MADURAI: Various dignitaries including the Governor's of Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya, Union Ministers Manohar Parrikar, Venkaiah Naidu and other senior political leaders paid homage to the mortal remains of former President APJ Abdul Kalam at the Madurai Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
The Indian Airforce aircraft carrying the remains of Dr Kalam landed at the Madurai airport at 12:30 PM. The casket carrying the body was received by the armed forces as per the protocol and performed 'Shok Shastra', the last respects paid to a leader by the armed forces.
After this, the dignitaries paid their respects by placing floral wreaths on the coffin. The dignitaries included Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah, Meghalaya Governor V Shanmuganathan, Union Ministers Manohar Parrikar, Venkaiah Naidu, Pon Radhakrishnan and BJP MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Dignitaries from Madurai including Tamil Nadu minister for Cooperation Selllur K Raju, Madurai Mayor VV Rajan Chellappa and the top brass from the Madurai district administration and police also paid their respects.
As students were the favorites for Dr Kalam, around 150 NCC Army and Navy cadets from the battalions in Madurai also participated in the ceremony and paid their respects. "Though we are sad because of his demise, we consider attending this ceremony as a honor. There are thousands of students in Madurai. We are really fortunate to get this opportunity to pay our homage to the leader who inspired us," said SG Divya Bharathi, a student from Thiagarajar College.
After the ceremony was over, the mortal remains of Dr Kalam was carried in a helicopter to Rameshwaram at around 1:30 PM, where his burial is planned for Thursday. Another helicopter carried the VIPs to Rameshwaram.
As no one was allowed inside the airport except the VIPs, hundreds of people thronged near the boundary walls in various sections of the airport to get a glimpse of the ceremony. Many youngsters, including college girls were seen climbing the trees near the boundary walls to see the function.
Around 30 youngsters from Madurai City who had come with the hope of paying their respects to Dr Kalam demanded that the Madurai Airport be named after Dr Kalam. "So many organizations are demanding that the airport be named after their leaders. But no one can be as uniting and deserving as Dr Kalam," said M Abdullah one of the youths.
Earlier leaders from various political parties, including DMDK chief Vijayakanth, CPI (M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan, BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan and TN state congress committee president EVKS Elangovan, also visited Madurai Airport to pay their respects.
Speaking to media, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that Kalam wanted development in education, hygiene and rural sectors and the present BJP government at the centre will work towards his vision.
Tamilisai Soundararajan said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will carry forward the mission of Dr Kalam to make India a developed country.
Showering praise at Dr Kalam's achievements, Elangovan said that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is likely to attend the funeral ceremony of Dr Kalam at Rameshwaram on Thursday.