During deliberations on Bal Thackeray’s funeral, it was late on Saturday night that the state government decided to award the Shiv Sena supremo with a full state honour.
The decision was taken after the protocol department received chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s approval. Prior to that, it was after a long meeting of top official that it was decided that Thackeray’s funeral will be held at Shivaji Park.
An official from the protocol department said that besides the 21-gun salute, handing over the Tricolour to his next of kin was another honour to the family.
To explain why state mourning was not declared for Balasaheb, protocol minister Suresh Shetty said central government norms clearly lay down that state mourning cannot be accorded to a person who held no constitutional post. “The flag flying at half mast is a part of state mourning,” Shetty said.
Describing the difference between state honour and state mourning, the protocol department official said state honour is accorded by the police on behalf of the state government.
Before the procession started from his Bandra residence Matoshree, Thackeray’s body was draped with the tricolour with a bugle playing in the background. Before the funeral pyre was lit, three rounds of bullets were fired as part of the state honour.
Shetty also said that state mourning, with the tricolour flying at half mast, is observed only when a person holding a constitutional post passes away. This was last observed with the demise of former Union Science & Technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
However, state honour was recently awarded to noted Marathi writer PL Deshpande and classical singer Bhimsen Joshi.
Gun salute triggers slogans
As the police stood in attention for the gun salute, the millions watching this on their television screens stiffened in anticipation. There were claps and cries of “Balasaheb Thackeray amar rahein” as the first round was fired.
The second and third rounds were accompanied by slogans of “Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji.” As policemen blew the bugles and priests chanted various mantras, pin-drop silence ensued across Shivaji Park.