Published On: Fri, Aug 17th, 2018

Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee cremated with full military honours

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away here at AIIMS on Thursday at age 93, was on Friday cremated with full military honours at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal, where people turned out in tens of thousands to pay their final tributes.

People from across the country, many of them teary-eyed, threw flower petals on the casket

Vajpayee’s foster-daughter Namita lit the funeral pyre amidst the chanting of vedic hymns and firing of a 21-gun salute by soldiers.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a galaxy of political leaders cutting across party lines and foreign dignitaries joined the rest of the nation in bidding adieu to the departed leader at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal, a designated spot for the last rites of Presidents, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers, on the banks of Yamuna river.

In keeping with the military honours, three service chiefs placed wreaths on the body of Vajpayee before leaders paid their floral tributes.

The tricolour that was wrapped around Vajpayee’s body was removed and given to his foster granddaughter Niharika after which the body was handed over to the family for last rites.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, veteran BJP leaders and Vajpayee’s long-time associates LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Congress President Rahul Gandhi were present at the funeral.

Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai led foreign dignitaries including Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Sri Lanka’s Acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in paying homage.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Anand Sharma, Lok Sabha Deputy Speker M Thambidurai, former Union Minister A Raja, MDMK chief Vaiko and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi were among who witnessed the performance of the last rites.

A few thousand people, some of whom chanted slogans hailing the late leader, thronged the Smriti Sthal as the last rites took place.

Earlier, brushing aside all security concerns, Prme Minister Modi walked on foot along with party chief Amit Shah from the BJP headquarters to the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal, covering a distance of over 6.5 km.

Tens of thousands of commoners joined Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah in the final journey to bid adieu to Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of Yamuna river for the last rites.

The journey began around 2 pm — an hour behind schedule — from the BJP’s new central office on the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg. Modi and Shah walked behind the flower-decked gun carriage carrying the body of Vajpayee draped in the tricolour as security personnel kept a tight watch.

People from across the country, many of them teary-eyed, threw flower petals on the casket all through the three-kilometer route as an expression of their love, respect and admiration for the late leader.

Slogans like “Atalji amar rahen”, Atalji ka naam rahega”, “Bharat Mata ki jai” and “Vande Mataram” rent the air as the procession progressed. Some people were carrying banners containing lines from poems written by Vajpayee.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was also in the procession and supporters accompanying him raised slogans of “Jai Shri Ram”. A number of BJP chief ministers including, Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana), Union Ministers and BJP leaders accompanied the funeral procession.

It passed through some populated areas of Delhi, including Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, on its way to Rashtriya Smriti Sthal, a designated spot for the last rites of Presidents, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers.

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