Jayalalithaa passes away: Grieving Chennai, Tamil Nadu in lockdown; funeral next to MGR memorial

Police fanned out across the city and the road from Apollo to her house was ringed by security personnel preparing for her final journey back home.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: December 6, 2016 10:00 am
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J JAYALALITHAA, the iconic Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, who scorched a lonely, often controversial, road from cinema to an almost mythic political status among her followers, who mastered the art of the comeback despite setbacks electoral and legal, passed away tonight after a 75-day battle for her life.

She had suffered a massive cardiac arrest on Sunday evening at Apollo Hospitals where she was admitted on September 22 with fever and dehydration, shortly after a dramatic win in the Assembly elections.

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“It is with indescribable grief, we announce the sad demise of our esteemed Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Puratchi Thalaivi Amma at 11.30 pm today,” Apollo Hospitals said in a statement. After her cardiac arrest, she was administered resuscitation (CPR) and ECMO (extra corporeal membrane heart assist device) support within the hour. ECMO is the most advanced treatment currently available internationally. Every possible clinical attempt was made to sustain her revival. However, despite our best efforts, the Honourable Chief Minister’s underlying conditions rendered her unable to recover and she passed away at 11.30 pm today…Every member of the Apollo Hospitals family, the clinicians, the nursing and the paramedical staff, have strived hard to provide the highest standards of care…we have worked tirelessly, combining the might of the clinical and technological resources at our command with the spirit of healing and compassion that inspires us.”

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Arrangements were being made to take her body to her Poes Garden residence as a city, under police lockdown, broke in grief. A three-day mourning has been announced.

Sources said the body will be moved to Rajaji Hall around 6 am Tuesday. Her funeral is likely to be on Wednesday next to her mentor MGR’s memorial on Marina Beach.

Read | J Jayalalithaa (1948-2016): ‘I stand before you, having come to this point, swimming in the river of fire’

“Deeply saddened at the passing away of Jayalalithaa; her demise has left a huge void in Indian politics,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “I will always cherish the innumerable occasions when I had the opportunity to interact with Jayalalithaa ji. May her soul rest in peace.” President Pranab Mukherjee said: “As Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms Jayalalithaa introduced a number of pro-poor schemes in various fields, including education, food security, provision of safe drinking water, the girl child etc. Her life was dedicated to the socio-economic transformation of Tamil Nadu and its people.In her passing away, the nation has lost an icon who was loved and admired by millions. Her contribution to the progress and development of Tamil Nadu will be long remembered.”

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Right through the day, Tamil Nadu was on edge, waiting with anguished breath for word on her health status. Late in the afternoon, around 5.30 pm, emotions ran high across the state and confusion prevailed after Jaya TV, broadcaster of the ruling AIADMK, and some Tamil networks reported that the Chief Minister had passed away.

Read | J Jayalalithaa: The Amma and the daughter

As people wept, police fought back crowds surging towards the hospital. The AIADMK flag at the party headquarters in Royapettah was immediately lowered to half-mast. But the flag was later raised to full-mast after Apollo Hospitals said that she was still alive, her condition critical.

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“Despite our best efforts, our beloved CM remains in a grave situation. Our team of expert doctors continue to closely monitor and treat the Honourable Chief Minister. However, her condition remains critical. A large team of doctors from Apollo and AIIMS continue to provide all life saving measures,” the hospital said in a series of tweets.

Hours later, though, police fanned out across the city and the road from Apollo to her house was ringed by security personnel preparing for her final journey back home.

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