It was an emotional MK Stalin who took to the stage at the Anna Arivalayam or DMK headquarters in Chennai on Wednesday to address the DMK Executive Committee, leaders and cadre gathered to condole the death of party president M Karunanidhi. And for the first time after his father's death, the party's Working President presented his version of the DMK's struggle to ensure that Karunanidhi was buried at the Marina beach next to his mentor CN Annadurai.
The ruling AIADMK government had refused to allot space for the burial of former Chief Minister's mortal remains near the Anna memorial, citing legal reasons. The DMK was forced to go to the Madras High Court late in the night, to ensure that the party patriarch's wish to be buried near his mentor was fulfilled.
"There was a time when DMK was fighting in court to retain the party's symbol, flag and even its name. At that time Kalaignar said that if we lost the case, he would die, his body would be buried near Anna and that we would all have to come garland his grave," recalled Stalin. "Similarly, if I couldn't win this case to bury Kalaignar at Marina, my body would have been found in the burial spot near his," he added emotionally.
"Kalaignar was battling for his life and doctors told us there was not much time left. They said they had done everything they could," explained Stalin. "We were shattered but we were discussing how to ensure that the burial was done in Marina. Through our leader Anbazhagan, we sent word to the government but we heard from there that our request will not be considered," he added.
Following this senior leaders in the party suggested that they meet the Chief Minister in person. They were apparently confident that their demands would be met if they met the CM in person.
"I got ready to leave but senior leaders told me that I shouldn't go. They said you are the Working President and the son of Kalaignar. You should not go to make this request to them," Stalin said. "But I said I don't care about my prestige, image or respect. I can lose anything for my leader," he continued.
But when senior leaders along with Stalin visited the Chief Minister, he stated that the land near the Anna memorial could not be allotted and that legal opinion sought by the Government confirmed the same. But the DMK remained unconvinced and continued to request them for the space.
"I feel no shame in admitting that we held onto the CM's hand and pleaded with him to give us the burial space in Marina. All this because it was my leader's last wish. Even then they gave no affirmation," alleged Stalin. "Finally, to make us leave, he told us, 'We'll see'," Stalin recalled.
Shortly after that, Karunanidhi passed away and it became imperative to get permission for the burial. The DMK sent a letter to the government with a formal request but they were denied the site again. It was through news channels that the DMK came to know that the Chief Secretary had allotted an alternative piece of land for the burial.
"That is when our lawyer Wilson came and asked if he should go to the High Court," said Stalin. "I asked if it was possible and he said a team of lawyers will immediately take the matter to court. We were told the matter will be taken up at 10.30 pm and then we were told to expect the verdict at 8.30 am the next day," he added.
In this time, petitioners who had filed cases against memorials being set up at the Marina either withdrew their cases or claimed they had no objection to a memorial for Karunanidhi at the spot.
"At 10.30 am we come to know that Kalaignar will be buried near the Anna memorial. We were crying near the body kept at Rajaji hall and didn't know the news initially. But lakhs of supporters in the crowd saw the news on their phones and they begin crying. We saw this first and then got the news," said Stalin. "In all that sadness, we found a reason to celebrate," he added.
Stalin further brushed away the credit given to him for the burial.
"All the credit for this success goes to our team of lawyers," he said emphatically. "Kalaignar won this battle even after his death."
Stalin followed a long line of speakers at the emergency Executive Committee meeting organised by the DMK in Chennai. The party's MLAs, MPs, district secretaries and members of other allied wings were also invited to the meeting. Senior leaders including Duraimurugan, J Anbazhagan, EP Duraisamy and Subashree Jagatheesan recollected their fondness and respect for 'Kalaigar' and emphasised on their belief that Stalin will follow the path laid out by Karunanidhi. The late leader's 'heir' was praised by DMK leader TR Baalu for the manner in which he dealt with the Government's refusal to allow Karunanidhi to be laid to rest near the Anna memorial.