Sunday, November 18, 2012
Historic Farewell To Balasaheb Thackeray! Unprecedented And Spontaneous!
Undoubtedly the biggest congregation ever in Mumbai and Maharashtra, and maybe one of the biggest funeral gatherings the world over. For me, an Assamese, it reminds me most emotionally and vibrantly of the unprecedented crowds that came out in the streets of Guwahati to pay last respects to their legendary singer-lyricist-writer-filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika. The reasons for the upsurge seem to be almost similar. Both of these personalities inspired their respective communities to feel pride in being themselves, to try overcoming the darkness of identity or existence and both of them came to their support whenever needed to sail them out of any crisis.
More than two million people came out in the streets of Mumbai today to give a loving respectful farewell to their most beloved leader. Politicians need to make special arrangements or even bribe their ‘supporters’ to come throng their public meetings. But for this spontaneous leader it had been a spontaneous upsurge right from last night to late evening today. The last journey scheduled to start at 7.30am got delayed by several hours due to the huge congregation at Matoshree in Bandra. It had been a three kilometer long procession heading for Shivaji Park in central Mumbai where another huge gathering waited for a darshan of their leader and to pay their last respects. Apart from the filled streets people crowded the house balconies, the terraces, the skywalks and every possible vantage points for a last view of the cult figure of Maharashtra.
The last rites of Bal Keshav Thackeray, fondly called Balasaheb, had been performed with full state honors at Shivaji Park around 6pm today. The funeral pyre was lit by his son Uddhav Thackeray helped by his close relatives and Shiv Sena leaders and workers. As the flames of the funeral pyre broke through the gathering dusk emotionally charged chants and slogans in praise of Balasaheb pierced the atmosphere. It was a never-before spectacle in Mumbai, and maybe never again.
The other parts of the normally bustling city remained deserted with all shops closed, no taxis or autos on the roads, all cinema houses canceling the screenings, all petrol pumps closed and hardly any traffic. Only the public city buses plied and in more numbers for helping people wanting to have a last view of their beloved leader. Many other parts in Maharashtra too observed spontaneous shutdowns.
Tomorrow is going to be another shutdown of shops and all businesses, schools and movie theaters in Mumbai as one more spontaneous demonstration of respect to the departed leader. Most importantly, the spectacular mass upsurge had been absolutely peaceful. The crowds behaved in an orderly and disciplined manner adhering to the rules set by the administration and police. Finally, hats off to Mumbai Police for managing an occasion of such huge proportions so efficiently, so dexterously and with utmost devotion to duty. All national and regional TV new channels covered the last journey live and with painstaking details. Journalists and reporters worked tirelessly for the last four days particularly since yesterday evening and kept on the whole day today literally with no food or even no water due to the total shutdown of the city.
You may love him or hate him, but Balasaheb Thackeray had all the ingredients of a true and dedicated leader. Whatever he did or spoke or thundered about had been straight from the heart and with conviction without being shrouded in hypocrisy and selfish goals or interests. His words and actions were grounded to reality, but the interpretations that followed endlessly created most of the controversies. Well, that is our reading, you many have yours. We salute him for his originality and motivated leadership.
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