Chandigarh on Saturday bid a tearful farewell to ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, who passed away after a prolonged battle with Covid-19 late on Friday night, just five days after his wife Nirmal Kaur succumbed to the dreaded virus.
Singh was cremated with full state honours at the Sector 25 cremation ground, with a police contingent according to gun salute by reversing arms and sounding the last post to the legendary athlete, who held the 400m national record for 38 years, while his Asian record in the same event remained unmatched for 26 years. His son and internationally acclaimed golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh, lit the funeral pyre.
Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore, Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh earlier visited his residence in Sector 8 to offer their condolences. The CM handed over a photo of the late athlete with Jawaharlal Nehru to Jeev Milkha Singh. The Punjab government had earlier declared a one-day state mourning and a public holiday as a mark of respect to the legendary athlete.
Amarinder Singh also announced a Milkha Singh Chair at the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Punjab Sports University in Patiala in his memory. Milkha Singh’s death is a mammoth loss to the entire nation and a sad moment for all, he said.
Recalling the declaration of a national holiday by then Prime Minister late Jawaharlal Nehru after Milkha Singh defeated champion Pakistan sprinter Abdul Khaliq in Lahore in 1960, the CM said he wished he could have also declared a national holiday today (Saturday). But Punjab would mourn the legend with a state holiday, with flags flying at half-mast, he added. The 1960 win in Lahore was a momentous occasion for Milkha Singh, who had lost his family in Pakistan at the time of Partition.
It was after that victory that then Pakistan President General Ayub Khan had nicknamed Milkha Singh as ‘Flying Sikh’, said Amarinder Singh while interacting informally with the media outside the athlete’s residence. Condoling the demise of Milkha Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “In the passing away from Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians. His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away.”