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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 14:05 GMT
Ex-India President Narayanan dies
KR Narayanan (left) with current President APJ Kalam
KR Narayanan (left) with current President APJ Kalam
Former Indian President KR Narayanan has died at the age of 85, the defence ministry has said.

Mr Narayanan had fallen into a coma a week ago after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia.

Mr Narayanan was the first member of the Dalit or untouchable caste to become president, a position he held from 1997 to 2002.

Correspondents say Mr Narayanan had been suffering from poor health for some time.


He had a long association with the Congress Party after India's first Prime Minister, Jawarlal Nehru, appointed him to the diplomatic service.

He was a monumental personality. A personality who proved what the Indian republic stands for
Former PM IK Gujral

Mr Narayanan was admitted to the Army's Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi on 29 October suffering from pneumonia and kidney failure, defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

Analysts say Mr Narayanan's rise to the presidential office from the Dalit caste was seen by many as an affirmation of India's democratic roots.

The caste system was banned in 1950 but centuries of tradition made it difficult to break entrenched attitudes.

Mr Narayanan's rise to an important if largely ceremonial role was considered a remarkable achievement.

KR Narayanan (left) with Cheri and Tony Blair
Narayanan, here with Britain's Blairs, had a spotless reputation

He preferred not to focus on his background but did talk on the subject in a 1998 television interview, saying: "If you can see one consistent tendency in India, one trend in India, from the time of the Buddha onwards, it is the slow, but steady movement of the lower classes among the scale of the class system.

"But it has been very slow. It took 2,000 years. But it is something which is going on."

Before becoming president, Mr Narayanan served as Indian ambassador in Beijing and Washington.

He won a seat in parliament in 1980 and enjoyed an impeccably clean reputation.

Obituary: KR Narayanan
09 Nov 05 |  South Asia
KR Narayanan: Your tributes
09 Nov 05 |  South Asia
Former Indian president in coma
02 Nov 05 |  South Asia
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25 Jul 02 |  South Asia
Country profile: India
07 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: India
09 Nov 05 |  Country profiles

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