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Lakhs pay last respects to Hazarika

Sushanta Talukdar
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Sea of humanity: The mortal remains of music legend Bhupen Hazarika being taken to his house in Guwahati on Monday. The cremation will take place on Tuesday on the Gauhati University campus. — PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR
Sea of humanity: The mortal remains of music legend Bhupen Hazarika being taken to his house in Guwahati on Monday. The cremation will take place on Tuesday on the Gauhati University campus. — PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR

The city roads turned into a sea of humanity as the body of music legend Bhupen Hazarika arrived here on Monday morning amidst lakhs of mourners singing his most popular number Manuhe Manhor Babe and chanting the slogan Bhupenda Amar Howk .

People lined up the entire 30-km stretch from the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi international airport to his Nizarapar residence and it took eight hours for the cortege to reach the house of the culture icon. Mourners, waiting since morning to have a glimpse of the legend, showered flower petals and sang his popular numbers to pledge their commitment to keep his music and ideals alive and pass them to the next generation.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Governor J.B. Patnaik received the body and offered ceremonial homage to the balladeer at the airport. The coffin was carried on top of a vehicle decorated with flowers and escorted by jawans of an Assam Police battalion and accompanied by his close relatives and long-time companion and filmmaker, Kalpana Lajmi.

Changing its plan in deference to the wishes of the people, the government decided to arrange the cremation on a huge plot of land offered by Gauhati University on its premises near the Jalukbari square, close to the Brahmaputra.

Earlier, the cremation was planned at the Sankardev Udyan in the Fancy Bazar locality but various organisations including the All-Assam Students Union expressed their reservations about this site. For, they wanted the cremation site converted into a centre of permanent activity to keep alive Hazarika's songs and ideals.

The university announced that its new academic building, whose construction is likely to be completed in 2-3 months, will be named after the music legend, who had composed GU's anthem JilikaboLuitorePaar in 1956.

Although the district administration initially allowed four stoppages for the cortege, the schedule went haywire as lakhs of people turned up and it had to stop at many locations to allow the mourners to pay floral tribute.

At his Nizarapar residence, the coffin was received by family members. After the coffin was opened and kept on the bed on which Hazarika used to take rest, his brothers and sisters and other close relatives sang prayer hymns and songs. The coffin was later shifted to the Judges' Field, where it will be kept till Tuesday afternoon in a fully air-conditioned tent for the people to pay their last respects.

Thousands are already standing in queue to have a glimpse of their most revered personality.

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