21 Mar : Thousands of mourners on Sunday paid their last respect to five-time former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who was cremated here with full State honours at the banks of Bagmati river as per Hindu rituals.
In an unusual religious practice, the 85-year-old leader’s only daughter Sujata Koirala, seen as his political heir, lit the funeral pyre.
Nepalese army band played the national anthem.
Earlier, the body of Koirala, a close friend of India, arrived in a procession to Aryaghat, Pashupatinath area after passing through Sundhara, Ratnapark, Bag Bazar, Dilli Bazar, Maitidevi, Old Baneshwor, Battisputali and Gaushala.
A high-level Indian delegation, including Lok Sabha Speaker Mira Kumar, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, attended the funeral.
Besides, many other Indian political leaders including Sitaram Yechuri from CPI-M were also present.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Deputy Premier Bijaya Gachchhadar, ministers, Maoist chief Prachanda, leaders of various political parties, members of Parliament, diplomats and intellectuals were also present at the funeral.
The gathering was so much that police resorted to baton charge at Aryaghat to disperse the crowd and control the situation.
Many people shaved their head to mourn the death of their leader.
Earlier, the body of Koirala, who died on Saturday following a prolonged illness, was placed at Dasharath Stadium for the general public to have a final glimpse of the leader.
Mourners carrying floral garlands and placards showing images of the former prime minister waited for hours in scorching heat to pay their tributes outside the stadium.
The Nepali Congress extended the time for the funeral which was scheduled for around 2 pm.
The funeral procession, attended by nearly half a million people, was three-four km long and was led by Koirala’s daughter Sujata, party’s acting chairman Shushil Koirala, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and parliamentary party leader Ramchandra Poudyal.
People sprinkled water from the roof of houses from both sides of the road while the funeral procession was moving towards Pashupatinath Temple area for cremation.
Party cadres, sympathisers and students were carrying party flags and banners shouting slogans line ‘Girija Babu is dearer than our life’, ‘Long live our beloved leader Girija’ and ‘Peace and Constitution are two wishes of Girija babu.’
The government had declared official holiday today.
The veteran leader, who was the President of the Nepali Congress which is a key constituent of the ruling CPN-UML-led coalition was considered close to the Indian leadership across the political spectrum.
He was suffering from lung infection, respiratory problem, diarrhoea and had a low hemoglobin level.
The former Premier had played a pivotal role in the peace process, Nepal’s transition to democracy and bringing Maoists to the mainstream politics three years ago.
Koirala was instrumental in the signing of the 12-point agreement between the then Maoist rebels and seven political parties in November 2005 in New Delhi, which was aimed at toppling monarchy and restoring democracy in the country.
After this, Maoists joined the mainstream politics in 2006, ending the decade-long armed conflict that left 16,000 people dead.