Aruna Shanbaug, the former nurse who died after lying in coma for 42 years following a brutal sexual assault at a hospital here, was laid to rest on Monday evening with hundreds including nursing fraternity bidding a tearful adieu.
Aruna (66), the world's oldest comatose patient, were performed at Bhoiwada Crematorium in south Mumbai. KEM hospital dean and Aruna's nephew together lit the funeral pyre.
Shanbaug had been in a vegetative state ever since she was raped by a contract sweeper in the KEM hospital on the night of November 27, 1973.
Her death triggered an outpouring of grief through the day and at her funeral in the evening.
On Monday evening, Shanbaug's flower-bedecked body was taken from the hospital - her solitary home since the past over four decades - in an ambulance to the crematorium.
A nurse bids final goodbye to Aruna Shanbaug. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Thousands of grieving nurses, including many who had personally cared for her all these years, raised cries of 'Aruna Amar Rahe' and 'Aruna Ki Jai Ho', as they walked to the funeral venue.
Prior to the funeral, her body was kept for public viewing as thousands of nurses, political leaders, commoners and others paid homage to her.
Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde visited the hospital and paid tribute to Aruna.
Earlier in the afternoon, a minor controversy erupted over the funeral, with two relatives of Shanbaug and the hospital nurses staking claim to perform the last rites.
However, the matter was settled amicably with the hospital administration taking over the responsibility for the funeral and the last rites got underway in the presence of the nurses as well as Shanbaug's relatives.
Nurses at KEM take pictures of Aruna Shanbaug for one last time. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The controversy erupted when two relatives of Shanbaug staked claim to perform the last rites. They claimed before mediapersons that all attempts to meet Shanbaug were stone-walled by the hospital authorities.
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However, nurses at the KEM Hospital demanded that since they had tended to Shanbaug for over four decades, they should be allowed to perform the last rites.
The hospital, civic and police authorities reportedly evolved a compromise formula by which the nurses and the two relatives shall jointly perform the funeral.
Ward No 4 at KEM Hospital where Aruna Shanbaug was admmitted for the last 42 years. Pic/ Datta Kumbhar
As the news of her death spread, condolences poured in.
"The news of the demise of Aruna Shanbaug is extremely painful. One feels as if one has lost a family member. The incident of the brutal attack on Aruna Shanbaug that forced her to live in a vegetative state for all these years was heart wrenching for the entire society. May her soul rest in eternal peace," Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao said in a condolence message.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis praised the "humanity" shown by KEM nurses who took Aruna's care after her own sister expressed inability due to financial hardship.
"My deepest condolences on the sad demise of Aruna Shanbaug. It was painful to see her suffering. I salute the humanity shown by KEM nurses," Fadnavis tweeted.
"Aruna dreamt of nursing but had to spend her entire life on a hospital bed. It was cruel fate but she fought fate with determination. With her death, the struggle has ended," read a pithy message from state Congress chief Ashok Chavan.
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She was aged in her early 60s, deserted by most of her relatives during her lifetime but was looked after with dedication by nurses of Asia's largest public healthcare facility, the BMC-run KEM Hospital where she lay in Ward No. 4A.
Aruna was put on ventilator support at the hospital after she suffered from a serious bout of pneumonia last week.
After her brutal assault, Shanbaug had been the occupant of a room attached to ward No 4 on the ground floor of the Hospital.
Pinki Virani, who had moved the Supreme Court seeking for permission for euthanasia for the long suffering victim, said "she got justice after all these painful years. She has found release and peace. While going, Aruna gave India the landmark passive euthanasia law."