Hundreds of thousands of grieving Amma supporters Tuesday thronged Marina Beach, the final resting place of ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Selvi J Jayalalithaa’ to catch one last glimpse of their beloved leader. Her body was shifted from Rajaji Hall, where it was kept for the public to pay their last respects, to an Army truck decked with over two tonne of flowers, and made its way to the MGR Memorial. AIADMK workers, supporters, Chennai residents lined up along the route to the burial ground as her funeral procession slowly inched towards her final resting place.
WATCH | J Jayalalithaa’s Life Journey
There was heavy police presence in the area, with helicopters circling overhead. Draped in her favourite green saree, Jayalalithaa’s body was moved to a casket made of sandalwood, engraved with the words Puratchi Thalaivi Selvi (Revolutionary Leader) in Tamil. The last rites were performed by her long-time confidant and aide Sasikala. Her body was lowered into the ground, next to where MGR was buried, after receiving full state honours.
Chennai was under lockdown overnight as police and the administration made arrangements at Rajaji Hall for the body to be kept there for public view before taking it to the Marina Beach. It was at this hall in December 1987 when Jayalalithaa stood for over 12 hours next to the body of MGR.
Over 15,000 police personnel were deployed across the city and state transport buses were ordered off the roads, fearing that they would be targeted by mourners. But the weeping multitude that surged towards Rajaji Hall at the crack of dawn had time only for a last glimpse of their leader who enjoyed cult status as Amma.
In the day, there was ruckus outside Poes Garden, Jayalalithaa’s residence, as police personnel struggled to control the crowds. As soon as news broke of her passing away, supporters from across the state descended on Poes Garden. The crowds swelled in great numbers as the day passed, with politicians cutting across party lines reaching the venue to pay their respects. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at Chennai airport in the afternoon and immediately left for Jayalalithaa’s residence. He paid floral tributes to Amma and was seen consoling Sasikala and the newly sworn in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, O Panneerselvam, who broke down crying.
The moment the prime minister left the venue, supporters upturned police barricades and pushed towards Rajaji Hall. They broke the security cordon surrounding the VVIP area and a few politicians even made room for her supporters. President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah were among the leaders who paid rich tributes to Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa breathed her last at 11.30 pm on Monday, Apollo Hospitals said in a press release. She was admitted to the Chennai hospital on September 22, after she complained of dehydration and fever. Jayalalithaa was put under specialist care during her 75-day stay. Doctors from AIIMS Delhi were also flown in Monday after she suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite their best efforts, she passed away at 68.
Initially, there was confusion surrounding her death as Apollo Hospitals rubbished media reports of her passing away. Several Tamil channels began flashing the news of her death around evening, and it was soon picked by the national media. The AIADMK flag at the party headquarters in Royapettah was also seen flying at half mast. With no official announcement coming, a minor scuffle broke out between police and AIADMK supporters. Apollo Hospitals said that Jayalalithaa was continuing to receive specialist care and that she was on life support. They said the media reports were “baseless and false”.
Jayalalithaa leaves behind a legacy of introducing several socio-economic reforms aimed at alleviating the sufferings of the poor in Tamil Nadu. Born in a Brahmin family, she championed the cause of minorities. She launched several schemes that made medical care and essential commodities affordable.