Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Jyoti Basu was given a state funeral with military honours here on Tuesday after leaders from across the political spectrum paid homage to one of the tallest leaders of the Communist movement in India.
Tearful crowds gathered at each of the four stations that the procession touched: the CPI(M) party office at Alimuddin Street, Writers’ Building where the Secretariat is situated, the Legislative Assembly and Mohur Kunj, the citizen’s park. The administration and party seniors and volunteers had to strain to maintain the dignity and solemnity of the occasion amid the surge of emotion, without disappointing the followers who had come from near and far.
Party general secretary Prakash Karat, and Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat paid their respects, along with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Left Front Committee chairman Biman Bose at the party office where Jyoti Basu had come as recently as in 2009. The body was brought there in the morning from the funeral parlour where it was at rest since January 17 when the patriarch passed away.
The body was then taken to the Secretariat from where Jyoti Basu had run the government for 23 years. After a brief halt there the procession reached the Legislative Assembly of which he was a member from 1946 to 2001. What would normally have been a five-minute drive took nearly half an hour.
At the Assembly, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were among the dignitaries who offered their homage to the leader who lay in state, draped in the national tricolour which was placed on his body by members of the armed forces. Party followers as well as other citizens filled the sprawling complex. Many of them offered floral tributes and chanted Jyoti Basu Amar Rahe.
After around five hours, the gates had to be closed to allow the cortege to proceed on its last lap to Mohur Kunj. A team of the armed forces then took charge. A guard of honour was offered and guns fired by the Kolkata Police boomed in salute in a sombre ceremony that left many eyes moist.
Mr. Bose then handed over Jyoti Basu’s body as per his wish to the authorities of the SSKM Hospital. His eyes had already been donated.