Veteran journalist Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa, who broke the news about the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet through Tawang in March 1959 and his seeking asylum in India, passed away at his Chandmari residence here on Monday. He was 87. He is survived by his wife Aparajita, a son and three daughters.

Mr. Rajkhowa was also the first Indian journalist to have interviewed the Tibetan religious leader. The Dalai Lama’s request letter for asylum had reached Mr. Rajkhowa by mistake in Shillong, where he was based as the correspondent of the The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Guwahati.

The messenger, who carried the Dalai Lama’s request letter written in English, reached Mr. Rajkhowa instead of a government official to whom the letter was addressed and who was residing near the journalist’s residence.

Mr. Rajkhowa used to recall how he first copied the whole letter before sealing it once again for handing it over to the messenger for delivery to the official and thus broke the story about the Dalai Lama’s flight in The Assam Tribune.

Born in Phukan Nagar in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district, Mr. Rajkhowa started his career as a sub-editor with The Assam Tribune in 1946. Later he joined the Shillong office of the English daily in 1951. In 1973, he shifted his base to New Delhi and worked in different national newspapers. Mr. Rajkhowa was also a member of the Press Council of India.

Journalists, writers, members of the Guwahati Press Club, leaders and activists of political parties, students and youth organisations and admirers paid their last respects to the veteran journalist.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who is camping in New Delhi, conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family members.

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