Two dead in stampede at Karunanidhi’s funeral

Chennai: Indian police Wednesday used batons to drive back tens of thousands of mourners thronging the funeral of a revered regional politician, triggering a stampede that reportedly left two devotees dead.

Grieving supporters of Muthuvel Karunanidhi poured into the southeastern city of Chennai to pay last respects to the man who died Tuesday aged 94.

A sea of mourners swelled in the streets as the coffin was taken to its resting place in the Tamil Nadu state capital.

But there was a stampede as police pushed back against mourners as they strove for a final glimpse of Karunanidhi.

Two people were killed and others injured in the melee, Indian news outlets reported. Police officials contacted by AFP were unable to confirm the reports.

Tension had been building in the city after the state government Tuesday denied permission for the politician to be buried at the popular Marina beach.

Karunanidhi’s party, the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), approached the state’s highest court. It ruled that the five-time state chief minister should be buried next to his mentor C.N Annadurai at the seaside memorial.

Karunanidhi, a charismatic self-styled champion of the poor, reshaped regional politics through his opposition to high-caste hegemony and was idolised by legions of his supporters.

He earned the loyalty of many rural voters with a series of populist schemes and fiery speeches in support of the so-called backward castes.

A school dropout, Karunanidhi became involved in politics at a young age, spearheading the DMK party through 12 state elections, all of which he contested and won.

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