Panthers Party founder Bhim Singh passes away in Jammu
PM, LG, political leadrs condole demise
Jammu: Founder of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party Bhim Singh passed away in Jammu on Tuesday after being unwell for about a month. He was 81.
The former legislator hailed from Udhampur district’s Bhugterian village. He has left behind his wife Jai Mala and son Ankit Love, who lives in London.
Singh breathed his last at GMC Hospital here.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and heads of various political parties expressed their condolences on the demise of Singh, who emerged as a major political face to reckon with in the Jammu region.
“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,” Modi said in a tweet.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said he was deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of Singh.
“My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family & friends in this hour of grief. Om Shanti,” he said in a tweet.
Singh was also a human rights activist, author and a Supreme Court lawyer, who was re-elected unopposed as a senior executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said he was deeply saddened by the demise of the Panthers Party’s founder-patron.
“He was probably the first leading firebrand political activist of post-Independence Jammu and Kashmir and had begun to make an impact from early years, first as a student leader and then a member of the Congress party. My respectful condolence,” he said in a tweet.
“Prof. Singh was a leader committed to secular values who fought relentlessly for the rights of downtrodden and marginalised sections of society in and outside the state legislature. At a time when polarisation 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,” CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami said.
Peoples Conference chief Sajad Gani Lone paid rich tributes to Singh and called him “timeless”.
“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.
Singh held several key positions in the Congress, from the president of the party’s Jammu and Kashmir youth unit to its national general secretary, before launching his own Panthers Party in October 1982.
He studied law at the University of London. He was the first Indian to be elected secretary of the University of London Union in 1971.
Singh, who contested election for the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat in 1988, was defeated by the Congress candidate. Alleging foul play, he went on a hunger strike against the Election Commission of India.
In response to his review petition against the ECI order, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court delivered the judgment in his favour four years later, but by then, the session of Parliament had already been dissolved.
The Supreme Court had awarded Singh Rs 50,000 compensation for his illegal imprisonment by the then state government that followed his suspension as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in 1985.
In the 2002 Assembly polls, his Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party won four seats and became a coalition partner in the Mufti Mohmmad Sayeed government.
Singh had also provided legal aid to over 200 people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, who were languishing for decades in different jails across the country. His help saw the release of most of these prisoners.
The veteran leader, who travelled to over 130 countries around the world on a motorcycle, was friends with stalwarts such as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi.