K. R. Narayanan


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Narayanan, K. R.

(Raman Kocheril Narayanan) (näräyänän`), 1921–2005, Indian government official. An "untouchable" or Dalit (see HarijansHarijans
[children of God], in India, individuals who are at the bottom of or outside the Hindu caste system. They were traditionally sweepers, washers of clothes, leatherworkers, and those whose occupation it was to kill animals.
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), he nonetheless graduated from the Univ. of Travancore (now Kerala, 1943) with high honors. After a stint as a journalist and study at the London School of Economics, he joined India's foreign service in 1949. Narayanan served as ambassador to Thailand (1967–69), Turkey (1973–75), China (1976–78), and the United States (1980–84); in the latter two posts he worked to improve long-strained relations. He was thrice elected (1984, 1989, 1991) to parliament, held (1985–89) several ministerial posts under Rajiv GandhiGandhi, Rajiv
, 1944–91, prime minister of India (1984–89). Oldest son of Indira Gandhi, he flew for Indian Airlines until his brother died in 1981 and he was drafted into politics by his mother.
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, and became vice president in 1992. From 1997 to 2002 he was India's president, becoming the first Dalit to serve in that post. As president he worked to increase the influence of the office, which had been largely ceremonial and apolitical.