Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the self-styled president of 'Khalistan', died of a heart attack in Tanda, Punjab on Wednesday morning. He was 78.
Chauhan, who once made international headlines after proclaiming himself as the president of Khalistan while he was living in Britain, was living a life in solitude in this town after his heady days of propagating a separate nation for Sikhs.
He was running a 30-bed charitable hospital here, 180 km from the state capital Chandigarh. Chauhan was said to have completely changed from the days in 1970s and throughout 1980s when he forcefully propagated the creation of a Sikh separate nation.
He had formed the Khalsa Raj Party after his return to India in 2000-2001 and had fielded candidates for assembly polls in 2002 and 2007. The party is unrecognised. His political activities were being supported by some hardline Sikh organisations.
His idea of Khalistan, which led to a violent period of terrorism in the state 1982-1995, was to have an independent state of the Sikhs in areas comprising northern parts of India.
A medical practitioner, Chauhan had settled in Britain in 1971 after dabbling in politics in Punjab and collected millions of dollars for the Khalistan cause from Sikhs and others settled abroad.
He was finance minister of Punjab in 1967 in the government headed by chief minister Lachhman Singh Gill. He was defeated in the 1969 assembly election and went abroad.
He had earlier been deputy speaker of the Punjab assembly.
Chauhan had placed an advertisement in the New York Times in October 1971 - proclaiming a separate Sikh state of Khalistan. He was declared antinational in India and several cases, including sedition, were slapped on him.
In the early 1980s, Chauhan declared himself president of the 'Republic of Khalistan', named a cabinet and issued Khalistan 'passports', 'postage stamps' and even 'Khalistan dollars'.
On June 13, 1984, just a few days after the Indian Army launched Operation Bluestar - an offensive to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple complex, the holiest of Sikh shrines - Chauhan announced a government in exile of Khalistan in Britain.
In April 1989, his Indian passport was cancelled by the government after he hoisted the Khalistan flag at a Sikh temple in the town of Anandpur Sahib, 100 km from Chandigarh.