Thousands of people poured out on the streets of Rameswaram on Thursday morning as the body of the People’s President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was taken from his ancestral home to a mosque in the Tamil Nadu town where he was born.
Dr Kalam will be buried with full state honours at a public ground, Peikarumbu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Rameswaram to attend the funeral.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is also attending Dr Kalam’s funeral. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has sent word that she is unwell and cannot attend. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Parliamentary Affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu have been in Rameswaram, where Dr Kalam’s body was taken on Wednesday.
Since then many people have flocked to the town to pay their last respects. People have walked down the highway into Rameswaram, they have come in buses, trains and even boats. Many slept on the roads last night.
This morning, Dr Kalam’s body was carried by personnel of the three services in a casket covered with a traditional green shawl. Dr Kalam’s family, including his eldest sister 99-year-old Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraicker accompanied his body.
There were slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” as Dr Kalam’s body was taken in a carriage covered with flowers to the burial site.
People waved the national tri-colour as they waited in the jam-packed streets around Dr Kalam’s house to get a last glimpse of their hero. Many people stationed themselves on the terraces of buildings that line the roads.
Dr Kalam died on Monday in Shillong after a massive cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management. He was 83.
Known as the Missile Man of India, Dr Kalam played a pivotal role in the Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and India’s highest civilian honour – the Bharat Ratna — for his achievements.