In a spontaneous outpouring of grief, thousands of people bid an emotional farewell to former President APJ Abdul Kalam who was Thursday laid to rest with full state honours in his home town in Rameswaram amid chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
The body of Kalam was buried in the middle of a 1.5 acre piece of land earmarked for the purpose at Peikarumbu in Rameswaram after being brought from his family mosque where special prayers were offered.
The “People’s President” was accorded full military honours, including gun salute and playing of the Last Post as the members of his family and local Jamath lowered his mortal remains into a trench as slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” rent the air.
The funeral of the “Missile Man” was attended by a galaxy of leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who placed a wreath, offered his final salute and stood in silence in front of Kalam’s body that was draped in national flag. He also went around the casket with folded hands.
The Prime Minister later went up to Kalam’s eldest brother 99-year-old Mohammed Muthu Meeran Lebbai Maraicker, who was seated nearby, and offered his condolences.
Congres Vice-President Rahul Gandhi also paid his last respects to Kalam, who died of cardiac arrest in Shillong on 27th July.
Besides some foreign dignitaries, several leaders including Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, his cabinet colleague M Venkaiah Naidu and state Finance Minister O Panneerselvam were present.
Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad and Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh Siddaramaiah Oommen Chandy and Chandrababu Naidu and CPI-M veteran V S Achuthanandan were also among those who paid their homage.
The three services chief also paid their respects to their former Supreme Commander. Earlier, a large number of teary-eyed mourners swarmed the carriage carrying his mortal remains and briskly moved with it on the last journey of the 83-year old scientist.
Condolences poured in from the country and across the world, paying respects to the affable man who endeared himself to the masses with his simplicity.
Tight security, including deployment of Naval, Coast Guard and Marine police personnel in the sea around the town, was put in place in view of the convergence of several dignitaries.
A large number of mourners were seen perched on roof-tops and trees both near his house and the burial ground to catch a glimpse of the late leader, who rose from humble beginnings. Kalam had his initial schooling here.
Municipal authorities had laid a special approach road to the place of burial for facilitating movement of the carriage and VIPs.
Earlier, as part of the last rites for the departed soul, a ‘Namaz-e-Janaza’ was held in Rameswaram with the ‘Aalin’ or Chief Priest reading out prayers, which was later repeated at the burial site.
The country’s first bachelor President, Kalam had received several prestigious awards including Bharat Ratna, and played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons at Pokhran in 1998 when the Vajpayee government was in power.