Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thousands mourn as Indian leader dies



Thousands mourn as Indian leader dies

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Thousands mourn as Indian leader dies

Thousands mourned in southern India on Tuesday after the death of revered 94-year-old political leader Muthuvel Karunanidhi.

But tensions were high with local television showing footage of agitated mourners attacking police barricades and chanting loud slogans demanding a prime beachside burial site in Chennai for him.

Karunanidhi, a charismatic self-styled champion of the poor, had been in intensive care since July 28 in the capital of Tamil Nadu state.

A big crowd had thronged the streets outside the hospital since his hospitalisation but it swelled to an estimated 6,000 on Tuesday, , after doctors said he had suffered a “significant decline”.

Prakash Duria, a doctor at the Kauvery Hospital, later confirmed he had died.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately tweeted condolences to Karunanidhi’s family, saying “India and particularly Tamil Nadu will miss him immensely”.

“Deeply saddened by the passing away of Kalaignar Karunanidhi,” Modi said.

“He was one of the senior most leaders of India. We have lost a deep-rooted mass leader, prolific thinker, accomplished writer and a stalwart whose life was devoted to the welfare of the poor and the marginalised,” he added.

Supporters beat their chests and chanted the leader’s name as hundreds of police struggled to contain the surging crowds.

A security alert had been sounded across the state, following past outbreaks of violence triggered by the deaths of previous high-profile figures.

Karunanidhi (pictured, AFP)was chief minister of Tamil Nadu five times and successfully contested 12 state elections, building legions of supporters on the way.

His popularity had not waned even though he handed over the reins of his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party to his son M.K. Stalin.

Karunanidhi, a school dropout, became involved in politics at a young age, spearheading the DMK which was allied for many years to the Gandhi dynasty’s Congress party.

Affectionately called “Kalaignar” or scholar, he wrote reams of poems, lyrics and books and was a prolific screenwriter for the Tamil film industry.

His popularity rivalled that of J Jayalalithaa, another powerful leader from Tamil Nadu whose death sparked a huge outpouring of grief.

An estimated one million people lined the streets for Jayalalithaa’s burial in 2016.

Jayalalithaa was buried at the Marina beach and Karunanidhi’s supporters have demanded space for their leader in the same area, close to one of his late mentors.

The deaths of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi leave a big political vacuum in the industrialised and prosperous southern state only months before key national election early next year.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Phnom Penh condo market loses steam

    Just four new condominiums were launched for sale last year in the capital, down from 17 in 2020, according to research by CBRE Cambodia. The four developments comprised “more than 1,000” units, while the 17 in 2020 consisted of 10,866, the real estate firm reported. CBRE Cambodia categorises condos as “high-range”, “

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused