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Thousands Mourn India’s «Iron Lady»

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Tens of thousands of mourners are flocking to pay their respects to J Jayalalitha, one of India's most influential and colorful politicians.

Indians in mourning

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 local time [18:00 GMT] on Monday, Chennai's Apollo Hospital said.

The extreme devotion she inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as "Amma" [mother] had led to concerns that they could resort to self-harm or violence.

Earlier reports of her death, which were swiftly withdrawn, prompted scuffles between police and her supporters outside the private hospital.

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

India's Iron Lady J Jayalalitha

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those who visited to pay tribute.

Extra police had been deployed in the state amid fears of unrest.

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

A seven-day period of mourning has been declared in Tamil Nadu. The central government in Delhi had announced that Tuesday will be a national holiday as a mark of respect and that she will be given a funeral with full state honors.

Jayalalitha had been receiving treatment for months.

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

She appeared in more than 100 films before turning her hand to politics in the early 1980s.

Jayalalitha later won control of the AIADMK from its late founder's wife, before leading it to victory in 1991, the first of four occasions she would do so.

She was accused of corruption on several occasions, and spent two short spells in prison - most recently in 2014.

But a Karnataka high court order in 2015, which cleared her of involvement in a corruption scandal, paved the way for her return to power.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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