New Delhi: Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam died in Shillong on Monday. He was 83 years old. According to reports, Kalam, who was President from 2002 to 2007, collapsed during an interaction with students at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong.
He was rushed to Bethany Hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
Patricia Mukhim, Editor of Shillong Times, provided the following information on her Facebook page:
According to an IIM professor, every year Dr Kalam takes different classes with students. This time his topic [was] ” Making the world more liveable.” His [were] marathon sessions running into several hours. This IIM Prof passed Dr Kalam today and said he was huffing and puffing climbing up the stairs to the IIM classroom. Today was meant for presentation by students followed by discussions.
Kalam was shifted to the ICU immediately for further resuscitation after initial attempts failed. “All efforts were made, but Dr APJ Abdul Kalam could not be revived. He was declared dead at 7.45 pm”, the doctor said.
His body was draped in the tri-colour and brought out of the Hospital at around 10. 20 pm,. According to the Shillong Times, the people who gathered in the hospital premises paid their last respects to the former President by saying “Kalam Amar Rahe (Long live Kalam).”
His body was then taken to the Military Hospital for embalming. It will be flown to Guwahati in a special Air Force helicopter at 5.30 am on Tuesday from the Upper Shillong Helipad. After reaching Guwahati, the body will be flown to Delhi in a special aircraft at around 6:15 am. The body is likely to arrive at 9 am in Delhi.
Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan among others will accompany the body of late former President to Delhi.
Arguably India’s most popular and beloved head of state in living memory, Kalam was elected President during the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
As head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister from 1992-1999, he was credited with the development of both the country’s missile programme – for years he was known as ‘missile man’ – and its nuclear weapons programme, though his role in the latter was more inspirational and organisational than strictly scientific.
Both as President and later, Kalam was a hugely inspirational figure for ordinary Indians, especially children and students, who saw in the remarkable journey he made from relatively humble origins in rural Tamil Nadu a glimpse of what they themselves could achieve if they too had ‘ignited minds‘.
As President, Kalam often made a dramatic impression overseas too. “It seems Russia has been missing someone like President APJ Abdul Kalam all this time ever since Indira Gandhi. Or perhaps even Nehru,” the Russian political commentator Dmiti Kosyrev wrote during a presidential visit to Moscow in 2005. “This is something very Indian. But when the selected Russian public – students, researchers and technical staff of the hi-tech Sukhoi airspace laboratory – saw the urbane and very eloquent man with long wavy grey hair on a state visit, they saw many things which were just what Russia may pay attention to right now.”
While tributes began pouring in immediately from all corners, the fact that Kalam’s life came to an end while he was in a classroom full of students in Shillong in north-eastern India – a region usually ignored by ‘mainland’ Indian leaders – did not go unnoticed by some:
This article has been edited several times with updates