Kolkata bids tearful adieu to Basu

Red salute: Huge concourse of mourners pays tribute to Communist icon

Kolkata bids tearful adieu to Basu

A policeman escorts the body of Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu in front of Writers' Building (State Secretariat) during his last journey, in Kolkata on Tuesday. PTI

Besides Sonia, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former president H M Ershad were among the dignitaries who were present to mark Basu’s final journey.
Escorted by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Hasina came along with Ershad and a large group of cabinet ministers and other party leaders from her country to offer floral tributes to Basu, whose ancestral home is in Dhaka district. Wreaths were laid on behalf of President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Basu’s body displayed at the state assembly.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, placed a white wreath on the flower-bedecked body of the Communist stalwart, stood for a while and then left. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani were also present.

Meanwhile, a huge concourse of mourners on Tuesday filled the streets of Kolkata as the body of Basu was taken out of a funeral parlour for the last journey in a hearse bedecked with white flowers and red CPM flags. Led by a pilot car of the Kolkata Police, the hearse slowly made its way at around 8 am to the CPM party headquarters at Alimuddin Street, where the party flags flew half mast.

Touching scenes were witnessed as the hearse carrying Basu’s body, draped in the party’s red flag, reached the party headquarters. All members of the Politburo emerged with their fists clenched in traditional communist salutes. Lowered and placed on a platform, 97-year-old Samar Mukherjee, the senior-most member of the CPM in West Bengal, was the first to place a wreath. He was followed by Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, S R Pillai, M K Pandhe, Brinda Karat and then by central Committee members of the party.

The granddaughters of the Marxist patriarch–Koel, Doel and Payel–broke down as they garlanded their grandpa, who died at a private city hospital on January 17 after a protracted battle with life. “I have come all the way from Jalpaiguri in North Bengal to see my leader for the last time. I have loved and respected him for the past 40 years,” said 85-year-old Minati Mondal, breaking down.

As Basu’s body reached the West Bengal assembly building, passing through thronging crowds that poured in from different parts of the country, cries of “Long Live Jyoti Basu” rent the air.

Guard of honour

At Mohar Kunj, a public park in the heart of the city, Basu was accorded a guard of honour and a three-gun salute as part of the emotive funeral. After the bugle sounded the last post, the body was donated for medical science to the state-run SSKM Hospital. Four armymen draped Basu’s body in the Indian tricolour over the red party flag as part of according him full state honours. Basu becomes the first Communist leader in India to receive full state honours on his last journey.

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