The mortal remains of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who died on Monday, were taken from his ancestral house in coastal Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram town to the local mosque ahead of the funeral as thousands of mourners – young and old – poured into the island town to pay their last respects. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhiand a host of other dignitaries, including chief ministers of some states, attended the last rites held around 11 am after the ‘Namaaz-e-Janaaza’.
The body of Kalam was buried in the middle of a 1.5 acre piece of land earmarked for the purpose at Peikarumbu after being brought from his family mosque where special prayers were offered. The People’s President was accorded full military honours, including gun salute and playing of the Last Post as the members of his family and local Jamaat lowered his mortal remains into a trench as slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai rent the air.
The funeral of the Missile Man was attended by a galaxy of leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who placed a wreath, offered his final salute and stood in silence in front of Kalam’s body that was draped in national flag. He also went around the casket with folded hands. Modi later went up to Kalam’s eldest brother, 99-year-old Mohammed Muthu Meeran Lebbai Maraicker, who was seated nearby, and offered his condolences.
Congres vice-president Rahul Gandhi also paid his last respects to Kalam, who died of cardiac arrest in Shillong on July 27. Besides some foreign dignitaries, several leaders including Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, his Cabinet colleague M Venkaiah Naidu and state Finance Minister O Panneerselvam were present.
Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad and Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – Siddaramaiah, Oommen Chandy and Chandrababu Naidu respectively – and CPM veteran VS Achuthanandan were also among those who paid their homage. The three services chief also paid their respects to their former Supreme Commander.
Emotional farewell to People’s President
Earlier, a large number of teary-eyed mourners swarmed the carriage carrying his mortal remains and briskly moved with it on the last journey of the 83-year old scientist. Condolences poured in from the country and across the world, paying respects to the affable man who endeared himself to the masses with his simplicity. Tight security, including deployment of Naval, Coast Guard and Marine police personnel in the sea around the town, was put in place in view of the convergence of several dignitaries.
Slogans like “Bharat Mata Ki jai” rent the air as the body was taken in flower-bedecked carriage to the burial site, about 3.5 km from the mosque, accompanied by the personnel of three services. Several people were seen holding the national tri-colour as they waited in the jam-packed streets around Kalam’s house to have a last glimpse of their hero. Many were perched on the terraces of buildings.
The body of India’s Missile Man was brought to his house on the narrow Pallivasal Street around 10 pm on Wednesday night after lying in state and left in the privacy of his family till Thursday morning. Thousands of mourners kept pouring through the night by various transport including buses, trains and boats to attend the last rites and many of them even slept on the roads during the night.
Shops, business establishments and hotels remained shut in the town and throughout Tamil Nadu as a mark of respect to the late leader, fondly called the People’s President. Police said tight security arrangements have been made in and around the town and Navy, Coast Guard and marine police personnel deployed in the sea.
The Tamil Nadu government has declared a public holiday on Thursday as a mark of respect to Kalam. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, however, could not attend the state funeral because of her illness.