Bal Thackeray cremated; Uddhav, Raj perform final rites


Bal Thackeray has been cremated at Shivaji Park, where he launched the Shiv Sena 46 years ago at a massive rally on Dussehra. Nearly two lakh people, including several big names, gathered at the sprawling ground as Mr Thackeray was consigned to flames.

 



The Shiv Sena chief died on Saturday afternoon, after a prolonged illness at the age of 86.

A funeral procession that began at 9 am from his Bandra home ’Matoshree’ - Mr Thackeray’s body was carried in a hearse on a flower-bedecked truck - finally culminated at Shivaji Park a little before 5 pm. Lakhs of grieving Sena supporters from across Maharashtra walked all along the procession route which saw massive security - a three-tier security comprising the Mumbai Police in the first layer, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in the second and party volunteers making up the third. The body was taken to Mahim Causeway, then to Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar, to Meena Tai statue in Dadar and finally to Shivaji Park.

Mr Thackeray was given full state honours - a 21-gun salute - as a sea of supporters bid him farewell. Raj_Thackeray_crying_at_bal_funeral_295.jpgWhile son and successor Uddhav stood beside his father’s body, looking grim, nephew Raj was inconsolable. The latter, the chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief, had reportedly got down the truck earlier to walk the distance during the funeral procession. Uddhav’s wife Rashmi and son Aditya were also present during the cremation.

The Shiv Sena had earlier obtained permission to perform Mr Thackeray’s last rites at the park at 6 pm. This was the first funeral to be held at Shivaji Park; the ground had special significance for Bal Thackeray, who launched his political party here in 1966. It was the venue for many of his rallies over the years, including his last public address on Dussehra this year, when he spoke to the crowd through a recorded video message.

Among the notable names that were present at the famous ground for the funeral included Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, BJP veteran LK Advani, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, megastar Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani. BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Minister Praful Patel, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely, VHP leader Pravin Togadia were among other big names present at the venue. Bollywood actor Nana Patekar alongside actor-director Mahesh Manjrekar and Riteish Deshmukh were also present.

Many Bollywood stars, important politicians and industrialists had visited Mr Thackeray in great numbers over Wednesday and Thursday this week signalling that despite his divisive politics, Mr Thackeray commanded the attention of virtually every camp in the city.