Former President Pranab Mukherjee was cremated with full state honours Tuesday at New Delhi’s Lodhi Road crematorium even as his family and relatives paid their last respects clad in PPE kits in conformity with Covid-19 safeguards. His son Abhijit Mukherjee performed his last rites.
Earlier in the day, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chiefs of the three defence services and politicians cutting across party lines paid their last respects to the former president at his residence.
Mukherjee passed away on Monday evening at the age of 84 after his condition declined earlier in the day and he suffered a septic shock due to his lung infection, the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital said. For the past two weeks, Mukherjee was in a deep coma and on ventilator support after he was was admitted to the hospital on August 10 and was operated the same day for removal of a clot in his brain. He also contracted Covid-19 at the time of admission to the hospital.
In the morning, Mukherjee’s body was kept at his 10 Rajaji Marg residence in the national capital for the people to pay their last respects to the former president. In adherence to Covid-19 protocols, those who arrived to catch a glimpse of Mukherjee for one last time and to pay their tribute wore masks and face shields and maintained six-feet distance. The staff at his residence also wore face shields while managing the crowd.
Staff members wearing PPE kits carried the late leader’s body to the crematorium in a hearse van instead of a normal gun carriage. His last rites were performed at 2 pm.
Besides the PM and President, others who showed up at Mukherjee’s residence to pay their last respects were former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BJP chief J P Nadda, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and CPI’s D Raja, among others.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh also visited the late president’s home to condole his death.
India is observing a seven day long mourning period for Pranab Mukherjee.
World leaders pay tribute to Pranab Mukherjee
World leaders also condoled the death of the former leader, calling him a “distinguished statesmen” and “true friend”.
Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed sorrow over the demise of the former president, describing him as a “true friend” and recalling his “outstanding and unforgettable” contributions to the country’s 1971 Liberation War. “His demise has caused an irreparable loss to the political arena of the sub-continent,” Hamid said.
Hasina called Mukherjee a guardian-like figure to her family. “The news of Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s demise deeply saddened her . . . she became emotional and nostalgic as she reminisced her many memories with him,” state-run BSS reported quoting the premier’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim.
Bangladesh government also declared a one-day national mourning on Wednesday, September 2, in his memory.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden Tuesday paid tributes to Mukherjee, describing him as among India’s “most distinguished statesmen and scholars”. He said, “President Shri Pranab Mukherjee was a devout public servant who believed deeply in the importance of our two nations tackling global challenges together. Jill and I are saddened to hear of his passing – our prayers go out to his loved ones and the Indian people.”
“He’ll go down in history among India’s most distinguished statesmen and scholars, and his many visits to Washington, everything he did for the relationship, played an instrumental role in expanding this US-India relationship, both in defence and external affairs when he was the minister,” Biden added, speaking at the virtual India-US Leadership Summit organised by the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF).
President Shri Pranab Mukherjee was a devout public servant who believed deeply in the importance of our two nations tackling global challenges together. Jill and I are saddened to hear of his passing — our prayers go out to his loved ones and the Indian people. pic.twitter.com/SJfaDEKjGi
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 1, 2020
China also paid rich tributes to Mukherjee, saying he was a veteran statesman and his death was a huge loss for India-China friendship. In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “Former President Mukherjee was a veteran statesman of India. In his 50 years in politics, he made positive contributions to China-India relations.”
“It is a heavy loss for China-India friendship and to India. We express deep condolences over his passing and extend sincere sympathies to the Indian government and his family,” Hua said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines