CHANDIGARH, INDIA -- Zail Singh, 78, the first Indian president from the minority Sikh community, died Dec. 25 at a hospital here, nearly a month after he was injured in an automobile accident.

He suffered multiple fractures and other injuries when his car hit a truck on Nov. 29. Punjab police are investigating the accident.

The government declared seven days of official mourning.

Mr. Singh, India's seventh president, held the largely ceremonial post as head of state from 1982 to 1987.

His selection by an electoral college, which had been orchestrated by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was seen widely as a move to curb mounting Sikh militancy in Punjab, where most of India's Sikhs live. Chandigarh is its capital.

Mr. Singh faced a serious crisis in June 1984 after troops stormed the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, to flush out militant Sikhs demanding independence for Punjab, a rich northern agricultural state.

But his largely powerless official role forced him to remain a passive bystander when the troops stormed the temple.

Many Sikhs thought Mr. Singh should have resigned, and he was denounced by their five high priests, who forgave him only after he played a crucial role in negotiating the withdrawal of troops from the shrine.

Gandhi was shot dead by two Sikh bodyguards four months later, and on the advice of the ruling Congress (I) Party, Mr. Singh named her son, Rajiv, to succeed her.

But Mr. Singh fell out with the new prime minister. Mr. Singh, who once said he would sweep floors for Indira Gandhi, publicly accused her son of failing to keep him informed on important issues. The accusation was a serious embarrassment to the prime minister, and while the controversy flared, it threatened to enmesh India in a constitutional crisis.

Mr. Singh also infuriated the government when he refused to sign into law a controversial 1987 bill permitting official censorship of private mail. The dispute between the two men had cooled by the time Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber in May 1991.

Mr. Singh was born to an impoverished farmer in a mud hut in Sandhwan, Punjab. He trained to become a Sikh priest.

He began his political career in the 1930s, leading a campaign against the princes who then ruled the Farikdot district. He was jailed in solitary confinement from 1938 until 1943 for political activities. He rose to become Punjab chief minister from 1972 to 1977, then joined Indira Gandhi's cabinet as home minister from 1980 to 1982.

Mr. Singh was an affable, seemingly natural politician. His sketchy education showed in his less than fluent command of English, India's link language. Although his formal education stopped at school level, he held the title Giani, or scholar, because of his knowledge of Sikh scriptures.

But he was known for his colorful, often earthy speeches in the vernacular. He laced them with flowery couplets in the Urdu language and had a down-to-earth sense of humor that often embarrassed his colleagues. He also was renowned for his immaculate dress, invariably wearing a white turban and a red rose in his buttonhole.


Washington Psychiatrist

Isadore Rodis, 91, a retired Washington psychiatrist and past president of the Jacobi Medical Society, died of respiratory failure Dec. 25 at Holy Cross Hospital. He had congestive heart failure.

Dr. Rodis, of Silver Spring, practiced psychiatry in the District for 55 years before retiring in 1988. He taught at Georgetown University medical school in the 1940s and 1950s. During World War II, he helped train physicians for the Army at Georgetown.

Much of his psychiatric work dealt with the treatment of depression. He helped introduce electroshock therapy treatments to the Washington area.

Dr. Rodis was a Washington native and an Eastern High School graduate. He graduated from Georgetown University and its medical school. He served his internship at Jewish Hospital in Philadelphia and his psychiatric residency at the University of Iowa Hospital.

He was a member of the Phi Delta Epsilon medical society and had been a consultant to the Catholic University psychology department. His hobbies included roses, splitting wood and growing produce, which he donated to shelters.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, the former Lillian Spector, of Silver Spring; a son, Paul, of Upper Marlboro; a daughter, Carolyn Rodis of Baltimore; a sister, Betty Aronson of Arlington; and three grandchildren.


Church Secretary

Wanda McCaslin, 68, who was the secretary at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria for 25 years before retiring earlier this year for health reasons, died of cancer Dec. 25 at her home in Alexandria.

Mrs. McCaslin, a Montana native, came to the Washington area and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a stenographer in 1946. She worked for the bureau in Seattle in 1950 and 1951, then returned to Washington and retired in 1953.

Survivors include her husband, Robert W., of Alexandria, whom she married in 1953; three sons, Rob, of Pasadena, Md., and John and Mark, both of Alexandria; her mother, Notie T. Larson of Kilmarnock, Va., and Kalispell, Mont.; and three grandchildren.