Mumbai: Lakhs of people, including Shiv Sena supporters, thronged the funeral procession of party chief Bal Thackeray here Sunday. According to Mumbai Police, lakhs of people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park where the body will be kept and later cremated, had come out to to pay their last respects to Thackeray, who died at 86 Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness.
The Shiv Sainiks were pouring into Mumbai in their thousands from Maharashtra’s Thane, Raigad, Pune, Aurangabad and Konkan regions — the bastions of the right-wing party founded by Thackeray on June 19, 1966. Police said around two lakh people were travelling with the procession and many others were joining it from connecting roads with the sea of humanity stretching for several kilometres. People were also trying to catch a glimpse of the leader’s body from rooftops, hoardings, trees, water pipes and parapets.
As the procession reached a connecting road in Mahim, many Muslim women were seen silently weeping. At the Mahim Church, many church-going people were waiting to join the final journey of the leader whose political career spanned five decades. Wrapped in the tricolour, Thackeray’s body was brought out of his house a little after 9 a.m.
His son Uddhav broke down before the procession started. A glass box carrying the Sena patriarch’s body was then loaded onto a truck decked with flowers. Uddhav, wife Rashmi and son Aditya were on the truck with Thackeray’s nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj, wife Sharmila and their children. Raj later disembarked and walked behind the truck with the funeral procession, keeping a low profile and eyes firmly on the ground.
Thackeray’s cortege will first go to Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters in Dadar, and the body would later be kept at Shivaji Park for people to pay their last respects. However, the procession was moving extremely slowly with police trying to avoid a stampede. Over 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force had been deployed on the procession route, said a police officer. Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh even cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception Sunday.
After allowing thousands of Shiv Sainiks to pay their respects to Thackeray, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public ‘darshan’. All major roads and public places wore a deserted look, barring some security vehicles. Restaurants, shops and other establishments remained closed. Over a lakh autorickshaws and around 60,000 black and yellow taxis were also off the roads.