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Malayalam poet and activist Sugathakumari dies after testing positive for covid

Sugathakumari (1934-2020) played a key role in Kerala's literary, cultural and social space for over six decades

Sugathakumari (Twitter)

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 23 (PTI): Tributes poured in from various quarters for poet-activist and Padma awardee Sugathakumari, who died here on Wednesday.

The 86-year-old poet passed away at the government medical college hospital here in the morning after testing positive for covid-19 and undergoing treatment. The poet-activist played an irreplaceable role in Kerala's literary, cultural and social space for over six decades.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, among others, recalled her contributions and mourned the loss. In his condolence message, Vijayan said Sughathakumari was a poet who stood firmly for environment and women's rights. She proved that social activism can successfully go in tandem along with a literary life. She had been part of struggles for the cause of Malayalam language to environment protection, he said, adding that she had also stood up for the rights of women, tribal people and other marginalised communities.

Expressing grief over her death, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said like her father Bodheswaran, Sugathkumari was a creative genius who maintained Gandhian principles in her writing and life. While state cultural affairs minister A K Balan hailed her as the guardian of nature and Malayalam language, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh tweeted she was a legend in many ways.

"I am deeply distressed by the news of the death of the renowned poet and activist Sugathakumariji. It was my privilege and good fortune to have been the recipient of her friendship in recent years," Ramesh said. He also recalled the octogenarian poet's contributions to the Silent Valley movement.

"Sugathakumari was a poet who was committed to her land, fellow human beings and her mother tongue. Even while writing beautiful poems, she would fight the attempts to destroy nature. Her demise is an irreplaceable loss to Kerala," BJP state chief K Surendran said.

In view of the covid-19 pandemic, the district administration has made arrangements at the Ayyankali Hall here to pay homage before a portrait of the departed poet. Complying with COVID-19 norms, people from several walks of life went there and paid floral tribute to her photograph. Family sources here said the cremation would be held adhering to COVID-19 protocols.

Fondly called as "Sugatha Teacher" by hundreds of admirers and followers, the activist-poet had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the medical college after being diagnosed with the viral infection on 21 December. Though she was first admitted to a private hospital, she was rushed to the government health facility after she tested positive for the coronavirus. As her condition remained critical and her body failed to respond to medicines, the poet was put on ventilator support, medical college authorities said. Besides severe bronchial pneumonia, an after-effect of covid-19, the condition of her vital organs also deteriorated and the end came at around 11 am.

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