As the issue over the memorial of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi who breathed his last at the Kauvery Hospital in Chennai on Tuesday evening snowballed into a full-blown controversy, one frequently asked question is why Karunanidhi, despite being born a Hindu, will be buried and not cremated as is customary in Hindu tradition.
Behind the burial of Karunanidhi lies the story of the Dravidian movement, the belief of leaders associated with it and its ideology. Karunanidhi was a foremost leader of the Dravidian movement.
Before him, most of all the Dravidian leaders, including Periyar, Anna Durai and MGR, were all buried. There has been no precedent of consigning their bodies to flames after demise. All these leaders were buried with sandalwood and rose water. Experts of Dravidian movement also believe that the burial of these leaders allows them to still remember the stalwarts.
Leaders of the Dravidian movement are reportedly atheists. These leaders in principle denounced God and similar symbols. Besides this, Karunanidhi himself wanted to be buried beside his mentor CN Annadurai. Karunanidhi’s politics over his decades-long career has seen him at the helm of Dravidian politics and acceptance to the tradition and ideas that the movement propagated. Any departure from the established practice is thus, practically impossible.
M Karunanidhi memorial at Marina beach: What is the controversy?
The controversy over the memorial of late former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’ reached the threshold of the Madras High Court even as the bench dismissed petitions filed by Traffic Ramaswamy, K Balu and Duraisamy challenging construction of memorials at Marina beach. This came after DMK sought space near Anna Samadhi — the memorial of his mentor C N Annadurai — to build a memorial for its patriarch.
Karunanidhi’s children and DMK leaders MK Stalin, MK Alagiri and MK Kanimozhi had met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswamy in this regard. However, the government has rejected the demand of memorial in Marina Beach, instead allotted two acres of land at Gandhi Mandapam where former Tamil Nadu CM K Kamaraj has been buried.
A state government statement said it was “unable to allot space at Marina beach owing to several pending cases in the Madras High Court and legal complications.” Hence, the government is prepared to allot a two-acre site on Sardar Patel Road near the memorials to Rajaji and Kamaraj, it said. Some reports said the government was reluctant about allotting space for Karunanidhi’s burial at the Marina as he was not a sitting chief minister.
Former chief minister M G Ramachandran and his protege J Jayalalitha were buried at the Marina beach and memorials to them were erected there. Both were bitter foes of Karunanidhi in politics. Karunanidhi’s predecessor Annadurai was also in office when he died. While CRZ rules do not allow any new construction within 500 metres of the high tide line, DMK said that there were past instances where memorials were built.
In March last year, Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhgaam, a rationalist Dravidian outfit, had also filed a petition in the high court on the issue. It sought to prevent the government from building a memorial to Jayalalithaa at her burial site.
Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government had informed the Madras High Court that late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s burial site off the Marina Beach here fell under the Coastal Regulation Zone-II (CRZ) where buildings are permitted. This was stated in a counter-affidavit to a public interest litigation seeking to relocate the memorials of Jayalalithaa and also that of late chief ministers and AIADMK and DMK founders M G Ramachandran and C N Annadurai, respectively from the area adjoining the beach.
Petitioner Traffic Ramaswamy, a social activist, sought a direction to the authorities to relocate the memorials to Gandhi Mandapam in Kotturpuram to protect the coastal zone. The state government submitted that it took a conscious decision with regard to the establishment of memorials, taking into consideration the importance of leaders whose contributions have led to the upliftment of the society.
It also said the memorials of Annadurai and MGR were constructed prior to the promulgation of CRZ notification in 1991 and as such there was no violation of the norms. Further, construction of a memorial was not listed under the prohibited activities under CRZ notification of 2011. Also, the burial site of Jayalalithaa was falling in CRZ-II, where buildings shall be permitted on the landward side of the existing road or on the landward side of existing authorised structures. Jayalalithaa’s burial site fell within the existing memorials, the government had then said.