(TibetanReview.net, Jan30’19) – The Dalai Lama has on Jan 29 expressed sadness on the passing away of Mr George Fernandes, a fiery former trade unionist, journalist, agriculturist, and member of parliament from Bihar who later served as India’s Communications, Industries, Railway as well as Defence minister. He was down with Alzheimer’s condition for some years and passed away at his home in New Delhi on Jan 29 morning, aged 88.
In his condolence message to his widow Leila Kabir, who had returned to his life after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the Dalai Lama spoke of having known and met regularly with Mr Fernandes for over five decades. He spoke of his great admiration for Mr Fernandes for his dedication to what he believed in, no matter how difficult the situation was.
Calling him “a great humanitarian and believer in truth”, the Dalai Lama has said, “Throughout his life, he was a voice to millions of poor and needy people of the country. He had firm conviction for justice and wisdom. He was a real heroic leader.”
The Dalai Lama has also called him “a steady friend who was sympathetic to the Tibetan cause right from the beginning,” adding, “He never missed an opportunity to speak up for the Tibetan people as well as for others in similar situation.”
recalling that he had told Fernandes in his meetings that he will always remember him, the Dalai Lama has said, “Although George and I are from different religious traditions, as a Buddhist I am confident he would be reborn yet again to serve his country, in particular, the cause of the less privileged people.”
President Lobsang Sangay of the Central Tibetan Administration has also expressed his condolences, calling Fernandes “the strongest voice on Tibet and a truly a great friend of Tibet.”
In his condolence message, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed sadness at the passing away of Fernandes, saying the late leader never deviated from his political ideology and remained steadfast. He tweeted: “George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership. Frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country. He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised.”
Fernandes was a key member of the Janata Dal party and also a founder of the Samata Party. It was during his tenure as defence minister that India conducted the nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998. Less than six weeks after taking charge as defence minister in 1998, the socialist leader called China India’s No.1 threat, rocking the Indian defence and foreign policy establishments but earning hearty endorsement from many commentators.