Tears flowed freely, slogans rent the air as DMK president M Karunanidhi, who passed away in Chennai at age 94, was laid to rest Wednesday with full state honours on the Marina Beach where people turned out in thousands to pay their final tributes.
As family members sobbed and leaders of political parties watched, the casket containing the mortal remains of one of the most towering figures in contemporary Indian politics was lowered into a grave next to the memorial of his mentor and DMK founder C N Annadurai.
Karunanidhi’s children Stalin, Alagiri, Kanimozhi, Muthu, Selvi, Tamilarasu and wife Rajathi Ammal showered petals on the casket as cries of ‘Thalaivar’ (leader) and ‘Kalaignar pugazh vazhga vazhgavey’ (long live the glory of Kalaignar) rang out.
The hearse carrying the casket — it had an inscription in Tamil that read “the one who slogged all his life without rest, rests here” — had to inch its way to the Marina Beach, less than 2 km from Rajaji Hall where his body had been placed for people to pay their last respects.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a galaxy of political leaders, including Tamil MPs from Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka, to bid a final farewell to the departed leader.
Many lined the roads to catch a last glimpse of the man who had dominated Tamil Nadu politics, and given regional parties a say in Delhi, during the course of his 75-year career, serving five terms as Chief Minister and leading the DMK for 50 years. Far from Marina, in the rain, paying homage to Kalaignar
Earlier, a courtroom battle saw the DMK secure the final resting place for its leader. Hours after Karunanidhi’s death Tuesday, the AIADMK government, citing litigations over ecological concerns, had rejected the DMK demand for space on the Marina Beach for his burial and memorial.
The DMK approached the Madras High Court which heard its petition late Tuesday night and resumed hearing this morning. The court ruled in DMK’s favour, granting Karunanidhi a place next to mentor Annadurai. When news of the HC order reached Rajaji Hall, Karunanidhi’s family and top DMK leaders, including Stalin, burst into tears.
Prime Minister Modi consoled Kanimozhi and Rajathi Ammal, and spoke to Stalin. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Pinarayi Vijayan, N Chandrababu Naidu, K Chandrashekar Rao, Arvind Kejriwal and H D Kumaraswamy were among those who paid homage to Karunanidhi.
Banerjee reached Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence Tuesday night. AIADMK rebel leader T T V Dhinakaran was the first to pay respects at Rajaji Hall Wednesday, as early as 5.30 am.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his senior ministers, central ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Pon Radhakrishnan, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, Veerappa Moily also showed up.
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The crowd grew in size as the day progressed. People jostled and stumbled in the rush to catch a glimpse of their leader and clashed with police personnel who tried to control them.