraft in December 1999 forced the release of Kashmiri militants

However, the fears of many countries about India’s action were strengthened when Pakistan carried out its own nuclear tests just weeks later.

The crisis in Kashmir, the mountainous territory between India and Pakistan claimed by both states, dominated Indian foreign policy.

Continual skirmishing between the armed forces of the two countries and Kashmiri separatists raised the spectre of an intensification of the conflict.

Throughout this period Vajpayee was constantly struggling to hold together a coalition of 17 diverse parties.

Majority

However, in the aftermath of the nuclear tests, he went out of his way to prevent any escalation of the conflict with Pakistan.

He boarded a bus to travel to the Pakistani city of Lahore for a remarkable summit with Nawaz Sharif, then Pakistan’s prime minister.

The two men, both under immense pressure and politically weak, agreed a number of confidence-building measures although the problem of Kashmir remained.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif ride a bus from Delhi to Lahore in 1999
Image captionHe boarded a bus to Lahore for a historic summit with Nawaz Sharif

In 1999 the BJP finally achieved a stable majority in parliament and Vajpayee was again sworn in as prime minister.

Tensions with Pakistan continued after the seizure of power by the Pakistani army under Gen Pervez Musharraf.

And in December 1999, an Indian airliner was hijacked by Pakistani militants en route from Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, and Delhi and was flown to Afghanistan.

There was anger that the Pakistani authorities had allowed the aircraft to land and refuel in Lahore.

Vajpayee was forced to bow to the hijackers’ demands and release a number of Kashmiri militants in return for the hostages on the plane.

Economic expansion

A free marketeer by inclination, he was criticised by unions and civil servants for his policy of privatising some of India’s government-owned corporations.

But his support for new hi-tech industries made India a global IT player and fuelled the country’s economic expansion.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf shakes hands with former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Delhi, 2005.
Image captionThroughout his time in office, he continued to negotiate with Pakistan

Tensions with Pakistan, never far below the surface, erupted again in 2001 after an armed attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi.

Police later discovered that many of the militants involved were Pakistani nationals and Vajpayee sent half a million troops to the border with Pakistan.

The stand-off lasted two years before Vajpayee began to make new peace overtures to Islamabad with an exchange of visits by high-profile officials.

He also cemented Delhi’s ties with Beijing by recognising Tibet as part of China and thereby improving Chinese investment in the Indian economy.

The BJP and its allies were widely expected to win the elections in 2004 but suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party.

A new Congress-dominated coalition took power with Manmohan Singh being sworn in as prime minister.

In 2005 Vajpayee announced he was retiring after more than 40 years in politics.

Like many Indian leaders before him, AB Vajpayee found himself having to hold together a sometimes fractious coalition to wield power.

But he was seen by many as a unifying force when divisions threatened Indian society and as a staunch defender of his country’s borders.

Source: TIME

Obituary

Atal Bihari Vajpayee passes away: Tributes pour in

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies in New Delhi on Thursday, after a prolonged illness.

Leaders from both sides of the aisle have condoled his death.

India lost a great son, says Rahul

Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweets “Today India lost a great son. Former PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji, was loved and respected by millions. My condolences to his family & all his admirers. We will miss him.”

Vajpayee will be remembered for remarkable leadership: Naidu

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu condoled the demise of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying he will be remembered for his remarkable leadership and devotion to duty.

“I visited him this morning but didn’t imagine that the end will come so soon. He is, undoubtedly, one of the tallest leaders in post- independence India,” he said in his condolence message.

Mr. Naidu said Vajpayee’s contribution to strengthen democracy and good governance has been stupendous. He successfully ran a coalition of 23 parties with his rare persuasive charm and competence, he recalled.

“He will be remembered for ushering in the connectivity revolution in the country. His personality, oratory, devotion to duty and friendliness all combined in his remarkable leadership will be remembered for a long time to come,” he said.

Became Lok Sabha speaker due to Vajpayee: Joshi

Senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi credited former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for becoming the Lok Sabha Speaker when the BJP-led government was in power at the Centre.

Mr. Joshi, a former Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, said he could occupy the prestigious post only due to the support of the then Prime Minister Vajpayee.

“I thought it was impossible to become the Lok Sabha Speaker. I never thought about it. But the BJP, especially Vajpayee’s stand, helped me.

“Had he not taken that firm stand, I would not have become the Speaker. Not just that, I could reach the position of Chief Minister of Maharashtra due to the BJP’s and Vajpayee’s support,” Mr. Joshi told a Marathi news channel.

The 80-year-old was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2002 to 2004 during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in which his party was a partner.

Vajpayee nursed BJP into a banyan tree in Indian politics: Shah

BJP chief Amit Shah paid heartfelt tributes to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying he nursed the party to make it a banyan tree and left an indelible mark in Indian politics.

“Atalji emerged as a popular national leader who believed that power is a means of service and led a spotless political life without compromising on national interest. And that’s why the people across political and social boundaries showered him with love and respect,” Mr. Shah tweeted.

“A rare politician, brilliant speaker, poet and patriot, his demise is not just a irreparable loss for the BJP but also for the entire country,” the BJP chief said, adding that his thoughts, poems, foresight and political skills would always inspire and guide all.

“On the one hand Atalji as the head of a party in opposition played the role of an ideal opposition while on the other hand he provided the country a decisive leadership as Prime Minister,” Mr. Shah said.

Lost my closest friend: Advani

“I am at a loss of words to express my deep grief and sadness today as we all mourn the passing away of one of India’s tallest statesmen, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague- in fact he was my closest friend for over 65 years,” said L.K. Advani.

“As my senior, he always encouraged and guided me in every possible manner.

“His captivating leadership qualities, mesmerising oratory, soaring patriotism and above all, his sterling humane qualities like compassion, humility and his remarkable ability to win over adversories despite ideological differences have all had a profound effect on me in all my years in public life,” Mr. Advani said.

A great loss, says Kejriwal

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal condoled the demise of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today, saying his death was “a great loss” for the country.

Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia had visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, where Vajpayee was admitted since June 11, earlier today.

“Am deeply saddened. A great loss for India,” Kejriwal tweeted.

The chief minister, who turned 50 today, had appealed to his party’s volunteers and well wishers to avoid celebrating his birthday.

Gentle giant, says Kovind

Extremely sad to hear of the passing of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our former Prime Minister and a true Indian statesman. His leadership, foresight, maturity and eloquence put him in a league of his own. Atalji, the Gentle Giant, will be missed by one and all, said President Ram Nath Kovind.

Chief Ministers pay tribute

“Deeply pained by the passing away of our beloved Atal ji. India has lost a great leader, a leader of masses and a visionary who dedicated his entire life in service of the nation and its people,” said Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

His words were our strength, his blessings were our energy, said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.  Mr. Chauahan also said Mr. Vajpayee dedicated his life to serve the the nation.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in his condolence message, said the nation has lost an important political figure who was also an orator, poet, writer, and intellectual.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed deep grief over demise of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and described him as one of the “tallest leaders” of the country. “I am deeply grieved over demise of Vajpayeeji. India has lost one of its tallest leaders. He was loved by the people of India and of course the people of Odisha as well. May his soul rest in peace,” Mr. Patnaik said.

Congress condoles

“Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a great leader, loved by many & revered by all. We grieve his demise & our thoughts & prayers are with his family today,” tweeted Congress.

“Today India lost a great son. Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji, was loved and respected by millions. My condolences to his family & all his admirers. We will miss him,” said Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

“An excellent orator, an impressive poet, an exceptional Public Servant, an outstanding Parliamentarian and a great PM, Shri Vajpayee ji stood among the tallest leaders of modern India,  who spent his whole life serving our great country,” former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the nation has lost a dignified political leader. “While we know Vajpayee had a lot of friends, what we don’t know is he had no enemies,” Mr. Chidambaram tweeted in Tamil.

A great statesman, says Mamata Banerjee

“Very very saddened  that the great statesman and former PM Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji is no more with us. His passing away is a very big loss to our nation. I will always  cherish the many fond memories. Condolences to his family and his many admirers,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Ms. Banerjee was Mr. Vajpayee’s cabinet colleague. She was planning to visit Delhi today to enquire about the former prime minister.

“Deeply saddened at the passing away of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” said former President Pranab Mukherjee. 

‘A reasoned critique, seeker of consensus,’ Pranab praises Vajpayee

“A reasoned critique in opposition and a seeker of consensus as PM, Atal Ji was a democrat to the core. In his passing away, India has lost a great son and an era has come to an end. My deepest condolences,” he added.

‘Pained beyond words,’ says Rajnath Singh

“Pained beyond words at the demise of Shri Atalji. He had cherished the ideal of a developed and powerful India in which all persons lived together in unity, peace and harmony,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Twitter.

“Atalji was a true ‘Ajatshatru’ who had many friends across the political spectrum. He believed in political consensus and his beliefs had consequential effect on Indian politics.”

“In Atalji’s demise the nation has lost a stalwart who was known for statesmanship and astute leadership. It is also a huge personal loss to me. I am one of those millions of Indians who drew inspiration from Atalji’s life and contribution.

“I cannot fully imagine my own life without following the footprints that Atalji set. May his soul rest in peace.”

Modi says ‘India grieves the demise of our Atalji’

“His passing away marks the end of an era. He lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades. My thoughts are with his family, BJP Karyakartas and millions of admirers in this hour of sadness. Om Shanti,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India.”

“Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me. I have countless fond memories with him. He was an inspiration to Karyakartas like me. I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit.”

“It was due to the perseverance and struggles of Atal Ji that the BJP was built brick by brick. He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states.”

( with inputs from PTI)

Obituary

Vajpayee the orator: excerpts from former PM’s speeches

‘Persecution on account of one’s beliefs and insistence that all must accept a particular point of view is unknown to our ethos’.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away in New Delhi on Thurday, was known for his oratory skills.

Here are some excerpts from his speeches on a range of subjects, from nuclear tests and Kashmir to education and freedom of the press

*Education, in the truest self of the term, is a process of self-discovery. It is the art of self-sculpture. It trains the individual not so much in specific skills or in specific branch of knowledge, but in the flowering of his or her latent intellectual, artistic and humanist capacities. The test of education is whether it imparts an urge for learning and learnability, not this or that particular set of information. [December 28, 2002 – inaugural speech of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the University Grants Commission]

*The Pokhran-2 nuclear tests were conducted neither for self-glorification, nor for any display of machismo. But this has been our policy, and I think it is also the policy of the nation, that there should be minimum deterrence, which should also be credible. This is why we took the decision to conduct tests. [In Parliament on the 1998 nuclear tests]

*You can change friends but not neighbours. [In Parliament in May 2003]

* One cannot wish away the fact that before good neighbours can truly fraternise with each other, they must first mend their fences. [June 23, 2003 – At Peking University]

*If I break the party and forge new alliances to come to power, then I will not like to touch that power even with a pincer. [While replying to the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha in 1996]

*We should strive hard to ensure that every R&D rupee brings greater benefits to the nation.

*Mutual suspicions and petty rivalries have continued to haunt us. As a result, the peace dividend has bypassed our region. History can remind us, guide us, teach us or warn us; it should not shackle us. We have to look forward now, with a collective approach in mind. [Talking on South Asia at the 12th SAARC Summit in Islamabad January 2004]

*We in India are inheritors to a great civilisation whose life chant has been “Shanti” — that is, Peace — and “Bhaichara” — which means, Brotherhood. India has never been an aggressor nation, a colonizer or a hegemon in her long history. In modern times, we are alive to our responsibility to contribute to peace, friendship and cooperation both in our region and around the world. [January 31 2004 – PM’s speech at inauguration of Global Convention on Peace and Non-violence].

*Poverty is multidimensional. It extends beyond money incomes to education, health care, skills enhancement, political participation at all levels from the local to the global, access to natural resources, clean water and air, and advancement of one’s own culture and social organisation. [September 25, 2003 – address at 58th Session of UN General Assembly]

*The freedom of the press is an integral part of Indian democracy. It is protected by the Constitution. It is guarded in a more fundamental way by our democratic culture. This national culture not only respects freedom of thought and expression, but also has nurtured a diversity of viewpoints unmatched anywhere in the world.

*Persecution on account of one’s beliefs and insistence that all must accept a particular point of view is unknown to our ethos. [September 13, 2013 – Vajpayee’s speech at the 125th anniversary of The Hindu]

*Gun can solve no problem; brotherhood can. Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of Insaaniyat (humanism), Jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir’s age old legacy of amity). [April 23 2003, Vajpayee in Parliament on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir].

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who is on a three-day private visit to the tourist resort of Kumoan, rendered his latest poem on persistent demand from mediapersons. After his famous poems, “Haar nahi manoonga‘ (I will not accept defeat) and “Geet naya gata hoon‘ (I sing a new song), it is “Geet nahi gata hoon” (I do not sing a song) this time.

Vajpayee, the poet to the fore again

Nainital March 30. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who is on a three-day private visit to the tourist resort of Kumoan, rendered his latest poem on persistent demand from mediapersons.

After his famous poems, “Haar nahi manoonga’ (I will not accept defeat) and “Geet naya gata hoon’ (I sing a new song), it is “Geet nahi gata hoon” (I do not sing a song) this time.

Geet nahi gata hoon (I do not sing a song),

Benaqab chhehre hain (faces have been unmasked),

Daag bade gahre hain (scars are deep), Toottha tilism aaj, saach se bhaya khata hoon (with the beaking up of mystery today, I am afraid of even truth).

Geet nahi gata hoon (I do not sing a song).

Lagi kuch aise naszar, bikhra shishe ka shahar, (evil eye has fallen, the town of glass lay broken),

Apno ke mele main, meet nahi pata hoon (amongst the fair of our own, I do not find my beloved),

Peeth main choori sa chhand, rahu gaya rekha phannd, (the stabbed knife in the back looks like a moon, the inauspicious planet of Rahu has crossed its limits),

Mukti ke shaano main, bandh jata hoon (in the moments of salvation, I find myself shackled),

Geet nahi gata hoon (I do not sing a song).”

Asked about any new composition in Nainital, he quipped, “Akaash main badal ghumad rahe hain, shayaad barsaat ho jaye” (There are clouds, it may rain). — PTI