Politicians Pay Their Last Respects To APJ Abdul Kalam

28/07/2015 3:54 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
PRAKASH SINGH via Getty Images
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects at the body of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam at Palam Airforce Station in New Delhi on July 28, 2915, after its arrival from Guwahati. India's former president and top scientist A. P. J. Kalam, who played a lead role in the country's nuclear weapons tests, died July 28, a hospital official said. He was 83. Kalam collapsed during a lecture at a management institute in the northeastern Indian city of Shillong, and was declared dead on arrival by doctors at Bethany hospital. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Political leaders cutting across party lines fondly remembered former President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were among a host of dignitaries who paid their last respects to the eminent scientist and teacher who passed away on Monday.

Kalam's body was brought to Delhi this afternoon in a casket that will be kept at 10 Rajaji Marg, which was his residence for the last seven years.

Speaking at a condolence meeting of the BJP parliamentary party, Modi described Kalam as an "ordinary man with an extraordinary personality" who gave the best to every position he held.

"A rare sparkling gem has disappeared.... He sold newspapers in childhood and today newspapers across the world are full of reports about him. He was a rare gem with diverse talents. The beloved son of Mother India is no longer among us. We have lost a lot," the PM said in his solemn address.

"Kalam believed in removing poverty and transforming religion into spirituality among solutions to solving the world's problems," he added.

Modi said Kalam always called himself a teacher irrespective of the high positions he held and began teaching immediately after he demitted the President's office and breathed his last in Shillong among students.

Talking about the former President's roots in Tamil Nadu, the Prime Minister said language at times works as a barrier but it was the speciality of Kalam's character that no one felt it when they were with him.

"It was because not his words but his personality that spoke. He was an ordinary man but had an extraordinary personality. It is a rare combination. He reached different destinations in life, gave them the best and moved on. It is very easy to say I am a teacher. (But) He said it when he became the President and said so when he was a top scientist and was awarded the Bharat Ratna.

"He started teaching in a college in south India the day after he demitted the office of President. The very next day with the same smile on his face," Modi said at the meet, recalling Kalam's dedication to teaching and his death at IIM Shillong while giving a lecture.

"May his life continue to inspire us and the new generations," he said.

Ministers and other dignitaries have gathered at this residence to pay their last respect.

School children lined up outside his residence when the casket was being brought in. Kalam's mortal remains were brought to Delhi from Shillong, where he died last night.

Dignitaries placed wreaths on the body that was wrapped in a tri-colour and placed on a deck on the tarmac after it was brought down from a special IAF aircraft that ferried it from Guwahati.

Preparations have been made at the bungalow in the heart of Delhi for people to pay tributes for a few hours this afternoon.

Kalam's funeral will be held tomorrow in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, where he was born. The former President is survived by his older brother Mohd Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraicker, who is 99.

Earlier the body of Kalam, who collapsed during a lecture and died of cardiac arrest, was taken from Shillong in an Air Force helicopter to Guwahati, where Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi paid his respects.

The President and other dignitaries stood in silence as a guard of honour was given before the former President's body was taken in a flower-bedecked gun carriage to his residence at 10 Rajaji Marg, where it will lie in state for people to pay homage from 3 pm onwards.

The gun carriage was taken in a procession from the airport to Kalam's residence, a distance of about 12 km.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, three service chiefs and the Marshal of the Indian Air Force 96-year-old Arjan Singh were among the dignitaries, who paid their last respects to Kalam.

READ: Kalam Was Worried About The Well Being Of A Young Security Guard

WATCH: Modi's tribute to Kalam here:

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