The Assam government is making preparations for around 1,000 people to attend the last rites of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi, to be performed with full state honours at the Nabagraha cremation ground on Thursday, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Sarma told reporters all arrangements will be ready by late Wednesday night and the three-time former chief minister will be given a befitting farewell by the people of the state.
"I have directed the authorities to prepare the venue in a manner fit for the occasion," the minister said.
Gogoi died on Monday after a four-month battle with COVID-19 and related complications.
The cremation ground is being spruced up with a fresh coat of paint and workers of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation are also at the venue.
Gogoi's final journey will begin from Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, where his mortal remains have been kept for people to pay their last respects, at 9 am on Thursday.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, his cabinet colleagues, family members of Gogoi, leaders of opposition parties, senior officials and Congress party workers would be present on the occasion.
Traffic would be restricted in the area for a few hours till his body reaches the venue around 11 am.
Regarding the choice of the venue, Sarma said it was "decided by the family and conveyed to us by the state Congress leadership. We respect their decision and will make all arrangements according to their wishes".
He said the state's first chief minister (then termed as premier) Lokopriyo Gopinath Bordoloi was also cremated at Nabagraha and "it is befitting that Gogoi with his immense contribution to the state is also cremated at the same venue".
On building a memorial for the former chief minister, the minister said, "These are very sensitive issues which only the family can decide... the government will not like to interfere."
"The state government is, however, committed to ensure that Gogoi's legacy lives on and will extend all cooperation to the family," he added.
Meanwhile, officials said the mortal remains of Gogoi will be taken to a church, namghar (Vaishnav prayer hall), mosque, temple and a Bihu field in a procession, likely to be attended by around thousands, before cremation on Thursday.
Congress Assam unit president Ripun Bora said the party is expecting over 10,000 people from across the state to join the last journey of Gogoi from Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra.
"The administration has arranged for 1,000 seats inside the pandal in the crematorium complex. However, other people can watch the proceedings on giant LED screens installed outside," the Rajya Sabha MP told reporters here.
Congress Spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar, who for years has been handling the media for Gogoi, said the mortal remains will be taken to his official residence at Dispur for completing rituals before the last rites.
"After that, it will be taken in a procession to different places like church, namghar, mosque and temple. It will also travel to the Latasil playground, where the oldest Bihu function of Guwahati takes place," he said.
Konwar said prayers will be organised in all the religious places where Gogoi's body will be taken to.
As per his family's wish, the mortal remains were kept at the historic Kalakshetra complex in Guwahati since Tuesday evening for the public to offer tributes and catch a final glimpse of the former chief minister.
Giving the detailed travel plan, Guwahati Police Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) Pranjit Bora said the funeral convoy is scheduled to leave Kalakshetra complex at 9 am on Thursday for his official residence.
"From there, it will go to his personal house at Beltola and then to a church in Rukminigaon. Then, it will move along the Guwahati-Shillong Road and reach the namghar at Sundarpur on Zoo Road, followed by Burha Jame Masjid at Ambari," he told a press conference.
The Sukleswar and Ugratara temples will be the last halt points before reaching Nabagraha, Bora said.
The DCP said there will be traffic restrictions at several places in the city and the public should be prepared for heavy congestion on GS Road, Zoo Road, MG Road and GNB Road along with several smaller lanes and bye-lanes till Thursday evening.
"We have been told that there will be a puja in Ahom rituals, followed by Hindu tradition before the pyre is lit," an office bearer of the Nabagraha crematorium committee said.