Around 5,000 people walked in a procession on Thursday to bid adieu to a leader who shook up the 1970s with his militant Dalit movement.
Renowned poet and firebrand Marathi writer Padma Shri Namdeo Dhasal, 64, who was battling colorectal cancer for the past three and a half months, passed away on Wednesday.
The funeral procession began from Ambedkar College towards the Dadar crematorium around 2.15pm. Thousands, including personalities in the field of Marathi literature and politicians, started pouring in to Ambedkar College ground since 10am.
Home Minister RR Patil came to pay his last respects. Patil said that although Dhasal was ailing, they expected him to come out of the condition. The best tribute to him would be to carry forward his thoughts, he said.
Literateurs and poets Satish Kalsekar, Ashok Naigaonkar, Neerja, Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat and Sudhindra Kulkarni were some of the first to come to pay their respects to the pioneer of the Dalit literature movement.
MNS president Raj Thackeray, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Women and Child Development Minister Varsha Gaikwad, NCP working president Jitendra Awhad, SP state president Abu Azmi, former minister Sulekha Kumbhare, Shiv Sena leader Gajanan Kirtikar, Communist Part of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Reddy, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh president Mahadev Jankar, Republican leaders Ramdas Athawale, Jogendra Kawade, Gangadhar Gade and Avinash Mhatekar, Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad were among those who paid their last tribute to the leader at Ambedkar College. Though Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray was conspicuous by his absence, Dhasal had aligned with the party and wrote regular columns for the ‘Saamna’.
Shantabhai Jawale, 65, came all the way from Nashik to pay her respect to the Dalit Panther movement leader. “He was our leader and I have met him several times and we were part of his movement. As soon as we heard about his passing away, we left Nashik to reach here this morning,” said Jawale.
The last rites were performed by Dhasal’s cousin and NCP MLC Jaideo Gaikwad.