Muzaffarnagar/ New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Tikait, a prominent leader of farmers from prosperous western Uttar Pradesh who spearheaded many movements in north India, died on Sunday due to bone cancer.

76-year-old Tikait, who headed the Bharatiya Kisan Union, had been suffering from bone cancer since last year breathed his last at the residence of his son and BKU General
Secretary Rakesh Tikait here, family sources said.

Tikait leaves behind four sons and two daughters. His wife had died earlier.

A large number of people gathered here to pay tributes to the farmer leader. The cremation would be held tomorrow at BKU headquarters in Sisauli.

A popular leader among farmers, Tikait had led a number of mass movements against the state and central governments to support the rights of the farmers.

The BKU had in 1988 laid a virtual siege to Meerut in pursuit of higher prices for sugarcane, cancellation of loans and lowering of water and electricity rates. The same year he had organised a week-long protest in Delhi's Boat Club to focus on the plight of farmers.

Tikait courted controversy in 2008 when he was arrested and later released on bail for allegedly making derogatory and caste-based remarks against Mayawati.

He was arrested several times during his agitations, the latest being in February 2000 in Moradabad while on his way to hold a panchayat in Lucknow.

Born in 1935 at Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar district, Tikait, a Jat, inherited the leadership of Baliyan Khap at the age of eight.

PM, Sonia condole Tikait's death

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday condoled the death of BKU leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, saying he was a unique leader who will be "deeply missed" in the years ahead.

In his condolence message to Tikait's elder son Narendra Pal Tikait, Singh said, "Chaudhury Tikait's commitment to the welfare of farmers and to rural India was deep and unwavering."

"His work haf a powerful influence across the country and inspired the formation of many other organisations devoted to the cause of farmers," he said.

Describing Tikait as a "fiercely independent" person, Prime Minister said "he resisted the pull of politics all his life. His work, his courage of conviction and his simplicity made him a unique leader."

Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi also condoled the death of Tikait.

In Lucknow, Chief Minister said, "Tikait worked throughout the life in the interest of farmers and fought for their cause. His works will always be remembered."
Meanwhile, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said the death of Tikait is a loss which cannot be compensated.

"Tikait was a symbol of relentless struggle against farmers exploitation. True homage to him will be stopping the ongoing loot of farmers land in Uttar Pradesh," Yadav said in his condolence message.

Former BJP president Rajnath Singh said Tikait dedicated his life for the welfare of farmers.

BJP President Nitin Gadkari in his condolence message recalled that the BKU chief was instrumental in launching several mass kisan movements against the anti-farmer policies
of the Central government and in support of the rightful demands of the farmers in different states.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank expressed grief over Tikait's death.

In a message, Nishank described him as a great social leader and said he devoted his full life for the cause of farmers and the country would always remember him.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said Tikait worked selflessly for the cause of the farmers.

"He formed a non-political organisation--Bhartiya Kisan Union--and led a number of rural agitations and farmers' movements to safeguard the interest of the peasantry. In his death the farmers have lost their well-wisher," Hooda said in his condolence message.

(JPN/Agencies)