Lakhs of people paid last tributes to their beloved leader and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray here Sunday as his mortal remains were consigned to the flames. Thackeray’s son Uddhav lit the pyre at 6.17 p.m.
Uddhav’s cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj stood by him in support as Thackeray’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames.
Uddhav was an epitome of compassion and dignity as he lit the funeral pyre of his father. He had earlier broken down at the beginning of the funeral procession.
Amidst the chanting of holy mantras, while conducting the last rites, Uddhav led Raj by his hand, implying they be together during the sad moment, just as his father wished since the past few months.
However, only minutes before the funeral pyre was lit, Raj broke down, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
The public cremation of Thackeray is a first for Mumbai and he was cremated with full state honours, including a gun salute.
A sea of humanity poured out on all roads leading to Dadar’s Shivaji Park in central Mumbai where the funeral procession reached seven hours after it started from Matoshri, the Thackeray residence seven kms away.
Thackeray’s personal physician Jalil Parkar was present during his last rites all throughout. It was a rare honour for this Muslim doctor who had come to be an important fixture of the Thackeray family. Parkar has been the personal physician of the family since the last four years.
Many VVIPs including businessmen, politicians and members of the Hindi and Marathi films industries marked their presence to pay their final tribute to Thackeray. Senior leaders from all regional and national political parties were present to pay their last respects to the leader popularly known as The Tiger.
Security arrangements at levels never before seen were put in place since Saturday. According to conservative estimates by the Mumbai police, over 19 lakh people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park, bid adieu to Thackeray. Around two lakh people followed Thackeray’s funeral procession.
Thackeray’s papers sport black front pages
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s newspapers Saamna (in Marathi) and Dopahar Ka Saamna (in Hindi) were Sunday published with a full black cover jackets and full black cover pages.
Thackeray, who passed away Saturday afternoon, was the founder-editor of both the newspapers, though the day-to-day affairs were managed by hand-picked and trusted executive editors.
This is the first time in Saamna’s history -- since it was launched Jan 23, 1988 -- that its two main cover pages are printed in sheer black.
On the jacket cover is a large smiling picture of Bal Thackeray, a heading in large font -- “Aaple Saheb Gele” (Our Boss Departs) -- and a small poem in Marathi below it.
The inside main cover has a flier headline: “Ishwari Avtarache Swargarohan” (A divine avatar goes to heaven), accompanied by the day’s top story headlined: “Balasaheb navache vadal shaant zhale” (A storm cloud called Balasaheb is peaceful).
Dopahar Ka Saamna, which usually remained closed Sundays, brought out a special edition as a tribute to Thackeray, said executive editor Prem Shukla.
It also sports a full black cover with a silhouetted right side visage of Thackeray with the headline: “Hinduon Ke Mahadev Ka Mahaprayan”, and a small poem: “Jo uthe Ram/jo uthe Krishna/Bharat ki mitti roti hai/ Kya hua hamare Saheb ko/Yeh murti na zinda hoti hai.”
The remaining inside pages have thick black bands with the stories in a grey background, or other colours depending on the editorial and pictorial content.
Moreover, Thackeray’s name also appeared as ‘Editor’ in its regular place, as it has been since the launch of both the newspapers.
Mumbai remains shut
Mumbai wore a deserted look as taxis as autorickshaws and private vehicles remained off the roads and shops and other commercial establishments chose to down their shutters.
Even as people thronged to catch a glimpse of the Sena patriarch and pay homage to him, shops, restaurants, hotels, theatres, malls and other commercial establishments remained shut and private vehicles, taxis, autorickshaws remained off the roads.
Medical shops in the city as well as in neighbouring Thane were also closed. Citizens also found it difficult to get milk and vegetables.
“We did not get milk this morning and even the vegetable market is shut. I have never come across such silence in the city in my life ever,” said Rama Arolla (50), a housewife from BDD chawl in Worli area.
About 20,000 police personnel were keeping a strict vigil in the metropolis to maintain law and order. “No violence has been reported in the city so far,” a police officer said.
Except civic body’s BEST buses and suburban railways, no transport is available for the commuters.
While the entire state has been put on alert, in Mumbai alone, over 20,000 city police, 15 companies of the State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force were deployed.