India funeral: Deadly stampede among Karunanidhi mourners

Supporters hold the portrait of M Karunanidhi during his funeral in Chennai on 8 August 2018.Image copyright

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Karunanidhi enjoyed god-like status among his supporters

Two people have died in a stampede at the funeral procession of veteran Indian politician Muthuvel Karunanidhi, in the southern city of Chennai.

In addition, 41 people were taken to hospital with injuries, officials told BBC Tamil.

Karunanidhi, who died on Tuesday aged 94, had served five times as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, the state of which Chennai is capital.

Police struggled to control thousands of mourners on Wednesday.

The stampede occurred when crowds tried to surge past police at the entrance to the building where Karunanidhi lay in state.

He is being buried at Marina Beach in Chennai (formerly known as Madras), alongside his mentor, CN Annadurai.

The state government had earlier refused to allocate space for his burial at Marina Beach, telling the Chennai high court that only chief ministers who died in office were buried there.

The court rejected that argument and cleared the way for Karunanidhi to be laid to rest at the iconic site. His two biggest political rivals, MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalitha, are also buried there.

Image copyright

Image caption

The stampede occurred at the entrance to the building where Karunanidhi lay in state

Karunanidhi helped found the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party in 1949 and continued to lead it until his death.

Starting in 1957, he contested and won 13 elections in Tamil Nadu. He was a prolific writer and a fiery speaker known for his wit and oratory, and enjoyed god-like status among his supporters.

From dropout to chief minister

  • Served as chief minister of Tamil Nadu five times between 1969 and 2011
  • Born on 3 June 1924 in a village in Thiruvarur district
  • A school dropout, he made a name as a screenwriter in Tamil films
  • A founding member of the DMK when the party was formed in 1949
  • Contested Tamil Nadu state assembly elections for the first time in 1957
  • Contested 13 assembly elections in total and won a seat in all of them
  • Besides film scripts, wrote stories, plays and poems
  • Popularly called Kalaingar, the Tamil word for artist, for his contribution to cinema and literature

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