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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 28

Message from the President

Monday 2 July 2007

The following is the message of K.R. Narayanan, the President of India, on the demise of Nikhil Chakravartty.

Quietly and unobtrusively as he lived, Nikhil Chakravartty has slipped out of life. At once gentle and formidable, his was the most seasoned voice in Indian journalism. Over a period of five-and-a-half decades, Nikhil Chakravartty witnessed human affairs with the impatience of a rebel and at the same time with the dispassion of a historian. Committed socialist that he was, Nikhil Chakravartty regarded Left and Right not in terms of fixed points but directions. This gave him a unique credibility. Never too proud to revise an opinion, nor afraid to express an unpopular one, Nikhil Chakravartty was one of modern India’s conscience-keepers. But his sagacity was never sanctimonious. It was offered matter-of-factly and in the most practical terms.

Interested in the politics of change rather than of power, Nikhil Chakravartty cared not at all for the baubles of patronage or for personal recognition. His chief interest was, and consistently remained, the establishment of a secular and just social order. And he used his unrivalled writing skills towards this goal.

Nikhil Chakravartty’s public concerns and roles apart, he was one of the most civilised of human beings.

As one who was privileged to have known Nikhilda for many years and received the benefit of his inspiring friendship, I will miss his sage counsel and his great personal warmth. I join his family, friends and readers in paying tribute to a life which, in T.S. Eliot’s words, taught us “to care and not to care”.