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July 11, 1999
Trichy turns out to bid Saravanan goodbye
The mortal remains of Major Mariappan Saravanan, who died fighting the Pakistani intruders in the Batalik sub-sector on May 30, were cremated at the Oyamari cemetery in Tiruchirapalli with full military honours today.
The major's maternal uncle Sundaram lit the funeral pyre as chants of 'Long Live Saravanan' and 'Long Live India' and anti-Pakistan slogans rent the air.
Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary V Gopalasamy and Congress politician Kumari Ananthan participated in the funeral procession.
People lining both sides of the road paid homage to the slain soldier, one of the first officers to be killed in the Kargil conflict.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Arcot N Veerasamy, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and Mayor of Madras M K Stalin joined hundreds of people in paying homage to Major Saravanan in Madras.
The war hero's body, recovered after 37 days and brought to Madras from New Delhi by a scheduled Indian Airlines flight by the Union power minister, was kept at the Air Force Station, Tambaram, to enable people to pay their respects.
People lined up on both sides of the road when Saravanan's body was taken to the air force base from the airport on a gun carriage.
Braving the sweltering heat, a large number of people from all walks of life walked more than a kilometre from the main road and queued up to pay homage to the soldier.
Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Speaker P T R Palanivel Rajan, ministers M Tamizhkudimagan, K Pitchandi and Suresh Rajan, and top military officers and politicians were among those who paid homage.
Later, the body was taken to Trichy, Saravanan's hometown, by a special Indian Air Force plane. Kumaramangalam and M Revathi, Saravanan's sister, accompanied the body.
Jayalalitha, who was accompanied by her erstwhile Cabinet colleagues, spoke to Revathi and is believed to have offered assistance to the family.
Though it was officially announced that the body would be kept till 1200 IST to enable the public to pay their homage, many people had to return disappointed as they were denied entry even at 1115 IST.
Unwilling to go back, many of them stood near the gate and left the place only after having had a glimpse of the aircraft carrying the body. The aircraft took off at 1200 IST.
It was originally planned to keep the body at the air cargo complex at Madras airport, but the venue was shifted to the air force base at Kumaramangalam's behest. This caused a lot of inconvenience to the public.
Major Saravanan had last visited his family in Trichy in February 1998. He was planning to come home this month for his sister's wedding.
Belonging to the 1995 batch of the Officers Training Academy, Saravanan last spoke to his family members on telephone on May 14, family sources said.
At Trichy airport, state ministers K N Nehru and Pulavar Senguttuvan and District Collector V Murthy received the body in the presence of Gopalasamy, former minister K P Krishnan, 117 Infantry battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Mangotra, and local politicians.
From there the body was taken in a procession to the 117 Infantry battalion ground, where more politicians, including MGR Kazhagam founder R M Veerappan, paid their respects.
Saravanan's body was kept at the battalion grounds for two hours to enable the public to pay homage. Later, it was taken to his residence in Bheemanagar area of the town and thence to the crematorium on the southern bank of the River Cauvery.
Col A K Singh, Col P P Pillai and Subedar B Singh from Army HQ, New Delhi, who accompanied the body, handed over a cheque for Rs 1 million sanctioned by the Bihar government to the major's mother. Major Saravanan belonged to the 1 Bihar Regiment.
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