The body of CPI leader and former Punjab minister, Satya Pal Dang, was consigned to the flames, with state honours, at the Chheratta cremation ground on Sunday. As mandated in his will, no prayers were offered and no mantras were recited.
The funeral pyre was lit by Dang’s nephews, Anil Dang and Lalit Dang, along with Sandeep Kumar, whose family looked after him, until he breathed his last at a local hospital on Saturday.
Dang’s comrades gave him the customary red salute and chanted, ‘Dang, gariba da messiah, amar rahey, amar rahey’ (Long live the messiah of the poor and downtrodden).
As his body was placed on the pyre, cadres of the All India Students Federation (AISF) lowered their red and blue flags and a contingent of the Punjab police reversed arms and fired five shots in the air.
On behalf of the state government, ADC Jasbir laid a wreath, while SDM Manmohan Singh paid his respects on behalf of the district administration. ADCP BS Randhawa laid a wreath on behalf of the police.
Political leaders among mourners
Among the leaders present was former governor and union minister, RL Bhatia, closely associated with Dang during his student days in Lahore. Other Congress leaders present included vice-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and MLA, Dr Raj Kumar, former deputy speaker, professor Darbari Lal, former MLAs Harjinder Singh Thekedar and Jugal Kishore Sharma and former mayor, Sunil Datti.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Partap Singh Bajwa expressed deep sorrow at the death. "Punjab has lost a staunch supporter of secularism," he said.
Former MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa and local leader Gurjit Singh Aujla were also present.
The rank and file of the BJP’s district cadre led by its president Naresh Sharma were present.
BJP national vice-president, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, though not present at the funeral, visited Ekta Bhawan, the district office of the CPI, earlier in the day to pay her respects.
CPI leaders present included national secretary of the party, Amarjit Kaur, Punjab chief Bant Singh Brar, district president, Amarjit Singh Asal and former MLA Hardev Arshi. Trade union leaders and members of kisan organizations were also present.
The CPM was represented by district secretary Vijay Mishra. People’s Party of Punjab was represented by district president Manmohan Singh Gumtala.
Commoners throng to pay respect
Draped in a CPI flag, the body of Dang was kept at Ekta Bhawan till 2 pm. A large number of well-wishers, most from lower middle-class and poor families paid homage to a leader, who had worked tirelessly for them.
Many found it difficult to hold back tears as they recalled the days when ‘Dang Sahib’ helped them. The mourners were industrial workers and farm labourers and even victims of terrorism.
It was unfortunate that the rich and the affluent did not think it worth their while to have a last glimpse of one of the most respected figures of the city.
It was from Ekta Bhawan that the last journey commenced with the body placed on a flower-decked truck.
Akalis, ministers stay away
No minister of the SAD-BJP government attended the cremation. The two local ministers, Bikram Singh Majithia and Anil Joshi also stayed away. No representative from the urban unit of the party was present. Except the SAD, all political parties were represented.
Dang wanted that his eyes should be donated after death. Unfortunately, they had aged and this wish remained unfulfilled. However, as instructed, his ashes will be immersed in the Beas river, the one nearest to Amritsar. All his instructions in the will would thus be followed to the letter.