Veteran socialist leader and media baron M P Veerendra Kumar was cremated with full state honours here on Friday after rich tributes were paid by leaders cutting across party lines.
After the mortal remains of the 83-year-old Veerendra Kumar, Managing Director of Mathrubhumi daily and Rajya Sabha MP, were brought here from Kozhikode where he died on Thursday following a cardiac arrest, rituals were performed by his son M V Shreyams Kumar as per Jain religious traditions.
A former MLA, Shreyams Kumar lit the funeral pyre in the presence of close relatives after the police personnel gave a gun salute as a mark of honour.
In view of curbs due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, only limited number of people took part in the funeral and norms like social distancing were followed.
State ministers A K Saseendran, K Krishnankutty, MLAs C K Saseendran, Wayanad district collector Adeela Abdulla were among those who attended the funeral.
Earlier in the day, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and several other leaders condoled the death of Veerendra Kumar.
State Ministers, the general public and a slew of journalists paid floral tributes to Veerendra Kumar's mortal remains at Kozhikode before his body was brought to Kalpetta here for the funeral.
Veerendra Kumar had served thrice as the Chairman of Press Trust of India, and at the time of his death was one of the directors in the news agency's board besides helming the popular Malayalam daily.
He had also served as president of The Indian Newspaper Society between 2003 and 2004.
A well-known author and orator, Veerendra kumar had over a dozen books to his credit including 'Haimavathabhoovil' for which he bagged the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for travelogue, 'Danube Pakshi', 'Roshathinte Vithukal', 'Ramante Dukham', 'Budhante Chiri', among others.
Numerous awards had come his way including the prestigious Odakuzhikuzhal award given to the best literary work, Kerala Sahitya Akademi and Kendra Sahitya Akademi awards.
Governor Khan, in his tributes, said "The mark of his versatility & commitment to values are visible in diverse areas like Media management & journalism. My heartfelt condolence to the bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace."
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described his demise as a big loss to democratic and secular movements.
"Until his last breath, he relentlessly fought communalism and divisive politics. Even as he championed development, Veerendra Kumar was a front-line environmentalist as well.I share this moment of deep grief with his relatives and colleagues," Vijayan wrote in a Facebook post.
Former Prime Minister Deve Gowda and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi were among the leaders who condoled the death of the Rajya Sabha member.
A well-known environmentalist, Veerendra Kumar resigned 48 hours after being appointed Forest minister in the E K Nayanar cabinet in March 1987 after issuing his first order banning felling of trees in the state's forests.
The socialist leader had contested the Lok Sabha election in 1991 from Kozhikode, but was defeated, but in 1996 and 2004, he won from the same constituency to the lower House of Parliament.
In 2016-17, he was elected as Congress-led UDF's representative to the Rajya Sabha, while in 2018 he was elected to the Upper house as an independent candidate, supported by the Left parties.
Veerendra Kumar was Minister of State for Labour (Independent Charge) with additional charges as Minister of State, Urban Affairs and Employment (Independent Charge) and Parliamentary Affairs between 1997 and 98 in the I K Gujral Cabinet and he was Minister of State for Finance in 1997 in the H D Deve Gowda Ministry.
He was at the forefront of the anti-globalisation and environmental movements and people's struggle against exploitation of water and pollution allegedly caused by a beverages company at Plachimada village in Palakkad district.
He headed the Janata Dal(U) in Kerala for a long time before parting ways when its national president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar became an ally of the BJP-led NDA.
Veerendra Kumar is survived by wife Usha, three daughters and son Shreyams Kumar, a former MLA and the joint managing director of The Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Company.