Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying last respect to former President APJ Abdul Kalam (83) who was laid to rest on Thursday with full state honours in his home town Rameswaram in south Tamil Nadu.
The mortal remains of Kalam were buried in the middle of a 1.5 acre piece of land at Thankachi Madam on Madurai-Rameswaram national highway after being brought from his family mosque in a gun carrier accompanied by members of three forces.
The "People's President" was accorded full military honours including gun salutes and playing of the Last Post as the members of his family and local Jamath lowered his mortal remains into a burial trench. High-decibel slogans of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai and ‘Vande Mataram’ rented the air and many of the assembled find it difficult to control their tears. “You lived your life for us, but we don’t have anything to return other than tears,” read a touching poster near the burial ground.
Watch |"People's President" APJ Abdul Kalam laid to rest in Rameswaram
The police had a tough time in controlling the grieving crowd and they often resorted to mild baton charge. In view of Yakoob Memon’s hanging in Nagpur police were on high alert. More than one lakh people assembled at the burial ground. To control the milling crowd the police had to close the Pambhan Bridge, the only road connecting the island, also a temple town.
Besides the PM, many CMs, governors and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also attended the function. The Prime Minister, offered his final salute and later touched the feet of his eldest brother 99-year-old Mohammed Muthu Labha Maraicker who was seated nearby.
Defence minister Manohar Parikkar and Parliament affiars minister Venkaiha Naidu were camping in the area since Wednesday. The three services chief also paid their respects to their former Supreme Commander. Tamil Nadu government has declared a public holiday on Thursday.
Kalam passed away on Monday in Shillong after suffering a massive cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture to students at the Indian Institute of Management. His death witnessed a huge outpouring of grief across the nation. In Delhi, thousands waited for hours to pay their last respects to him. Long queues were also witnessed in Rameswaram, where his body was brought on Wednesday.
His ancestral home, House of Kalam, was besieged by milling crowds on Wednesday, prompting great-grandson APJ Shiekh Salim to plead with television crews to respect the family’s privacy. “My shocked great-grandfather is not in good health,” he said.
Dr Kalam played a pivotal role in the Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and India's highest civilian honour - the Bharat Ratna -- for his achievements.
Penning his tribute to him in his blog, PM Modi wrote, "Bharat has lost a Ratna". "Our scientist-President - and one who was genuinely loved and admired across the masses - never measured success by material possessions," he said.