Kalakote Loses Its Secular, Popular Leader To Pandemic

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by Tahir Bhat

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SRINAGAR: In Thakur Rashpaul Singh’s death, National Conference lost its Central Secretary to the Covid-19 and the Kalakote one of its most secular leaders. Rashpaul died of Covid-19 at the Narayana Hospital in Katra at around 2:30 am during the last night. He was 69.

Thakur Rashpaul Singh’s cremation took place at his ancestral village in remote Kalakote. Pic: Special Arrangement

“For the last three-four days, he was unwell and was being treated at home,” Ajay K Sadhotra, one of his party colleagues said. “On Saturday evening, his oxygen level dropped to an alarming 70 and we all suggested him to move to the hospital.”

Singh, according to Sadhotra, refused to be admitted to GMC in Jammu and instead suggested that he would go to the Narayana hospital in Katra.

“He was put on oxygen and it started helping him improve his oxygen level. He had dinner and breakfast on Sunday. I was always in touch with him. At around 10 am on Sunday, Omar Abdullah talked to him. At around 2 pm on Sunday, I also talked,” Sadhotra said. His condition, deteriorated around evening when doctors put him on a ventilator. “At around 3 am last night, his brother rang me up saying he has expired,” Sadhotra said. “The administration permitted quite a few people to attend his funeral. I am in pain that I could not be part of his final send-off.”

Thakur Rashpaul Singh Kalakote

Rashpaul Singh had kidney problems but both his kidney and heart were functioning all right. Doctors said the virus attacked the lungs.

His corpse was driven strictly as per the SOP and cremated in the afternoon in Kalakote. He had taken ill in Jammu where he lived in Gandhi Nagar area.

Singh, a law graduate, had initially joined politics as a Youth Congress activist. Then Prof Bhim Singh was leading the Youth Congress in Jammu and Kashmir. Rashpal Singh was appointed as President of Rajouri District Youth Congress, according to a statement issued by Bhim Singh, saying he had family relations with Rashpaul and a long association of a decade in most difficult times.

A resident of Sialsui in Kalakote, Singh finally joined National Conference in 1978. He rose through the ranks. Initially as Jammu leader of the State Labour Union and later the state Vice President of the youth wing. He won two elections – one each in 2002 and 2008 but was defeated in 2014.

In 2002, he defeated Congress candidate Ashok Kumar Sharma. In 2008, Sharma contested against Thakur as an independent candidate but lost again. In 2014, however, Thakur was pitted against Abdul Gani Kohli of BJP.  Thakur polled 19047 votes but Kohli trounced him by polling 25225 votes.

After 2008 elections, the government appointed him as Vice Chairman of the Kissan development Board with Minister of State status.

Singh, Sadhotra said was respected as a secular leader and was popular in Pir Panchal region. People credit him for bringing some kind of development to the remote Kalakote region.

Singh is survived by wife, and a son – who is doing business locally, and two daughters. Both his daughters are settled in their lives.

National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah and Vice President Omar Abdullah expressed shock and grief over the passing away of Thakur Rachpal Singh, describing the death as a great loss to the party.

“Thakur Rachpal Singh ji will always be remembered for his tireless contribution in ameliorating the lot of peasants, labour fraternity, weaker sections and downtrodden people of Jammu and Kashmir in general and Rajouri-Poonch belt in particular”, Dr Farooq Abdullah said in a message, adding that his selfless service will remain guiding force and inspiration for the younger generation of National Conference cadres. In his death, the party has lost a dedicated, sincere and hardworking leader whose role in strengthening the bonds of amity and brotherhood between various segments of society, he added.

In his condolence message, Vice President Omar Abdullah expressed grief over the death of a senior colleague from Kalakote Rajouri, saying, “Only yesterday, I spoke to him (Th Rachpal Singh) to wish him well. He was on oxygen support but in good spirits. Less than 24 hours later he is no more. My prayers are with his family”.

Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah prayed for peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

National Conference General Secretary Haji Ali Mohammed Sagar, in his condolence message, described Thakur Rachpal Singh as leader par excellence, saying he will be remembered for his qualities as a seasoned politician and a gentleman, who strived hard for progress and development of his constituency besides strengthening the party at grassroots level.

Provincial President Devender Singh Rana remembered Th Rachpal Singh for his qualities of head and heart, saying public good was the mission of his life.

He recalled his services to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general and Rajouri district in particular, saying his departure has left a big vacuum in the party which is hard to be filled.

Sagar and Rana conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family and expressed solidarity with them at this hour of grief. They prayed for peace to the departed soul.

(Certain factual errors in the initial draft were edited out)

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