When a pall of gloom descended on Gwalior

Lalit Shastri

GWALIOR, 1 OCTOBER 2001.

A pall of gloom has descended here on Gwalior and the people are in a state of shock. They do not have words to express their grief over the demise of their beloved Maharaj, Mr. Madhavrao Scindia, who died in a plane crash on Sunday.

Mr. Scindia’s residence here – the imposing Jai Vilas Palace – has been the venue of many royal functions and ceremonies since it was built in 1874.

Today the whole place is wrapped in grief as the palace staff and workers stood in tears. All shops were closed and mourners lined up at the palace entrance from early morning. The queue of grief- stricken citizens moved forward in the most disciplined manner to sign the condolence register kept before a framed portrait of Mr. Scindia inside the palace.

Simultaneously, preparations were on in the adjacent Rani Mahal to receive the mortal remains of Mr. Scindia on Tuesday.

The palace grounds have been barricaded to control the movement of people who would be flooding the palace in the next two days to pay their last respects to their `Maharaj’.

A personal staff members of Mr. Scindia said “Maharaj was always there to help. But now there is darkness all around and it appears that we have lost all that we ever possessed”.
Another staffer recalled how their Maharaj was always courteous and warm even towards his political opponents.
Gwalior citizens recall with gratitude Mr. Scindia’s singular contribution to the progress and development of the region. They give full credit to Mr. Scindia for making Gwalior an important destination on the railway map and also for the recent setting up of the Indian Institute of Information Technology.

The sports lovers here particularly remember Mr. Scindia for his passionate commitment to cricket. The Madhya Pradesh Government has announced a three-day state mourning and all Government offices remained closed today.
The authorities, led by the District Collector, Mr. Wasim Akhtar, were supervising arrangements for the last rites.
Mr. Scindia’s mortal remains will be brought here tomorrow from Delhi and kept at the Rani Mahal.

The cremation will be attended by the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, the Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh.


Maharaj brought to Gwalior

Lalit Shastri

GWALIOR, 2 OCTOBER 2001.

The body of the senior Congress leader, Mr. Madhavrao Scindia, who died in an air crash on Sunday was brought here this afternoon by a special Indian Air Force plane and kept at the Rani Mahal where it would lie in state till Wednesday evening.

Mr. Scindia’s last journey would start from the Rani Mahal on Thursday morning and the funeral will take place at the royal chhatri' at 10.30 a.m. A large number of mourners, including family members, friends and well-wishers, were present at the Air Force station to receive Mr. Scindia's body.

The AN-32 aircraft arrived here at 12-20 p.m.</p> <p>Prominent among those who accompanied the body from Delhi were the senior Congress leaders, Ms. Mohsina Kidwai, Mr. Motilal Vora, Mr. Pranab Mukerjee, Mr. Natwar Singh and the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh. Mrs. Madhviraje Scindia and Mr. Scindia's sister, Ms. Usha Raje, and son, Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia, also came by the aircraft. Mr. Scindia's two other sisters - the Union Minister, Ms. Vasundhra Raje, and the BJP MLA from Shivpuri, Ms. Yashodhra Raje - along with their relatives had earlier reached the airport and were waiting at the tarmac.

The body was placed on a gun carriage which moved slowly along the 14-km route to reach the Jai Vilas Palace and, finally, the Rani Mahal. All along the route from the airport to the Rani Mahal crowds had swelled on both sides to have a last glimpse of Mr. Scindia, who is popularly called Maharaj’ in Gwalior.

People waited in balconies and on the rooftops, many of them in tears as the procession passed by.
Many youngsters ran along with the motorcade, and when the procession entered the station area in the main city, the surging crowd spilled over on to the road showering petals of marigold on the gun carriage.


Thousands pay homage

Lalit Shastri

GWALIOR, 3 OCTOBER 2001.

All roads here led to Rani Mahal where thousands of mourners came from far-off places to have a last glimpse of the mortal remains of their beloved Maharaj and senior Congress leader, Mr. Madhavrao Scindia.

It was cloudy this morning and the day began with a gentle drizzle. Many of those who were in the queue to pay homage to the departed leader were heard saying that these showers are God’s blessings for Shrimant Maharaj'' Madhavrao Scindia.

Mr. Madhvarao Scindia's body lies in state at Rani Mahal for darshan in a coffin wrapped in the Tricolour. The cremation will take place tomorrow at the royal Chhatri, where many of Mr. Scindia's ancestors were cremated. In January, Mr. Scindia's mother Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia was cremated at the same venue. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Congress(I) president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi and the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, are some of the prominent dignitaries, who would be arriving here tomorrow to attend Mr. Scindia's funeral.

Ms. Gandhi is scheduled to reach here by a special plane at 8.30 a.m. and the Prime Minister at 11. a.m. Mr. Scindia's last journey will commence from Rani Mahal at 9 a.m. and reach Chhatri by about 10.30 a.m. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, arrived here on Tuesday along with senior party leaders, Ms. Mohsina Kidwai, Mr. Motilal Vora, Mr. Natwar Singh and Mr. Pranab Mukerjea.

The Chattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr. Ajit Jogi, and the senior Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Kamal Nath, also arrived here today to attend the funeral.

The mourners - thousands of them who came and bowed before their Maharaj for the last time - had an expression of absolute pain and suffering caused by his untimely demise. They came barefoot like devotees, some with folded hands and some carrying flowers to express their endless faith and devotion to the departed soul. Some of them were even too old to walk but they were all present braving the showers to be by the side of Mr. Scindia's son, Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia and other members of the family, including Mr. Madhavrao Scindia's wife, Ms. Madhvi Raje, daughter-in-law, Ms. Priyadarshini Raje Scindia, daughter, Ms. Chitrangada, son-in-law, Mr. Vikramaditya Singh, and sisters, Ms. Usha Raje, Ms. Vasundhra Raje and Ms. Yashodhra Raje.

Malkhan Singh, who was once a dacoit in the Chambal ravines, was one of the mourners who stood barefoot for hours to pay homage to the departed leader. He said,we have suffered an irreparable loss” and added that the people of Gwalior region would remember Mr. Scindia more for what he was as a human being rather than what he meant to all of us as a politician.


Tearful farewell

Co author – Lalit Shastri

GWALIOR, 4 OCTOBER 2001.

The country’s top political leadership, friends, relatives, industrialists, heads of former princely states and thousands of admirers in and around Gwalior today converged at the Chatri grounds here to bid farewell to Madhavrao Scindia. With a prayer on their lips and heads bowed, they watched his son Mr. Jyotiraditya perform the last rites, not far from the spot where nine months ago Scindia performed the last rites for his mother.

Gwalior today poured out onto the streets and all roads led to the Chatri grounds. People came in thousands, commoners and kings alike, hung from balconies, lined the roads to watch Madhavrao Scindia, their Maharaj, make his last journey in a palanquin atop a gun carriage, escorted by personnel of the armed forces.

A grieving Gwalior wore its heart on its sleeve. Cries of Madhavrao Scindia amar rahe (Long live Madhavrao Scindia) rent the air. Loved during his lifetime, in death he is now revered by his people. A banner strung across the gate of the Institute of Information and Technology set up by Scindia spoke volumes of the place he had come to occupy in their hearts. Sab se pyara India, Jahan se pyara Scindia (We love India but Scindia is the dearest).

The city and its establishments, schools colleges, markets, cinemas and entertainment channels on cable TV were shut for the third day in succession.

Thousands had begun gathering at the cremation grounds from early in the morning.

Scindia’s last journey began at 10.20 a.m. from the Rani Mahal. The Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, arrived early in the morning by a special flight, accompanied by a majority of her party MPs and almost the entire party leadership.
Mr. Joytiraditya held the urn carrying the fire, while Army officers held the specially decorated palanquin carrying Scindia’s body, as it was brought to the Chatrri grounds. As the Army contingent provided a 21-gun salute and chanting of vedic hymns reached a crescendo, Mr. Joytiraditya bent down and placed his head at his father’s feet for the last time before he lit the pyre.

Scindia’s colleagues, friends and rivals in the political arena turned out in full strength to pay their last respects. The Centre was represented by the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Union Ministers, Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. Arun Jaitley, Mr. Pramod Mahajan, Mr. Nitish Kumar and Mrs. Sumitra Mahajan and the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. G.M.C Balayogi. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, also attended the funeral.

The Chief Ministers of various States – Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Ms. Shiela Dixit, Mr. S.M. Krishna, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mr. Ajit Jogi, Mr. Ashok Gehlot and Mr. Digvijay Singh – sat through the entire ceremony.

Scindia’s friends from the business community, Mr. Nusli Wadia and his wife Mrs. Maureen, had flown in with their son, while Mr. Amar Singh, Mr. Lalit Suri and Mr. Omar Abdullah’s wife accompanied Dr. Farooq Abdullah in his state plane.