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Tributes pour in for 'Gandhi of Ara'

Ram Ekbal Warsi

Patna, Oct. 10: A wave of grief swept across society as Ram Ekbal Warsi - freedom fighter, senior socialist leader and former MLA from Piro constituency in Bhojpur district - breathed his last at Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) in Patna early this morning.

The 94-year-old socialist leader was reverentially called the Gandhi of Shahabad and Gandhi of Ara for being a staunch Gandhian. He was given the epithet of Gandhi of Piro by socialist stalwart Ram Manohar Lohia.

Warsi breathed his last around 3.30am, his son Shivjee Singh said.

Warsi was not keeping well for the past several days and had been admitted to IGIMS. News of his death made leaders, including chief minister Nitish Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary, rush to the hospital.

Condoling his death, Nitish said the last rites would be held with full state honours. In a statement, Nitish recollected the title given to Warsi by Lohia and said his contribution to promotion of the socialist movement in Bihar would never be forgotten.

His death is an unprecedented loss in the field of politics, he added. "He strengthened various dimensions of socialism and politics in Bihar and always remained steadfast to his principles. His death has left a void in state politics," Nitish said.

Warsi was admitted to IGIMS a few days ago and Nitish and Lalu had visited him at that time.

Born in 1922, Warsi sported the name of his village as his surname, left his job as a manual labourer in Rohtas Group of Industries in 1938, and jumped into the freedom movement. He was jailed during the Quit India Movement and came in contact with Jayaprakash Narayan and Lohia. He joined Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army in 1943 when Netaji visited Dehri, a town close to his native place.

In 1969, Warsi contested from Piro on a Samyukta Socialist Party ticket and won. He led a simple life, did not accept pensions that he was entitled to as a freedom fighter and a legislator, and suffered from financial crunch during his later years.

His two sons were unemployed, and his impoverished family refused to take care of him for his "impractical ways", sources said.

Additional reporting by PTI


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