Khushwant Singh dead: author and journalist passed away aged 99 in New Delhi

He was one of India's best-known writers for more than six decades

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The Independent Online

Journalist, editor, and prolific writer Khushwant Singh has died in his New Delhi apartment. He was 99.

Singh, who continued writing until shortly before his death, “passed away peacefully at home,” said his daughter Mala Singh.

“He lived a truly creative life,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tweeted after the death was announced.

He turned to writing in the 1950s, soon after India's 1947 independence, and quickly became a respected presence in Indian journalism and literary circles. He remained one of the country's best-known writers for more than six decades.

His work ranged from serious histories to joke collections, and he has been attributed with pioneering open discussions of sexuality in modern Indian novels - often using graphic descriptions that made generations of readers blush.

“I've been called a dirty old man and it doesn't bother me one bit,” he said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press, when age and illness had begun to slow him, and a new generation of writers often regarded him as a literary relic.

At the height of his powers, Singh was a writer of almost unlimited energy.

He rose to fame in 1956, with a short novel about the horrors of 1947's partition, when British colonial India was carved into largely Hindu India and the majority Muslim Pakistan.

Train to Pakistan with its quiet prose and powerful imagery, remains a classic of modern Indian literature.

While born a Sikh, Singh was an avowed agnostic and staunch secularist whose books on the history of the Sikh people and religion were widely praised.

Singh also enjoyed a lengthy careers as an editor, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. He turned a minor magazine, the Illustrated Weekly of India, into a journalistic powerhouse and also ran two newspapers, the Hindustan Times and the National Herald.

Singh was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 but returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Army, the Indian Express reported.

His wife died in 2002. He is survived by his daughter and a son.

Additional reporting by AP