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Noted Indian author Khushwant Singh dies

Singh, one of country's best known authors and journalists, passes away at the age of 99 at his New Delhi home.

Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 16:40
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Kushwant Singh, right, was awarded the Padma Vibhusan in 2007 [EPA]

Khushwant Singh, one of India's best known writers who won fame for a book on partition of the subcontinent as well as his once-daring descriptions of sex, has died aged 99 at his New Delhi home.

The country's most prolific author, who died at his home in New Delhi after suffering breathing problems, had only recently stopped writing despite his advanced years, his son said on Thursday.

"He was having some breathing problems. He hadn't been too unwell in his last few days and had only stopped writing recently. He was still reading newspapers and books... was mentally alert, and led a full life," Rahul Singh told the NDTV news channel.

Singh, who had edited the Illustrated Weekly of India magazine and the Hindustan Times newspaper, was also one of India's best known columnists. He was best known for being risque, acerbic and humorous.

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Singh, a Sikh born on February 2, 1915 in what is now Pakistan, occupied India's literary centre-stage for half a century with his novels.

He is best remembered for his historical novel "Train to Pakistan", which recounts the tragedy and bloodshed of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 into India and Pakistan.

His autobiography, "Truth, Love and a Little Malice" was published in 2002.

Tributes pour in

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him "a gifted author, candid commentator and a dear friend" as tributes poured in for a great writer with an even greater sense of humour.

"The world will always remember him as a lovable human being," author and veteran BBC journalist Mark Tully said on NDTV.

Fellow authors including Vikram Seth and former cricketers were among those who visited his Delhi home to pay their respects to a man hailed by President Pranab Mukherjee as a "fearless intellectual", the Press Trust of India news agency said.

During his long career, Singh was nominated to the Indian parliament. He was a recipient of the Padma Bhusan - a top civilian award - but returned it in protest against the storming of the Sikh holy shrine, Golden Temple in Amritsar, by the Indian army.

He was also awarded the Padma Vibhusan for his distinguished service to the nation.

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