Veteran cartoonist, columnist and political activist Rajinder Puri died on Sunday night after a brief illness. His friends and family said Puri, who was the founding General Secretary of the Janata Party in 1977, had died peacefully in his sleep.
Born in 1934 in modern-day Karachi, Puri was known for his incisive and critical political cartooning. A close friend said, “He belonged to the great tradition of political cartooning that critiqued and assessed political events through amazing perception.”
Apart from working with the Hindustan Times and The Statesman, Puri had also drawn cartoons briefly for The Guardian in London and The Glasgow Herald.
“At the time, he was working for the Hindustan Times and on more than one occasion, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had complained to JRD Tata about his caricatures. He was possibly the most powerful political cartoonist of the time,” a close friend said.
His friends and former colleagues described him as a journalist who was not only incorruptible, but also always willing to lend an ear to young journalists.
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“One would find him sitting regularly at his table at the Indian International Centre. Earlier, he’d sit at the Embassy Restaurant surrounded by young journalists. He would always be willing to listen to young journalists and help them in whatever way he could,” a former colleague said.
A fierce critic of the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi, Puri was the founding General Secretary of the Janata Party. Later he became the founder General Secretary of Lok Dal, but hadn’t been attached to a political party since 1988.
“He felt that to change the political reality, he needed to be within the system to a certain extent. But later, he became disillusioned and realised that he did not fit in in the world of politics,” Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman, said.
Puri’s friends said his funeral service will be held at Lodhi Crematorium at 2 pm on Tuesday.