The chief minister with Suchitra Sen’s family members at Keoratala crematorium. (Bhubaneswarananda Halder)
Minutes after the screen goddess passed away, the state administration rolled out its full machinery, averting chaos during Suchitra Sen’s last journey from Belle Vue to her Ballygunge home and then to the Keoratala crematorium.
From arranging the gun salute to organising the cremation, the administration — led from the front by chief minister Mamata Banerjee — did everything without invading the family’s privacy.
The entire planning, including the route of Suchitra’s last journey and who would sit where, was made by the chief minister. Mamata deployed four of her trusted aides — panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, urban development minister Firhad Hakim, housing minister Aroop Biswas and mayor Sovan Chatterjee — to ensure a glitch-free last journey.
While Mukherjee looked after the Sens, a family he has been close to for years, and Biswas took care of the Tollywood team at Keoratala, Hakim and Chatterjee were handling the crematorium staff and the proceedings there. “Whatever we did today was under the instructions of the chief minister, who was looking into every detail,” Biswas said.
Lalbazar sources said Mamata had personally called up ministers and senior police officers, including police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha, the moment she learnt of Suchitra’s death. She gave detailed instructions to each on what was to be done throughout the day.
“Two deputy commissioners and a joint commissioner were asked to rush to Belle Vue. Two deputy commissioners and a special commissioner were given charge of the crematorium. Later, another 11 IPS officers joined them,” said an officer.
A battery of seven IPS officers, including joint and additional commissioners, were deployed outside the Sen residence around 9.30am.
“The chief minister had made it clear that she did not want any untoward incident during the last journey. We were also asked to keep in mind that the family’s privacy had to be protected at any cost,” said an officer.
Anticipating that a huge crowd would turn up, over 2,000 cops were split into groups to guard the route. “But there were strict orders that ordinary people should not be inconvenienced,” said an officer.
At the crematorium, Mamata played a key role in pacifying impatient onlookers, saying everyone could not be accommodated inside. It was at her prodding that water and tea were served to people attending the last rites.
As for the gun salute, an official said: “Any iconic person, who according to the state deserves a gun salute, could be given the honour. In Suchitra Sen’s case, the decision was taken by the chief minister herself.”