Goodbye, Kalaignar!

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The scene outside Kauvery hospital in Chennai is grim and sad as Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the ten-time president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu passed away at 6:10 PM. Today, the High Court is hearing a plea by his family to build a memorial for him at Marina Beach. However, the significant steps he took to bring about reforms is something which will be remembered by all.

India saw a lot of protests in the 1970s and 1980s with regard to anti-Hindi protests and Dravid Identity. Moreover, casteism was and still remains a significant social issue today. Karunanidhi was one of those few leaders who opposed caste-based hierarchy and Hindi imposition. In fact, he went ahead to make sure that temple priests from castes other than Brahmins were appointed in a temple in Thanjavur.

Born on 3 rd June 1924 at Thirukkuvalai village in Nagapattinam district, Karunanidhi was passionate about literature, poetry and theatre since his childhood, which earned him the moniker or ‘Kalaignar’ (artist) amongst the masses of the state. Inspired by the speech of Azhagiriswami of the Justice Party, Karunanidhi, he laid the foundation of his political career by participating in the Anti-Hindi protests of 1938 after Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari, the then Chief Minister issued a government order stating that Hindi should be compulsorily taught in all 125 schools of the Madras Presidency. He then founded the Tamil Nadu Manavar Mandram, the first student wing of the Dravidian Movement. Later, he even went on to start Murasoli, a newspaper which is currently the mouthpiece of the DMK. The artist, as he was justifiably called, was even a part of the Tamil film industry and even went on to write 77 scripts for various films.

Karunanidhi was also a part of the Kallakudi protests which took place after the name of the village, Kallakudi in Tiruchirapalli district was changed to Dalmiapuram, to honour the Dalmia industrialist brothers who built a cement factory there. DMK demanded the original name to be kept. However, two people died in the protests and Karunanidhi was arrested. At the age of 33, he contested the state assembly elections from Kulithalai town in Karur District (Then a part of Tiruchirapalli district) and became an MLA in 1957. Later, he became the treasurer of the DMK in 1961, deputy opposition leader in 1962 and then the Public Works minister in 1967. In 1969, after the death of Annadurai, Karunanidhi happened to be both the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and also the DMK Party President. A five-time Chief minister who won in 1969, 1971, 1989, 1996 and 2006, Karunanidhi had never lost a seat where he contested from.

Karunanidhi was also accused of various scams. While Kanimozhi and Dayanidhi Maran, Karunanidhi’s daughter and grandnephew were framed in the 2G scam during Manmohan Singh’s rule, the stalwart was also arrested by the Tamil Nadu police on June 30, 2001, over an alleged scam amounting to a loss of 12 crore rupees over building flyovers in Chennai.
Karunanidhi had three wives of which the first one died, leading him to remarry for the second time. MK Stalin was Karunanidhi’s son from his second wife and Kanimozhi from his third. There could be a fight over the reigns of the DMK, the party which moulded the man and then became all about the man.

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