Hyderabad bids tearful farewell to Owaisi (Lead)

September 30th, 2008 - 6:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Sep 30 (IANS) Thousands of people Tuesday bid a tearful adieu to veteran Muslim leader and president of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, who died here last night.Many were seen crying inconsolably as the senior parliamentarian was laid to rest with full state honours in his family graveyard near Darussalam, the MIM headquarters in the Aghapura neighbourhood.

Earlier, Namaz-e-Janaza or the last prayers were offered at the sprawling Darussalam grounds. More than 100,000 people attended the prayers led by Maulana Mufti Khaleel Ahmad, head of the Islamic university Jamia Nizamia.

Owaisi, who represented the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency from 1984 to 2004, died of prolonged illness Monday night. He was 76.

His three sons and other family members were trying to fight tears as the body was lowered into the grave. Thousands vied with one another to catch a last glimpse of the Salar-e-Millat or commander of the community, who virtually ruled the old city of Hyderabad for many years.

Earlier, slogans like “Allah-o-Akbar” and “Salar-e-Millat Zindabad” rent the air as the funeral procession inched towards the graveyard. It was a sea of humanity and police had a tough time in controlling the emotional mourners from reaching forward to touch the coffin.

A pall of gloom descended on the city as usually busy roads in the old city wore a deserted look. Black flags were pitched on the streets to mourn Owaisi’s death. The Andhra Pradesh government had declared a holiday for all offices and educational institutions.

The hectic Eid shopping in the centuries-old markets around the historic Charminar came to a standstill Monday night as news of Owaisi’s death spread.

The majority of the shops and hotels remained closed during the day Tuesday but were likely to re-open in the evening to enable people to shop for Eid, likely to be celebrated Wednesday.

Earlier in the morning, Owaisi’s body was brought in a massive procession from his residence in Hyderguda to Darussalam, where politicians, officials, eminent citizens, MIM workers and others paid their last respects.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and several of his cabinet colleagues, leaders of many other political, social and religious organisations paid their respects to Owaisi and recalled his contribution to Andhra Pradesh, especially to Hyderabad, during his long political career spanning over half a century.

Congress party general secretary M. Veerappa Moily paid respects on behalf of party president Sonia Gandhi. The chief minister, who cut short his official visit to New Delhi to return to Hyderabad, laid a wreath on Owaisi’s body and offered his condolences to the late leader’s sons, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin and MIM floor leader in state legislative assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi.

US Consul General in Hyderabad Cornelis M. Keur and Iranian Consul General in Hyderabad Hossein Yazdan Moghadam were among the prominent personalities who attended the funeral.

Assembly Speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy, state Congress president D. Srinivas, CPI-M secretary B.V. Raghavulu and CPI secretary K. Narayana, Nava Telangana Praja Party president T. Devender Goud and senior leaders of Telugu Desam and Telangana Rashtra Samiti were among those who attended the funeral.

Film star-turned-politician and Praja Rajyam party president Chiranjeevi visited Owaisi’s residence in the morning and paid his respects.

“Owaisi was a powerful and a strong leader who strove to protect the culture and identity of Hyderabad and to solve the problems of the Muslim minority,” Chiranjeevi said.

State leaders the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were conspicuous by their absence.

State Director General of Police S.S.P. Yadav and Hyderabad police commissioner B. Prasad Rao also laid wreaths on the body at Owaisi’s residence and paid their respects.

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