Thousands of mourners in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu Tuesday gathered on roads to pay respects to their departed Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.
The ailing chief minister and one of India’s most influential and colorful politicians passed away Monday night at Apollo hospital in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu.
The 68-year-old ailing politician suffered a heart attack on Sunday night while undergoing treatment for a prolonged lung infection for the past three months.
Following her demise, Jayalalithaa’s body was taken to her Poes Garden residence.
Later on a casket draped in the India’s national flag containing her body was kept at Chennai’s Rajaji Hall, where huge rush of people were seen making beelines to pay tribute to their beloved leader whom they refer as “Amma” (mother).
So far people queuing up to catch a final glimpse of Jayalalitha were orderly, despite the visible emotion among the crowds who were openly weeping while some beating their heads and chests.
Television images showed a sea of people out in Chennai to pay respects to their leader.
Authorities have declared a day of national mourning in India and all flags at government buildings will fly at half-mast. Top Indian politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi are heading to Chennai to pay homage to Jayalalithaa.
Officials said her last rites will be performed at 4:30 p.m. (local time) at MGR memorial in Marina beach in the city.
The local Tamil Nadu government has announced a seven-day state mourning from Tuesday. Schools and colleges will remain closed for three days across the state.
Huge contingents of police and paramilitary have been deployed in the southern state amid fears of unrest. Officials suspect her supporters could resort to violence and acts of self-immolation.
On Monday evening violence broke outside hospital, following which police resorted to baton charging to contain the situation.
Jayalalithaa trusted colleague O Panneerselvam has been sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at a sombre ceremony at Governor’s office. Legislators from Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazagham (AIADMK) party met at the party headquarters to elect Panneerselvam as the successor to Jayalalithaa.
In October, Jayalalithaa handed over all her responsibilities to Panneerselvam.
Panneerselvam has filled in for her when she was arrested two years ago and previously in 2001 when she was barred by India’s Supreme Court.
Jayalalithaa was hospitalized on Sept. 22 after she complained of fever and dehydration. Initially her illness was kept secret. However, it triggered uneasiness among her supporters in the state and rumors.
Jayalalithaa, a former movie star has served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on numerous occasions since 1991. She was head of the regional AIADMK party and her tenure was surrounded by controversies. She was even jailed in past on charges of corruption.
In between her stints as head of the government, Tamil Nadu was ruled by her great rival, the 93-year-old M Karunanidhi, leader of the DMK party.
Jayalalitha has starred in more than 100 films before joining politics. She was brought into politics by the then actor-turned-chief minister, MG Ramachandran, with whom she starred in many of her films.
Her supporters and party men have given her the name — Amma which in Tamil language means mother.