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India observing 7-day mourning




Veteran Indian powerbroker and former President Pranab Mukherjee, once described in leaked US diplomatic cables as 'the ultimate Congress Party fixer and operator', has died [AFP]

NEW DELHI, India (Xinhua) — A seven-day state mourning will be observed in India as a mark of respect to former president Pranab Mukherjee who died in New Delhi on Monday, said an official announcement.

“During the period of state mourning (31 August to 6 September) the national flag will fly at half-mast on all buildings throughout India, where it is flown regularly and there will be no official entertainment. The date, time and venue of the state funeral will be intimated later,” said a statement issued by the federal home ministry.

Mukherjee was tested positive for COVID-19 on 10 August, after which he was admitted to a hospital where he also underwent a brain surgery.

On 19 August he developed lungs infection too. He remained in coma and was on a ventilator support at the hospital.

“With a heavy heart this is to inform you that my father Pranab Mukherjee has just passed away in spite of the best efforts of doctors of RR Hospital and prayers from people throughout India. I thank all of you,” tweeted his son Abhijit Mukherjee.

Mukherjee, 84, was the country’s 13th President, from 2012-2017. Last year, India’s highest civilian award “Bharat Ratna” was bestowed on him.

He had two sons and a daughter. Son Abhijit and daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee are into active politics and belong to the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind expressed condolences at Mukherjee’s demise. “Sad to hear that former president Pranab Mukherjee is no more. His demise is passing of an era. A colossus in public life, he served Mother India with the spirit of a sage. The nation mourns losing one of its worthiest sons. Condolences to his family, friends and all citizens,” Kovind said in a tweet.