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Funeral to buck tradition

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a chopper crash on April 30, will be accorded a state funeral in Itanagar on Friday. Rahul Karmakar reports.

india Updated: May 05, 2011 23:02 IST
Rahul Karmakar

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a chopper crash on April 30, will be accorded a state funeral in Itanagar on Friday. The last rites would be a departure from the tradition his tribe – Monpa – adheres to.

The Monpa funeral entails chopping a body into 108 pieces – equal to the number of beads in a rosary for Buddhist prayers – and throwing them into the rivers for fish and other aquatic creatures to feed on. The belief is that a lifeless human body should be of utility to lesser beings.

“Khandu was against the traditional system and rooted for a shift to eco-friendly cremation,” said Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, former bureaucrat and litterateur. He is an authority on customs of northwestern Arunachal Pradesh.

The chief minister’s body was airlifted to Itanagar on Thursday afternoon, after it was recovered from Luguthang near Tawang district, where the chopper he was traveling in crashed. His body and those of the other four crash victims were first flown to Tawang, 60 km northeast of the crash site.

“The chief minister will be accorded state funeral here (Itanagar) on Friday. The mortal remains will also be taken to Tawang, his hometown. We are expecting the Prime Minister and other dignitaries from New Delhi,” said government spokesman Jarbom Gamlin.

The arrival of top AICC leaders on Friday is also expected to erase the suspense over who would be Khandu’s successors. Five names including former chief minister and Rajya Sabha MP Mukut Mithi, PCC president Nabam Tuki and Gamlin are doing the rounds.