DMK chief M Karunanidhi, one of the foremost Dravidian politicians in modern times, died in Chennai on Tuesday, 7 August 2018, aged 94. The former Tamil Nadu chief minister had been admitted to Kauvery Hospital for 11 days before his demise.
One of the most charismatic figures in Tamil Nadu politics — whose life in the public eye spanned over seven decades — Karunanidhi is survived by two wives and six children, including DMK working president and heir apparent M K Stalin and daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP.
The most enduring mascot of the Dravidian movement breathed his last at 6.10 pm on Tuesday.
"With deep anguish we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar M Karunanidhi. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond. We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide," a press release quoted Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, executive director of Kauvery Hospital, as saying.
As news of Karunanidhi's deteriorating health reached DMK party workers and his supporters, hundreds had thronged the streets outside Kauvery Hospital, maintaining a ceaseless vigil since Monday night. Even as updates emerged from the hospital authorities that Karunanidhi's condition was critical, his supporters believed that their leader might still recover.
As the crowd grew restive, the Chennai Police had to disallow the general public from entering Kauvery Hospital in view of the sensitive law and order situation. The hospital also ceased to admit new patients.
"Get up and come Anna's brother," the crowd chanted, as they prayed for their leader's health. Many vowed they wouldn't turn back from the hospital gates until Karunanidhi was safely home.
The supporters had kept the peace overnight, but when the hospital released a bulletin at 4.30 pm on Tuesday, describing Karunanidhi's condition as "extremely critical and unstable", the milling crowd grew delirious and dramatic scenes began to unfold.
Some were seen fainting, while a few others beat their chests and faces in utter desperation.
Cries of "Ezunthu Vaa Thalaiva (arise leader and come)," rent the air as DMK supporters bearing the red-and-black party flags broke into feverish chants hailing Karunanidhi.
However, their prayers went unanswered, with the hospital announcing Karunanidhi's death at 6.10 pm on Tuesday.
Sudden silence descended once the hospital issued the bulletin confirming Karunanidhi's death.
Some in the crowd lit cell phone torches as a mark of respect for the departed leader.
Shops and business establishments downed shutters as the news of Karunanidhi's demise spread and streets were deserted quickly — except for DMK supporters.
Meanwhile, party workers began a violent protest outside Kauvery Hospital after the state government rejected the DMK's plea for land at the Marina Beach for Karunanidhi's memorial.
Police resorted to a lathi charge outside the hospital to disperse the crowd.
"Don't provoke us. We want space at Marina Beach," 101Reporters quoted DMK supporters as chanting outside Kauvery Hospital.
Karunanidhi's death comes barely 20 months after that of J Jayalalithaa, his long-time political foe and another bright star that faded from Tamil Nadu's political firmament on 5 December 2016.
The sharp-tongued, quick-witted Karunanidhi was a five-time chief minister, who wielded considerable influence beyond his own state, in the corridors of power in New Delhi, for a long time, sewing up alliances with both the Congress and the BJP.
Hugely influenced by the rationalist and egalitarian ideology of E V Ramasamy 'Periyar' and DMK founder and the state's first chief minister CN Annadurai, Karunanidhi became one of the most enduring mascots of the Dravidian Movement.
The Dravidian Movement sought equal rights for the depressed sections and women, and was against Brahminism.
Karunanidhi became the chief minister for the first time in 1969 after the demise of Annadurai. He subsequently helmed the state as chief minister in 1971, 1989, 1996 and 2006.
He was elected to the Legislative Assembly 13 times, the last time as a 92-year-old in 2016.
Karunanidhi, who earned the sobriquets of 'Thalaivar' (The Leader) and 'Kalaignar' (The Artist) from his ardent followers, became DMK president in 1969 and held the position till his death.
Karunanidhi had a keen interest in Tamil literature, poetry and drama. He authored over 100 works, including poems and novels.