President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among a host of dignitaries who paid tribute to former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s body after it was carried in a special flight from Guwahati to Delhi on Tuesday.
Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October and was the head of state during 2002-07, died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest at the IIM-Shillong on Monday evening.
After being airlifted from Shillong to Guwahati in an air force helicopter, the body was flown to Delhi in a special military flight.
The C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying Kalam’s body touched down at Palam airbase in Delhi at 12.15pm. Wreaths were placed on the body on behalf of the three services, Delhi Police, Delhi chief minister, Prime Minister and President.
Both Mukherjee and Modi stood in silence before the body, wrapped in the tricolour, as a mark of respect and a tri-services contingent presented a guard of honour.
Vice president Hamid Ansari, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and the three service chiefs too paid tribute to Kalam at the airport.
The body will be kept at Kalam’s official residence at 10 Rajaji Marg so that people can pay homage to the “Missile Man” from 4pm. Officials said VIPs would pay their tributes between 1pm and 3pm.
The casket containing the body was taken from Palam to Kalam’s residence in a gun carriage.
Kalam’s funeral will be held at his hometown of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.
The Union cabinet will hold a special meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday to condole Kalam’s death. The government has announced seven days of state morning in honour of the man who became affectionately known as the “people's President”.
At the Guwahati airport, several leaders, including Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, senior officials of the army and air force and representatives of many organisations paid tribute to Kalam, whose death plunged the nation into overwhelming grief.
Chief minister Gogoi said: “With his death, the country has lost a great scientist who ignited young minds to make India vibrant and resilient.”
Recalling Kalam’s love for the northeastern region, Gogoi said: “I had the opportunity of meeting the former President several times and we travelled even to rural areas. I was his great admirer and he was deeply enamoured by the rich heritage and culture of Assam.”
Kalam was confirmed dead more than two hours after he was wheeled into the intensive care unit of Bethany Hospital following his collapse at 6.45pm.
The body was then shifted to the Military Hospital in Shillong.
Watch: PM Modi, President Mukherjee pay tribute to APJ Abdul Kalam at Delhi airport