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Solemn Farewell To Jyoti Basu

PTI 19 Jan 2010, 20:33:04 IST

A sea of humanity on Tuesday  bade a solemn farewell to the legendary Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, who was given a state funeral with military honours after leaders across the  political spectrum paid homage to one of the tallest leaders of the Communist movement in India.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and that country's former President H M Ershad, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Union Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, senior BJP leader L K Advani, his party President Nitin Gadkari, and RJD chief Lalu Prasad were among the mourners, who paid their respects to the late leader as the body was taken to the state Assembly earlier in the day. 

Men of the Kolkata Armed Police provided a 21-gun salute after army buglers sounded the last post in military honours as a mark of respect to the man who, served West Bengal as Chief Minister for 23 long years and who nearly became Prime Minister in 1996. 

Chief Ministers Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, V S Achutanandan and Manik Sarkar, CPI(M) General Seceratary Prakash Karat and other party leaders Biman Bose, Sitaram Yechury, CPI Leaders Gurudas Dasgupta, D Raja and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda were among those present at Mohor Kunj, a private park where the military honours were done.

In accordance with the wishes of Basu, who died last Sunday, his body was donated for medical research and handed over to the state-run SSKM Hospital authorities. There were no no religious ceremonies for Basu a non-believer. 

Six pall bearers drawn from the three wings of the Defence forces took the body of CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu from the assembly premises, where it was lying in state, to a gun carriage for the last journey to Mohur Kunj on Tuesday . 

The pall-bearers carried the body, draped in the national tri-colour, to the gun carriage at the north gate. The body was placed on the gun-carriage draped with a red cloth and as it began moving soldiers with reversed arms marched beside it to the roll of drums. CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose, state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Kolkata Mayor Bikash Bhattacharya led lakhs of mourners who followed the gun carriage.

Later the army handed over the body, draped in national tricolour, to Basu's son Chandan for being given to the hospital. Workers of the Left parties  gathered at the ceremony sang the  communist movement song and shouted "Comrade Basu Amar Rahe" and "Comrade Basu Lal Salam"  as men of the Kolkata Armed Reserve reversed their arms at  Mohor Kunj, the Citizens' Park. 

Basu earned the rare distinction of receiving state and military honours as a former chief minister of West Bengal.  Left Front chairman Biman Bose said Basu had donated his body for medical research.

On the last leg of the last journey, the body of the CPI(M) patriarch was taken to the Mohur Kunj on a gun-carriage from the Assembly, where it lay in state for five hours from around 10:00 am.

It took over half an hour to reach the West Bengal CPI(M) headquarters in Alimuddin Street as crowds swelled on roads leading to it in spite of the morning chill. When the hearse, decorated with white flowers and red party flags, reached the party office  senior CPI(M) leaders greeted it with clenched fist salutes.

The Chief Minister, Karat, his wife and Polit Bureau member Brinda, Yechuri, the LF chairman and other  senior leaders stood beside the body lying beneath a huge red hoarding reading 'Lal Selam Jyoti Basu' and gave the clenched fist salute together.

Basu's body was dressed in a beige kurta with a waistcoat of a slightly deeper shade as he had worn in life and also his spectacles. 

People filed past the body pausing a moment to give the clenched fist salute, while a few folded their hands in namaskar. Some offered flowers, some garlands while some placed wreaths on the body.  Outside, the A J C Bose Road had turned into a sea of heads. 

A stampede broke out when mourners surged into the assembly after the main gate was opened fully for a brief period just before the final preparations for handing over the body to the military pall bearers began. A number of people fell ill during the stampede. 

 A short while later six pall-bearers drawn from the three wings of the Defence forces took the body to a gun carriage for the more than 10 km-long last journey to Mohur Kunj. 

The pall-bearers carried the body, draped in the national tri-colour to the gun-carriage and as it began moving soldiers with reversed arms marched beside it to the roll of drums.

Throngs of people lined up on either of the road when the gun carried pulled by a military truck made its slow movement to its destination.  Thousands of people also followed the gun carriage. PTI