Mumbai, Nov 15 (IANS) After a night of anxiety, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was taken off life support systems Thursday afternoon but crowds continued to throng his residence Matoshri that had a security blanket thrown over it.
"I am appealing to workers to disperse. He is ekdum (absolutely) stable," Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told journalists.
He said the 86-year-old Thackeray had been "taken off life support systems. He is definitely responding to treatment".
Raut's assurance came hours after Thackeray's son and party executive president Uddhav Thackeray made repeated appeals to the people to "maintain peace and remain calm".
Thackeray has been under the care of a team of specialists from Lilavati Hospital at his home in Bandra east. According to party leaders, a virtual ICU had been recreated at Matoshri with all emergency equipment and medical and para-medical staff on duty round-the-clock.
Heavy security arrangements have made outside Matoshri and in large parts of the locality, a stone's throw away from the busy Bandra-Kurla Complex, which also houses the US Consulate and British Deputy High Commission.
Over 350 police personnel, including Rapid Action Force and other contingents led by senior officers, were maintaining stringent security in the vicinity to prevent any untoward incidents.
President Pranab Mukherjee cancelled his scheduled two-day trip to Maharashtra starting Thursday.
Thackeray's improving health came as a major boost for the Thackeray family and the thousands of Shiv Sena activists, assembled outside Matoshri since Wednesday night.
A grim faced Uddhav Thackeray, accompanied by his son Aditya, had stepped out at 2 a.m. to address the crowd.
"I have not lost hope. We are facing a crisis, we shall overcome," he said.
He asked them to ensure that the image of Matoshri was not spoilt.
Thackeray has been suffering from breathing problems and has been occasionally put on oxygen.
Besides all members of the Thackeray family, nephew Raj Thackeray and his wife Sharmila, top Shiv Sena leaders like Manohar Joshi and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vinod Tawade and others rushed to the bungalow around midnight.
Later, state Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Bollywood mega-star Amitabh Bachchan accompanied by son Abhishek, Sanjay Dutt and wife Manyata were among those who went to Matoshri.