JKNPP supremo Prof Bhim Singh passes away

PM, LG, J&K politicians condole demise
JKNPP supremo Prof Bhim Singh passes away
Prof Singh was indisposed for the past one month or so. He is survived by his wife Jai Mala and a son Ankit Love, who is presently in London.@DevenderSRana/Twitter

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) supremo, renowned legal luminary and former legislator Prof Bhim Singh passed away at his residence in Jammu outskirts on Tuesday morning after a brief illness.

He was 81.

Prof Singh was indisposed for the past one month or so. He is survived by his wife Jai Mala and a son Ankit Love, who is presently in London.

According to family sources, given his critical condition this morning, Prof Bhim Singh was rushed to the Government Medical College (GMC) Hospital, Jammu, however, he had already breathed his last and he was pronounced dead in the hospital.

His last rites shall be performed tomorrow at his native village Bhugtrian Ramnagar at 3 pm.

His sudden death has been widely mourned in the political and social circles of J&K and New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the politicians, cutting across party affiliations, who condoled the sad demise of Prof Bhim Singh and paid glowing tributes to their departed multifaceted-political colleague.

A firebrand leader, Prof Singh, popularly known as Sher-e-Duggar, had also carved his niche as a leading advocate of the Supreme Court, human rights activist, an adventure-loving globe trotter and an author. He had been a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and was once an MP. He fought for the cause of people, secularism and democracy in J&K.

Born in August 1941 in Ramnagar area of the erstwhile princely state of J&K, Prof Bhim Singh, a Bar at Law from the University of London, also worked as a Professor of International Law at Cambridge University. He had travelled through 150 countries across the globe by motorcycle from 1967 to 1973.

He successfully led a students’ agitation in 1966 seeking a separate university in Jammu which finally was established in 1969.

Later he joined the Congress party and served as the president of its J&K youth wing. He also served in the Indian Youth Congress. During his long political career, he had been jailed also a number of times. Later, he founded the National Panthers Party in 1982 along with his wife Jay Mala. He served as its chairman for 30 years until 2012 when he nominated his nephew Harsh Dev Singh, former legislator and minister as new JKNPP chairman.

In 2002, JKNPP under the leadership of Prof Bhim Singh was part of the Congress-Peoples Democratic Party coalition government. In 2007, he, however, withdrew support to the alliance government after differences cropped up with the PDP.

After a brief hiatus, Prof Bhim Singh became pro- active in politics in the past few years. Amid internal wrangling within the party, he was elected as the president of the JKNPP last year.

It was to his credit as a legal luminary that over 700 Indian, Pakistani and Afghan nationals lodged in jails of two neighbouring countries secured their freedom in 2016.

Prof Singh was awarded Rs 50,000 compensation by the Supreme Court in 1985 for illegal imprisonment by the then J&K government which had suspended him as a member of the Legislative Assembly. He remained associated with international leaders viz., Yaseer Arafat of Palestine; Fidel Castro of Cuba; Saddam Hussain of Iraq.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while expressing deep grief over his demise, said that Prof Bhim Singh Ji would be remembered as a grassroots leader who devoted his life for the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Prof Bhim Singh Ji will be remembered as a grassroots leader who devoted his life for the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir. He was very well read and scholarly. I will always recall my interactions with him. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti,” PM Modi tweeted.

Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha also expressed his condolences to the bereaved family in this hour of grief.

“Deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of Prof Bhim Singh Ji. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family & friends in this hour of grief. Om Shanti,” LG Sinha tweeted.

Former Member Parliament, Dr Karan Singh too expressed profound grief and sorrow over the untimely demise of Prof Bhim Singh.

In a condolence message issued here, the former Member Parliament said, “I am grieved to learn that my old friend Prof Bhim Singh has passed away. I knew him for six decades ever since he was a fiery student leader. I facilitated his round-the-world trip on a motorcycle and kept in touch with him off and on until quite recently.”

“He was a highly intelligent and motivated person, a talented lawyer and an aggressive political activist. He set up a fairly successful regional party in Jammu, the Panthers Party, which won several seats in the State Assembly. He was also an eloquent and often controversial speaker. We will all miss his presence,” Dr Karan Singh said.

NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah in his condolence message expressed sorrow on the death of Prof Bhim Singh, who, he said, stood for his principles right from the beginning of his political career till his death. “He was not only an acclaimed advocate but was a vociferous defender of human rights. As a lawyer, he helped scores of incarcerated people free of cost,” Dr Farooq said, adding, “Prof Bhim Singh was vociferous about J&K’s identity and did everything in his capacity to protect it. His passing away has created a big vacuum in our political as well as social space which will be hard to fill.”

Dr Farooq travelled to Jammu today and paid floral tributes to the mortal remains of the deceased at his Jammu office. He was accompanied by provincial president Jammu Rattan Lal Gupta, YNC PP Ajaz Jan.

In his condolence message, Omar Abdullah said, “My earliest memories of Bhim Singh ji go all the way back to 1984 when he joined with my father to protest the unconstitutional dismissal of the NC government. He was a unique politician with friends cutting across political and geographic lines. He supported the cause of Jammu with as much ease as he did the cause of Palestinians. From Yassar Arafat to Col Gaddafi he seemed to have met them all with amazing stories to tell.”

Praying for the peace to the departed soul, both leaders recalled the incredible role played by Prof Bhim Singh in the politics of J&K.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet said that J&K lost a legal luminary and a great leader who fought tooth and nail for his people. “Deeply saddened to know of Prof Bhim Singh’s passing away. J&K has lost a legal luminary & and a great leader who fought tooth & nail for his people. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family,” Mehbooba tweeted.

National Conference’s senior leader AR Rather, while expressing shock over his demise, said, “He was a fighter who fought for the rights of the downtrodden all his life. I pray to the Almighty to give the bereaved family the strength to withstand this inconsolable. May his soul rest in peace.”

Another senior NC leader and former minister Mian Altaf Ahmed, in his condolence message, described Prof Bhim Singh as a principled statesman who played a significant role in the socio-political awakening of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said Prof Bhim Singh immensely contributed in strengthening roots of democracy and secularism in Jammu and Kashmir. “In the passing away of Singh, we have lost a great personality and senior most politicians, which is indeed a great loss to J&K,” the NC leader said.

Senior BJP leader Devender Singh Rana described him as an institution and said, “Prof Bhim Singh will be remembered for his legal and political acumen, qualities of head and heart, down to earth approach towards all and deep political understanding.”

Rana recalled his association with the departed leader and said despite divergent political ideologies they shared a common view about equitable opportunities of progress and development to all the regions and subregions of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. “The void created by the departure of Prof Sahib is hard to fill,” he said.

Earlier Rana had tweeted, “In the sad demise of Prof Bhim Singhji J&K has lost a prominent political figure who always raised the voice of the people of J&K in all foras. A firebrand leader who came from a remote village in Ramnagar evolved himself with global exposure and understanding. RIP Prof Sahib.”

Rana also visited the headquarters of J&K National Panthers Party, where the mortal remains of the departed leader were kept for public darshan. He placed a wreath, as a mark of respect and paid tribute to Prof Bhim Singh.

AICC incharge J&K affairs and Rajya Sabha Member Rajni Patil offered floral tributes to the body of Prof Bhim Singh ji and shared the grief and sorrow with his wife and other family members, at his official residence cum office at Gandhi Nagar Jammu.

She was accompanied by working president Raman Bhalla, chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, ex MP T S Bajwa, All India NSUI president Neeraj Kundan, PYC president Udey Chib and others.

From the airport she straightway went to the residence of Prof Singh and offered floral tributes and shared the grief of the family.

Patil described Prof Singh as a great leader who rendered great services to the nation and common people. He was a fearless voice of people who stood for justice and secular values.

Earlier JKPCC chief G A Mir accompanied by Thakur Balbir șingh, Manmohan Singh, Kamal Fotedar visited his residence and offered floral tributes.

Mir described him as a messiah of the poor and downtrodden, a bold voice and great human being above politics, caste, creed colour and Religion.

JKPCC chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma described Prof Bhim Singh ji as a bold, fearless and selfless voice of people, who sided with the poor and victims as he always stood for justice.

CPI(M) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, in his condolence message, said, “Prof Bhim Singh was a leader committed to secular values who fought relentlessly for the rights of downtrodden and marginalized sections of the society in and outside the state legislature.”

“At a time when polarization and divisiveness has dominated the political arena, he stood for communal harmony and fought tooth and nail against the forces, who are hell bent upon dividing the people and regions on the communal lines,” he said.

A condolence meet was organised at National Conference party headquarters Nawa e Subah. The meet, presided over by party’s additional general secretary Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamaal, recalled the contributions of the late leader in J&K’s socio-political space.

Party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, Mohammad Syed Akhoon, provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani, treasurer Shammi Oberoi, senior leaders Mohammad Shafi Uri, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzaan, Mian Altaf, Mubarak Gul, party MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone, Hasnain Masoodi, Nazir Gurezi, Shameema Firdous, Sakina Itoo also expressed grief.

JKNPP working committee, while acknowledging the great services of Prof Bhim Singh for the people of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh observed that he was a man of great vision and courage. “He also tried to bridge the gap in Indo-Pak relations by taking various measures. He fought for inter regional equality for the people of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh,” it said.

Senior National Conference leader and former minister Ajay Kumar Sadhotra visited the office of the Jammu Kashmir National Panther Party to pay homage and respect to the departed Leader Prof Bhim Singh. In his condolence message Sadhotra described Prof Bhim Singh as a legendary politician with qualities of head and heart, who kept public interest above all during his public life.

“In the death of Prof Bhim Singh, Jammu and Kashmir has lost an energetic, sincere and public spirited leader, who worked tirelessly for the welfare of the people. He was a leading legal practitioner whose contribution has been immense,” Sadhotra said.

“A man of many parts. Timeless, selfless and a crusader. He was my father’s colleague and friend. From riding across the Sahara on a motorcycle to Palestine to Iraq — Bhim Singh Ji had friends all across. A born adventurer. May he rest in peace,” Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone said.

Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, in his condolence message, said, “My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family of Prof Bhim Singh, who was one of the senior politicians of Jammu and Kashmir. May the departed soul rest in peace and May Almighty give enough strength to the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss.”

R S Chib, former minister, said, “In his death a void has been created in the political scenario of J&K. Prof Bhim Singh will be always remembered for his dynamism and brave and firm approach in raising issues against injustice.”

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