Mumbai bids tearful farewell to Bal Thackeray
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was given a tearful farewell by lakhs of people in Mumbai on Sunday evening.
The mortal remains of Thackeray, a Hindutva mascot and flagbearer of Marathi pride, were consigned to flames as lakhs of mourners joined the Shiv Sena founder's grieving family with the city observing a virtual shutdown.
In a spontaneous outpouring of grief, a sea of humanity, unprecedented in recent memory, descended on the streets leading from "Matoshree", Thackeray's Bandra home, to Shivaji Park, to catch the last glimpse of the uncrowned king of Mumbai.
As several times in life, the Thackeray phenomenon was in evidence once again in death as he brought Mumbai to a halt with all marketplace, from the swanky malls to the tiny tea stalls and 'paan-beedi' kiosks, closed and all roads leading to "Matoshree", Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar and Shivaji Park, where his last rites were performed. Police estimated the largely disciplined crowd at around 19 lakh.
Loud roars of "Parat ya parat ya Balasaheb parat ya (Come back, come back, Balasaheb come back), Kon ala re, kon ala Shiv Senecha wagh ala (Who has come, who has come, Shiv Sena's tiger has come)" and "Balasaheb amar rahe" (long live Balasaheb) rent the air as an emotional Uddhav, the youngest son of the departed leader and Sena's executive president, lit the pyre.
In a reflection of the respect Thackeray commanded across the board, a galaxy of politicians, from allies to rivals, film stars to captains of industry were attendance.
A stream of eminent personalities from politics, films and corporate world reached the historic Shivaji Park ground to attend the last rites of Thackeray.
NCP chief and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, BJP leader L K Advani, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, megastar Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani arrived at the sprawling ground in Dadar, which is a few metres away from the Sena headquarters.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP leaders Maneka Gandhi and Shahnawaz Hussain, senior Congress leader Dr D Y Patil and Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Eknath Khadse too were present at the funeral venue.
Union Minister Praful Patel, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely, VHP leader Pravin Togadia, Congress leader Rajiv Shukla and Maharashtra PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal were also present.
The cortege of the Sena patriarch reached the Shivaji Park ground from Matoshree after six hours long journey with thousands of mourners walking along the roads.
- Asian Tribune -