BBC Home > BBC News > South Asia

Thousands attend funeral of Indian communist Jyoti Basu

19 January 10 12:53 GMT

Tens of thousands of people have attended the funeral procession of Indian communist leader Jyoti Basu.

Draped in the national flag, Mr Basu's body was driven through the streets of Calcutta on a gun carriage. Political leaders from across India were present.

Mr Basu died aged 95 on Sunday after a long illness. Tributes have been pouring in from around the world.

He led West Bengal state from 1977 to 2000 and was credited with restoring stability and introducing land reforms.

Tributes

The veteran leader's body was first driven in a cortege from the Peace Haven mortuary to the headquarters of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) in Calcutta. Party leaders spent an hour paying their last respects.

Later, the cortege moved on to the state secretariat at the Writers' Buildings and the Bengal legislative assembly, where Mr Basu spent much of his six decade-long political career.

The body was kept at the assembly for five hours, during which time senior politicians - including the leader of India's governing Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani - paid their last respects.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was also present.

Mr Basu's body was then taken to Citizens' Park near the Victoria Memorial monument, where he was given a gun salute.

There will be no cremation. In accordance with Mr Basu's wishes, his body is being donated to medical research.

'Pragmatist'

Mr Basu was India's most respected communist leader.

On Monday, tens of thousands of people filed past his body at the mortuary to pay tribute to him.

"He was one of independent India's most able administrators and politicians. I often turned to him for his sagacious advice... which was statesmanlike, always pragmatic and based on unshakeable values," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

"His death ends a chapter in the country's politics," former PM and senior BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee said.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says Mr Basu leaves behind a controversial legacy.

Although he undertook crucial land reforms in West Bengal state and empowered the peasantry, the state slid into industrial stagnation and the period of his rule was characterised by radical trade union activity, our correspondent says.

In 1996 Mr Basu was offered the post of prime minister in a national left-of-centre coalition, but his party chose to support the government from outside the coalition.

Mr Basu called the decision a "historic blunder".

Related BBC sites

*