BBC News – India: Jayaram Jayalalitha death: Masses mourn ‘iron lady’

Jayaram Jayalalitha, one of India’s most influential and colourful politicians, has been buried in the presence of tens of thousands of mourners.

The 68-year-old chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu suffered a heart attack on Sunday night and died at 23:30 (18:00 GMT) on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee are among those attending the state funeral.

Her grave is located next to that of her mentor, MG Ramachandran.

Ramachandran, an actor turned politician, was instrumental in introducing her to politics.

The fact that Jayalalitha was buried is unusual, as members of her caste are always cremated.

However, senior members of her party were quoted by Indian media as saying that she transcended caste for her people, and burying her next to her mentor would also give the people a “monument” to remember her by.

A sea of people joined her funeral procession headed to Marina beach in Chennai. Earlier, her body, draped in the Indian flag, was on display at a large public hall.

Extra police have been deployed in the state amid fears of unrest due to the extreme devotion she inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother). There were concerns that they could resort to self-harm or violence, but crowds have been orderly and disciplined apart from a few minor scuffles.

At the scene: Sanjoy Majumder, BBC News

From the early hours people streamed into the large public park inside which Jayalalitha’s body lay in state, wrapped in the national flag.

They converged into the arena from all directions, as the police struggled to control the flow.

It was so intense that you felt there could be a stampede at any moment, as men and women surged forward in waves, straining to catch a glimpse of their beloved “Amma”.

Many were visibly distraught.

“Amma why have you left us,” one woman wailed, while another beat her chest.

By the coffin were the VIPs – the prime minister, senior politicians and celebrities.

But those below were the ordinary men and women who formed the bedrock of her support.

“We don’t know what will happen to us now,” one man muttered, his voice breaking. Another told me he had come from Sri Lanka. “I came to see her because she is my mother,” he said simply.

A seven-day period of mourning has been declared in Tamil Nadu. The central government in Delhi has declared Tuesday a national holiday as a mark of respect.

Jayalalitha had been receiving treatment for months and was last seen in public in September.

She is revered by many but was seen by her critics as having created a cult of personality over the years.

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