The deaths that left India poorer in 2016….’2016 in Retrospect’ By M.R. Narayan Swamy and Priya Yadav
It was a year when India lost many prominent personalities from all walks of life, with politics receiving a particularly severe blow, many of its well-known practitioners leaving behind legion of followers.
But no death triggered the mass grief that followed Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s December 5 demise, which marked the end of an era in the state’s cinema-dominated politics and claimed one of India’s most charismatic leaders. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets, many openly weeping.
And in a remarkable coincidence, Cho Ramaswamy, a respected journalist and an actor who had starred in many movies with Jayalalithaa, died the next day in Chennai — also in the same Apollo Hospitals.
The year started with the demise of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who presided over the state’s first coalition regime with the Bharatiya Janata Party as a junior ally.
Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of Sayeed (who back in 1989 became India’s first Muslim Home Minister), succeeded him and became yet another woman to take charge of a key state.
In just a month, India lost two former Lok Sabha Speakers — Balram Jakhar on February 3 and Purno Sangma on March 5. Both were from the Congress, though Sangma later quit the party protesting against party president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.
Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul committed suicide on August 9 after a string of developments led to his ouster in July.
Isak Chishi Swu, one of the two most prominent Naga separatist leaders, passed away on June 28 after a prolonged illness.
Nirankaris were in mourning after the sect leader, Baba Hardev Singh, was killed in a car accident in Canada on May 13.
Former Indian Army chief General K.V. Krishna Rao died on January 30. Earlier, on January 4, former Supreme Court Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia also died.
India’s first ‘Mr Universe’, Manohar Aich passed away in Kolkata on June 5 at the age of 104.
Neil O’Brien, India’s first quizmaster and the father of Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, died on June 24.
Satyanand Munjal, a co-founder of the successful Hero Group, breathed his last on April 14.
The oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid row, Hashim Ansari, died on July 20 in Ayodhya, the very town where a mob razed the 16th century mosque.
Well-known diplomat Arundhati Ghose, who was once Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, died on July 25.
Besides Cho Ramaswamy, journalism suffered a huge loss in the death of Dilip Padgaonkar, a former Editor of The Times of India, on November 25.
And leading Malayalam cartoonist and poet O.N.V. Kurup passed away on February 13 while writer and activist Mahasweta Devi expired on July 28.
The world of arts and music lost some stalwarts: Legendary dancer and choreographer Mrinalini Sarabhai on January 21, Carnatic music legend M. Balamuralikrishna on November 22, and painter Syed Haider Raza on July 23.
April 22 saw the passing away of leading Urdu poet Malikzada Manzoor Ahmed in Lucknow at age 87.
In sports, hockey star Mohammed Shahid, who enthralled millions at the peak of his career, died on July 20.