Prez, PM, Sonia condole Nirmala's death

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New Delhi, May 1 (UNI) President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi today expressed grief at the demise of noted Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande.

Ms Patil said she was deeply saddened by the death of the veteran Gandhian, eminent social worker and MP. The President said the late leader was her ''close personal friend in whose passing away, the nation has lost a person who dedicated her life for bringing people together.

''She also relentlessly worked for communal harmony as well as peace, amity and understanding in the world.'' In his condolence message, Dr Ansari remembered her as an eminent Gandhian, social worker and a respected public figure who served the country with distinction.

He said her immense contributions to the empowerment of women, promotion of communal harmony and towards rural development were undertaken within the framework of Gandhian thought and philosophy.

Dr Singh described her as a leader of the people who led by example. ''Nirmalaji was a living Gandhian. She dedicated her life to the cause of the poor, the down-trodden and the marginalised in our society, as a true Gandhian. She was deeply committed to creating a good society based on Gandhian values of simplicity, decency and honesty.'' Recalling the peace march, she organised in Orissa after the terrible murder of Australian missionary Graham Steins, he said it had inspired many and symbolised her commitment to human life and secular values. ''Nirmalaji's activism saw her going beyond the struggle launched by Acharya Vinoba Bhave for 'Bhoodan', to offering Satyagraha for securing the rights of landless labourers who were allotted land,'' he said.

Paying rich tributes to Ms Deshpande, the Congress chief, in her message, said Nirmalaji was a person of rare courage and compassion, a fearless champion of the oppressed. For her personally, she said the departed leader was an abiding source of guidance, support and friendship.

Condoling the Gandhian's demise, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said Deshpande was a dedicated social worker who followed Gandhian principles throughout her life. She worked relentlessly towards strengthening Indo-Pak relations, he added.

Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh expressing profound grief said Deshpande was a dedicated Gandhian and worked towards the uplift of the poor and downtrodden.

All India Mahila Congress president Prabha Thakur said ''Deshpande's long struggle in life for peace, Ahimsa, Gandhian thoughts and her passion for removing miseries of women and the downtrodden and her tireless efforts to propagate the immortal principles of Gandhiji will always inspire us.'' Union Minister Mahabir Prasad said he was joining millions of countryment in mourning the death of the great scholar and prolific writer and also an excellent Parliamentarian.

Lok Sabha Speaker xxxx picking up from para one of DI20, PEOPLE-NIRMALA DESHPANDE-CONDOLENCES TWO LAST NEW DELHI UNI MMG/SN MSJ KN1733

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