Nepal mourns as Koirala`s body cremated

Last Updated: Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 22:05

Kathmandu: Thousands of mourners on Sunday
paid their last respect to five-time former Prime Minister
Girija Prasad Koirala, who was cremated here with full State
honours at the banks of Bagmati river as per Hindu rituals.

In an unusual religious practice, the 85-year-old
leader`s only daughter Sujata Koirala, seen as his political
heir, lit the funeral pyre.

Nepalese Army band played the national anthem.

Earlier, the body of Koirala, a close friend of India,
arrived in a procession to Aryaghat, Pashupatinath area after
passing through Sundhara, Ratnapark, Bag Bazar, Dilli Bazar,
Maitidevi, Old Baneshwor, Battisputali and Gaushala.

A high-level Indian delegation, including Lok Sabha
Speaker Mira Kumar, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, attended the funeral.
Besides, many other Indian political leaders including Sitaram
Yechuri from CPI-M were also present.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Deputy Premier
Bijaya Gachchhadar, ministers, Maoist chief Prachanda, leaders
of various political parties, members of Parliament, diplomats
and intellectuals were also present at the funeral.

The gathering was so much that police resorted to
baton charge at Aryaghat to disperse the crowd and control the
situation. Many people shaved their head to mourn the death of
their leader.

Earlier, the body of Koirala, who died yesterday here
following a prolonged illness, was placed at Dasharath Stadium
for the general public to have a final glimpse of the leader.

Mourners carrying floral garlands and placards showing
images of the former prime minister waited for hours in
scorching heat to pay their tributes outside the stadium. The
Nepali Congress extended the time for the funeral which was
scheduled for around 2 pm.

The funeral procession, attended by nearly half a
million people, was three-four km long and was led by
Koirala`s daughter Sujata, party`s acting chairman Shushil
Koirala, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and
parliamentary party leader Ramchandra Poudyal.

People sprinkled water from the roof of houses from
both sides of the road while the funeral procession was moving
towards Pashupatinath Temple area for cremation.

Party cadres, sympathisers and students were carrying
party flags and banners shouting slogans line `Girija Babu is
dearer than our life`, `Long live our beloved leader Girija`
and `Peace and Constitution are two wishes of Girija babu.`

The government had declared official holiday today.

The veteran leader, who was the President of the
Nepali Congress -- which is a key constituent of the ruling
CPN-UML-led coalition -- was considered close to the Indian
leadership across the political spectrum.

He was suffering from lung infection, respiratory
problem, diarrhoea and had a low hemoglobin level.

The former Premier had played a pivotal role in the
peace process, Nepal`s transition to democracy and bringing
Maoists to the mainstream politics three years ago.

Koirala was instrumental in the signing of the
12-point agreement between the then Maoist rebels and seven
political parties in November 2005 in New Delhi, which was
aimed at toppling monarchy and restoring democracy in the
country.

After this, Maoists joined the mainstream politics in
2006, ending the decade-long armed conflict that left 16,000
people dead.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 22:05

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