India Has Lost A Peopl's Leader

Fr. J. Felix Raj
07 Sep 2020

We express deep sadness over the death of former President Pranab Mukherjee. Mukherjee passed away on Monday, August 31st evening at Army’s Research and Referral hospital in Delhi after he developed a lung infection. He was 84. May his soul rest in peace.

Pranab Mukherjee was cremated with full state honours at the Lodhi road electric crematorium on Tuesday afternoon. His son Abhijit Mukherjee performed his last rites.

He had also tested Covid-19 positive. His death leaves a deep void in Indian politics. We will miss him very much for his political statesmanship, moral integrity and for his fine oratorical skills.

In 2017, Mukherjee decided not to run for re-election and to retire from politics due to “health complications relating to old age.”

Mukherjee had visited SXC Kolkata a couple of times.  He was the chief guest at the Valedictory and Second Convocation on January 17, 2009 as External Affairs Minister. I had the opportunity to meet him more than once at Raj Bhawan, Kolkata. A very fine gentleman and a man of all seasons.

On one occasion Mukherjee said, “Institutions run by the Jesuit Fathers like St. Joseph’s School, North Point, St. Xavier’s, Kolkata where Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore studied, St. Xavier’s Mumbai; XLRI Jamshedpur and Loyola College, Chennai have stood the test of time and contributed to the building of our nation.”

Before he was elected as India's 13th President (2012 to 2017), he had held the posts of defence, finance, external affairs, commerce, shipping, industries ministers during the Congress and UPA regimes from time to time. In fact, he was the Best Finance Minister in the World, according to a survey of Euro money magazine in 1984.

Known as “man for all seasons,” Mukherjee played a crucial role in getting through the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal – 123 Agreement — and earning an exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

We mourn his loss and express our gratitude for all the support and encouragement he gave the Christian community in India and its activities. May the Almighty grant him eternal rest and comfort all his family members and those to whom he was dear.

While speaking on the occasion of International Peace Day (September 21, 2013), at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan in the presence of leaders belonging to various religions, Mukherjee said, ‘It is high time we re-set our moral compass. With every act of violence, we are crucifying Jesus Christ again and again. With each act of violence, we are repeating the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi…. Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha changed the course of civilization. Their teachings have been followed by millions of people for centuries…’

He was awarded the Bharat Ratna (the Jewel of India), the country’s highest civilian honor in 2019 by his successor President Ram Nath Kovind.

(Published on 07th September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 37)

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