Dravidian Doyen Karunanidhi Laid to Rest at Marina Beside Annadurai as Lakhs Bid Teary Farewell
As his golden casket was laid to rest at the iconic Marina beach, a sea of humanity bid Karunanidhi a teary farewell along with family members and cadres of a party that he helmed for 50 years.
People gather to pay their last respects to Karunanidhi as his cortege passes through the streets of Chennai. (PTI Photo)
Chennai: The last of a generation of politicians who founded the Dravidian movement, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, was laid to rest on the Marina beach on Wednesday evening, a day after the doyen of Tamil politics breathed his last at the age of 94.
As his golden casket was laid to rest at the iconic Marina beach, a sea of humanity bid him a teary farewell along with family members and cadres of a party that he helmed for 50 years.
The 94-year-old leader breathed his last at the Kauvery hospital after fighting for life over a prolonged period of 11 days. He has been suffering from various age-related ailments over the past two years.
The passing away of Karunanidhi — who despite being a regional party leader managed to carve out a significant space for himself in the national spectrum — was also marred in party politics that will now decide the future course for Tamil Nadu.
Karunanidhi’s DMK, led by his son MK Stalin, emerged victorious in a distasteful courtroom battle over the final resting place of the Kalaignar. The party and its lawyers managed to get him a burial space beside DMK founder C Annadurai, like how Karunanidhi wanted it to be after being denied space by the ruling AIADMK government.
The country's high and mighty descended on the city to pay their last respects to the "Thalaivar" (the leader), a school dropout who left an indelible imprint on the state's public life over decades through his literary, cinematic and political achievements.
A galaxy of leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, and his Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh counterparts Pinarayi Vijayan, K Chandrasekhar Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu were in attendance.
So were CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, his predecessor Prakash Karat, and former chief ministers of Kerala and Uttar Pradesh Oommen Chandy and Akilesh Yadav.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi bowed in solemn reverence and placed a wreath at the leader's feet. He spoke briefly with Karunanidhi's wife Rajathi Ammal and clasped Stalin's hands to console him while the two talked quietly for some time.
Lakhs gather to pay their last respects to DMK chief M Karunanidhi as his cortege passes through the streets of Chennai. (PTI Photo)
Karunanidhi was buried with full military honours with soldiers giving him a gun salute and buglars sounding the last post.
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Rahul Gandhi, union minister and the lone BJP Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu Pon Radhakrishnan, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad placed wreaths at the feet of the departed leader at the Marina.
Karunanidhi's son and heir apparent MK Stalin received the national flag wrapped around his father's body.
Other family members, including the leader's wife Rajathi Ammal, other sons and daughters showered flower petals at his feet.
Stalin was seen crying inconsolably after touching his father's feet before the casket containing Karunanidhi's body was lowered into the grave. The leader's youngest daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi fondly caressed his head and cheek one last time.
No Hindu rituals were performed for Karunanidhi who was a self-proclaimed atheist and rationalist.
Earlier in the day, as thousands of grieving DMK supporters, leaders and celebrities filed past the golden casket containing the mortal remains of the leader draped in the national tricolour at the stately Rajaji Hall, a courtroom battle raged over where he should be buried.
MK Stalin and son of Karunanidhi receives the tricolour during the funeral ceremony at Anna Memorial. (PTI Photo)
The state's AIADMK government had on Tuesday rejected the DMK's demand for space at the Marina for Karunanidhi's burial and construction of a memorial to him, citing pending litigations over ecological concerns. The DMK had swiftly moved the Madras High Court, which partially heard its petition around midnight and resumed the hearing at 8 am on Wednesday morning.
"There is no legal impediment for not allotting the place... Provide a place for a decent burial forthwith in terms of the rough sketch given by the petitioner," the division bench of the court comprising Acting Chief Justice HG Ramesh and SS Sundar ruled.
"There is no legal impediment for not allotting the place. Already alloted place in the Marina for all Dravidian leaders. There is no need to take different stand in the present case," the bench said.
The court's order was greeted with loud chants of "Kalaignar Pugazh Onguga (long live Kalaignar's fame)" by thousands of DMK cadre at the Rajaji Hall some 8 km away.
A glum-faced MK Stalin, Karunanidhi's son and DMK working president, who stood pensively beside the casket, sobbed uncontrollably, before regaining composure and wiping off tears of joy amid the pervasive gloom.
Shouts of "vendum vendum, Marina vendum (we want Marina)" had greeted Chief Minister K Palaniswami earlier in the day when he arrived at the Rajaji Hall to pay his tributes.
The court's order dealt a big blow to the AIADMK, which spared no effort to deny Karunanidhi, who headed its rival outfit DMK for half-a-century, a feat unparalleled in the country’s history, the final resting place at the Marina.
AIADMK founder and former chief minister MG Ramachandran and his protegee J Jayalalithaa, who were buried on the beach and have memorials there, had died in office, and the government cited this as a ground for not bestowing the same privilege on Karunanidhi as he was not a serving chief minister.
There was a massive surge of people at the Rajaji Hall where lakhs had gathered to pay homage to Karunanidhi, a five-time chief minister and political warhorse who won 13 assembly elections on the trot.
The final resting place of Karunanidhi at the Anna Memorial. (Image: News18)
The crowd swelled by the minute at Rajaji Hall and Anna Memorial. People pressed against each other in a massive surge and pushed, shoved, stumbled on each other while clashing with the police whose personnel wielded batons to control them.
Some fainted, scores were injured, prompting Stalin to make an appeal to maintain calm. Two persons reportedly died in a stampede-like situation at the Rajaji Hall.
Identical scenes were witnessed at the Marina.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets as the flower bedecked gun carriage inched its way there from Rajaji Hall.
Many crashed their way through the barricades. Others perched precariously atop trees and lamp posts for the one last glimpse of their beloved leader.
Stalin and other male members of the Karunanidhi family walked quietly behind the gun carriage as police personnel threw a security cordon around them. The DMK's red-and-black flags fluttered across the landscape.
As the golden sun began to dip slowly into the sea, it shone light on the inscription on the casket in Tamil that read "the one who slogged all his life without rest, rests here", signifying the end of an era in Tamil Nadu politics.
(With PTI inputs)
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