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 to pay their last respects to Thackeray, who died at 86 Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness.
The Shiv Sainiks 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.
Among those who have reached Shivaji Park, where the final rites of Bal Thackeray will be performed later in the evening, are Union Minister Sharad Pawar, Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, BJP President Nitin Gadkari, senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader Prakash Javdekar, BJP Mahila Morcha Chief Smriti Irani, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussein, Congress leader Rajeev Shukla, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani, BJP MP Maneka Gandhi, NCP leader Chaggan Bhujbal, film maker Madhur Bhandarkar.
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.Lakhs of people converged here since early Sunday as Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s final journey started from his residence Matoshri in suburban Bandra.
Wrapped in the tricolour, Thackeray’s body was brought out of his house a little after 9 a.m. His son, Uddhav, broke down just before the funeral procession started. A glass box carrying the 86-year-old Sena patriarch’s body was then loaded onto a flower bedecked truck.
Uddhav, his wife Rashmi and son Aditya were on the same truck, along with Thackeray’s nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj, his wife Sharmila and their children.
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.
The funeral procession that started from Bandra will end at Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai. Over a lakh people joined in at various connecting roads that lead to the venue where his body is to be kept till Sunday evening.
Over 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed on the procession route alone.Thackeray’s mortal remains will be consigned to flames on a specially-erected public platform at the historic Shivaji Park, south-central Mumbai, Sunday evening, marking the first time a public cremation has occurred in Mumbai since independence.
Supercop and ex-Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Rebeiro (also a former ambassador) said there had been no instance of a public cremation in Mumbai, at least since Independence.
“All big and small funerals have been performed only at the designated funeral sites. This is something new for Mumbai,” Rebeiro told IANS Sunday.
An official of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who declined to be identified, said that special arrangements were made for the first-ever public cremation in the city at Shivaji Park in view of the massive crowds expected to attend.
A home department official said that in view of the huge crowds likely to turn up for the sad event, it was decided to permit a public cremation at Thackeray’s favourite spot, Shivaji Park, which he always referred to as ‘Shiv Tirth’ (Shiv pilgrim centre).
According to Mumbai police estimates, around 1.50 million people are expected to take part in the cremation Sunday. Starting with a funeral procession from Bandra east, there will be several thousands of viewers lining the streets to witness the procession; around half a million are expected to gather around Shivaji Park.
This will make Thackeray’s funeral one of the biggest public events in recent history; massive security arrangements are in place to ensure discipline.
Incidentally, last August, former union minister and ex-Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was accorded a similar public cremation in his tome town of Latur.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh has cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception party Sunday as a mark of respect to the leader.
After allowing several thousands of Shiv Sainiks from all over the state to pay their last respects, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public ‘darshan’ for over 200,000 people who are expected to turn up.
All major roads and public places wore a deserted look, barring the odd security vehicles, some Shiv Sena activists moving around or a few delayed office-goers scampering home.