MUMBAI: India’s financial and entertainment capital came to a halt as a sea of humanity poured on to the streets to pay last respects to Shiv Sena supremo Balasheb Thackeray who was cremated at Shivaji Park here on Sunday.
In a rare honour for someone who never held any official position, Thackeray was give a state funeral with a contingent of Mumbai Police giving a gun salute and buglers sounding the last post.
What is even rarer, it was the first public cremation in Mumbai since independence. The last time Mumbai witnessed a public funeral was in 1920 when Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was cremated here.
A special permission was given to the Shiv Sena to cremate their boss on a specially-erected public platform at Shivaji Park.
Old timers said that the last time Mumbai saw such big crowds was at the cremation of B.R. Ambedkar – the father of the Indian constitution – at Dadar Chowpatty in 1956.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners were joined by top political, Bollywood and industrial personalities in paying respects to the man – who became the symbol of Marathi and Hindutva pride – before his mortal remains were consigned to flames in Shivaji Park.
Mumbai came to a halt as all roads leading to the late leader’s residence of `Matoshree’ in Bandra, Shivaji Park and Shiv Sena Bhavan were closed.
Among politicians who came to pay last respects to Thackeray included cabinet minister and Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, Union minister Praful Patel, Chhagan Bhujbal, L.K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Madhya chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and Rajiv Shukla.
The industrialists included Anil Ambani, Venugopal Dhoot and Subhash Chandra of Zee TV. Prominent faces from Bollywood included Amitabh Bachchan, Nana Patekar and Madhur Bhandarkar.
The mourners shouted `Parat ya parat ya Balasaheb parat ya (Come back, come back, Balasaheb come back) as the late leader’s youngest son Uddhav Thackeray lit the pyre.
Earlier, wreathes were placed on the late leader’s body by Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.