Lakhs of people, including Shiv Sena supporters, thronged the funeral procession of party chief Bal Thackeray in Mumbai on 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 pay their last respects to Thackeray, who died at 86 on Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness.
The Shiv Sena members 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 9am.
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.
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 on 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.
Thackeray’s body being taken to Shivaji Park in central Mumbai for last rites, the city wore a deserted look as taxis as autorickshaws and private vehicles remained off the roads and shops and other commercial establishments chose to down their shutters.
Even as people thronged to catch a glimpse of the Sena patriarch and pay homage to him, shops, restaurants, hotels, theatres, malls and other commercial establishments remained shut and private vehicles, taxis, autorickshaws remained off the roads.
Medical shops in the city as well as in neighbouring Thane were also closed. Citizens also found it difficult to get milk and vegetables.
“We did not get milk this morning and even the vegetable market is shut. I have never come across such silence in the city in my life ever,” said Rama Arolla (50), a housewife from BDD chawl in Worli area.
About 20,000 police personnel are keeping a strict vigil in the metropolis to maintain law and order.
“No violence has been reported in the city so far,” a police officer said.
“Nobody has been asked to shut their shops or malls. Everybody closed their shops voluntarily. Autorickshaws and taxis also voluntarily stopped plying on the roads,” the officer added.
Except civic body’s BEST buses and suburban railways, no transport is available for the commuters.
“BEST and suburban railways are running additional buses and trains for people’s convenience,” a railway official said.
While the entire state has been put on alert, in Mumbai alone, over 20,000 city police, 15 companies of the State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force have been deployed.
“I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order. Citizens should step out of the houses only if it is urgent,” police commissioner Satyapal Singh said.
Appropriate arrangements have been made at the Shivaji Park, where VIPs are also expected to reach to pay homage, Singh added.