People’s President Kalam laid to rest

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Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu): Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was laid to rest on Thursday here with full military honors in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders.

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The People’s President’s body, draped in the Indian tricolor was brought to the burial site at Pei Karumbu in a flower-bedecked gun carriage, escorted by columns of the three armed services.

A gun salute was accorded to the former supreme commander of the armed forces and a military band played the haunting Last Post.

Modi, who arrived here on Thursday morning, paid his last respects to the country’s youth icon and most popular president by laying a wreath.

Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah, union Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu, Manohar Parrikar and Pon Radhakrishnan, Tamil Nadu ministers like O.Panneerselvam, Natham R. Viswanathan and others also paid their last respects to Kalam.

Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy were also present, as was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders also paid their last respects to Kalam – also known as India’s Missile Man.

Earlier the mortal remains of Kalam were taken to the family mosque for prayers.

His family members also reached here.

“All our relatives have also arrived to attend the last rites,” A.P.J.M.K. Sheik Saleem, the former president’s brother’s grandson, said.

The Tamil Nadu government declared a public holiday on Thursday under the Negotiable Instruments Act. Banks, insurance companies, schools and colleges are closed throughout the state.

The government has also ordered closure of liquor shops and bars throughout the state.

Around 30,000 jewelry shops would also remain closed, while petrol bunks stopped sales for an hour between 10-11 a.m. as a mark of respect for Kalam.

Movie-theater owners too have decided to shut down for the day while fishermen have decided not to venture into the sea.

Political parties like the DMK and the AIADMK have cancelled their functions.

Interestingly, the decision of private sector organisations to voluntarily shut shows that Kalam was truly a People’s President.

Born in Rameswaram on October 15, 1931, Kalam, as a boy, hawked newspapers to supplement his family’s income. His father owned a boat and his mother constantly struggled to keep the family sufficiently fed and clothed.

His sister pawned jewellery with a moneylender so that the studious Kalam could carry Rs.600 when he left Rameswaram to join the Madras Institute of Technology.