RAMESWARAM: The air was filled with chants and slogans, all repeating the same two words – Jai Hind. As the body of former president APJ Abdul Kalam was brought to the designated ground near Pamban bridge at around 11 on Thursday morning, a sea of people from across the country stood there waiting, with those two words in their mouths and minds.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at 11.15 a.m. and placed a floral wreath to mark respect. He then met the late president's 99-year-old elder brother, Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraicker, and sought blessings from the elderly. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, Meghalaya governor V Shanmuganathan, defence minister Mohan Parrikar, Congress leaders including P Chidambaram and Ghulam Nabi Azad, the team of minister deputed by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, State Opposition Leader Vijayakant and scores of scores of leaders from around the country paid last respects in the morning.
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There was substantial crowd on the streets of this coastal town right from the morning, much more than the ground at Peikarumbu could accommodate. As the funeral procession inched forward from Kalam's home to the new home in that ground, people stood waiting on both sides of the road, on terraces and balconies, and on treetops to catch one last glimpse of their icon.
Even the three-rounds of shots fired to the air by the 14 jawans of the 'Guard of 112' were muted before the chants and slogans by thousands. After that, the Army personnel removed and neatly folded the national flag that was draped on the coffin as is custom, before handing over the body to the family members for final rites. Leaders from parties including BJP and Congress were part of the prayers that followed.
A little while later, the body of APJ Abdul Kalam, the technocrat-turned-popular leader from this coastal town who gave a human face to the otherwise aristocratic position of the Rashtrapati, was buried.
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