Rajinder Puri, ace cartoonist and fierce critic of Emergency, passes away at 80

Friends say Rajinder Puri, who died on Sunday night after a brief illness, was always willing to help journalists

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:February 17, 2015 3:14 am

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.”

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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.

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  1. P
    Prof Bhim
    Feb 17, 2015 at 2:38 pm
    Panthers Party’s rich tributes to Rajinder Puri Several NPP activists held a meeting under the chairmanship of Prof.Bhim Singh, its Chief Patron this morning at the lawns of Vithalbhai Patel House to condole the most unfortunate demise of Shri Rajinder Puri, a noted cartoonist and human rights activist in the country. NPP also expressed its condolences to the family and friends of Shri Rajinder Puri and pra for peace to the departed soul in the heavens. Prof.Bhim Singh described him as one of the great revolutionaries who believed that revolution is possible through the might of the pen and he tried this for nearly half a century. Prof.Bhim Singh said that his first interaction with Mr. Rajinder Puri was in 1975 during the Emergency when Shri Puri invited hundreds of farmers to attend tea in Ashoka Hotel creating a stir in the society and successfully conve the message to the farmers in the country that the big hotels and the luxuries were meant for only for a particular cl. Bhim Singh that he was General Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress at that time and he successfully persuaded the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira hi to treat the matter within the scope of humanism and not law. He said she did it. He recalled his second big meeting with Shri Rajinder Puri in 1984 in Hyderabad during the movement launched by the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Shri N.T. Ramarao protesting against his unconsutional dismissal by the then Governor Shri Ram Lal. Prof.Bhim Singh said that was the time when he had one week to work with Shri Rajinder Puri in preparation of the charter and for the success of the movement. Prof.Bhim Singh said that he was highly influenced by the noble thought and superb cultural communication which everyone who knew him or interacted with him could feel and share. In his death, all his friends and well-wishers, have lost a great soul, a great friend, a noble heart and the rearest of the rear human being. Friends in India International Centre shall miss him most.