The mortal remains of noted journalist and author Kuldip Nayar, who died today were consigned to flames, as grieving friends, families, admirers and a host of public figures bid farewell to a man, who was often described as an 'institution in himself'.
Nayar died aged 95 at a private hospital in New Delhi around 12.30 am today and his funeral at the Lodhi Crematorium was attended by former vice president Hamid Ansari, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia, photographer Raghu Rai, artist Jatin Das, and several journalists and former colleagues.
Raghu Rai, who worked with him during the 60s and 70s at the The Statesman, described his departure as an 'end of an era'.
"He was last of those editors, who stood for truth, honesty and commitment in their profession. And, till the last days, he stood for integrity and commitment for his country that he loved so deeply," the photographer said.
Nayar, born in Sialkot in Pakistan in 1923, began his career in journalism in the Urdu press and went on to serve as editor of several newspapers, including Indian Express and The Statesman.
He was arrested during the Emergency. He fought fiercely for press freedom and civil liberties and to improve the ties between India and Pakistan, Rai said.
Union Sports Minister Rathore said Nayar was not just an eminent journalist, 'he was an institution in himself', in every aspect.
"He stood steadfast in what journalism stands for, a true definition of it in every aspect, intellect-wise or the ability to keep people informed without any prejudice. And, I hope and pray that his legacy continues," he said.
Kejriwal, who attended the funeral along with Sisodia, described Nayar's death as a 'great loss to the nation'.
"His absence will be sorely felt," the chief minister said.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant also attended the funeral.
"He was in true sense the embodiment of the idea of India, the very facet of secularism as enshrined on our Constitution. Also, journalists and activists have benefited from his presence and encouragement," Yadav said.
The Swaraj India leader recalled his student days at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in early 1980s, when he had attended a talk by Nayar in a hostel mess.
"I had read his articles and was aware of his work already, but to see and hear him talk left quite an impression," he said.
"He belonged to the generation uprooted during the partition, but never had bitterness towards anyone," Yadav said.
Rai also recalled the time when he had shot Nayar's photograph for the cover photo for his book, Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography.
"He asked me if I could take a picture of him for the book. And, I told him - 'You don't ask me, you order me'. He was a great humanist too and very sensitive to every situation and people he dealt with.
"He was not a man of ego, but of grace and dignity. His school of journalism was class apart. Today, the fast food generation, and infotainment concept has diluted everything," Rai said.
Historian Ramachandra Guha had once described Nayar as a journalist who followed the dictates of his conscience rather than the lure of money or fame.
Nayar's son, Rajiv Nayar, 62, said, "He was a stalwart in his field, a mine of experience. For us in the family, he was a source of inspiration every day." -- PTI
IMAGE: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh attends the last rites of veteran journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Kuldeep Nayar at Lodhi crematorium, in New Delhi on Thursday. Photograph: PTI Photo