AN UNSEEMLY dispute over a burial site for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who died in Chennai Tuesday, reached the Madras High Court late in the day for a decision on whether the former chief minister can be laid to rest near the iconic Anna Samadhi on Marina beach or at the Gandhi Mandapam in Guindy.
Till late night, the court was hearing an urgent plea by the DMK’s lawyers.
The tussle over the site started hours before Karunanidhi was declared dead, when his son and DMK working president M K Stalin met Chief Minister E K Palaniswami to request that his father be buried near Anna Samadhi, the memorial of DMK founder C N Annadurai.
Stalin was accompanied by his elder brother M K Alagiri, sister and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, and other senior party leaders.
However, DMK sources said, Palaniswami refused to grant the request. Instead, sources said, the AIADMK government offered two acres of land at Gandhi Mandapam.
“The government told us initially that they couldn’t give permission on Marina beach as Karunanidhi was not a sitting chief minister. Later, they cited legal hurdles and raised vague arguments,” said a senior DMK leader.
The Marina site occupies a revered space in Tamil Nadu’s political history — Dravidian leaders such as C N Annadurai, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa were laid to rest here. On the other hand, prominent state leaders from the Congress, such as former CM K Kamaraj, were laid to rest at Gandhi Mandapam.
Karunanidhi’s family members later met Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan over the issue but in vain. Vaidyanathan’s office issued a statement clarifying that the government could not allot the land due to cases pending in court.
However, earlier in the day, a PIL in the Madras High Court seeking to restrain the Corporation of Greater Chennai from permitting burials on Marina beach was dismissed as withdrawn following an urgent request from the petitioner. This was seen a move to clear legal hurdles in the way of Karunanidhi’s burial near Anna Samadhi.
Speaking to The Indian Express, former Madras High Court judge, Justice K Chandru, said the city corporation should handle the dispute under the Corporation Act, 1919.
“The corporation is obliged to provide space for burials and cremations for the city’s residents. A burial outside the corporation’s burial grounds can be conducted after special exemption is obtained. When Kamaraj died in 1975, there was a fight between Dravidian and national groups over his burial site. Finally, space was allotted near Gandhi Mandapam,” he said.
“This time, the matter reached the Chief Secretary because elections have not been held for the city corporation in the last three years. It is being run by special officers,” said Chandru.
Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi asked the AIADMK government to be “magnanimous in this time of grief”.
“Like Jayalalitha ji, Kalaignar was an expression of the voice of the Tamil people. That voice deserves to be given space on Marina Beach. I am sure the current leaders of Tamil Nadu will be magnanimous in this time of grief,” he posted on Twitter.