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Grief-stricken western pockets come to standstill
The Western districts wore a deserted look on Wednesday as shops downed shutters, vehicles stayed off road, while offices remained shut to condole the death of DMK stalwart M Karunanidhi.
People mourned by gathering in street corners to pay their tributes in front of hastily created altars with his photographs and portraits. Many party men also left for Chennai by trains and buses to participate in the final rite procession of their ‘thalaivar.’
Certain travel agencies operated free services from Coimbatore, Madurai and Trichy to Chennai. Mohammed Afzal, chairman and managing director of Parveen Travels that offered free services, said, “With a seating capacity of about 40 people, 20 services were operated from Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore to Chennai so that people can bid Kalaignar a final adieu.”
As services of private and state government buses remained suspended, the Coimbatore railway station witnessed heavy crowd with people heading to their hometowns, in the wake of industrial units, educational institutions and private firms declaring holidays in honour of the departed leader.
As a result, unreserved compartments in trains bound for Chennai were overflowing with passengers, many of whom barely made it inside the compartments. Finally, the police had to intervene to regulate the crowd and help people get into the trains by making them form queues.
Meanwhile, since the city came to a standstill with hotels and eateries remaining shut, a large number of students and labourers were left to fend for themselves during the day.
Expressing solidarity with Karunanidhi’s death and to honour him, scores of party men tonsured their heads. The TPDK cadres, who paid floral tributes to a life-size portrait of the veteran politician near Gandhipuram bus terminus, also recalled the various reforms introduced by him for the benefit of the poor. The DMK workers also carried out processions in several areas. In Nilgiris, the party men braved rains while participating in a march.
But, an uneasy calm prevailed in other Western districts, including Salem, Krishnagiri, as people stayed indoors glued to the television sets watching the final procession of the Karunanidhi’s remains and the burial at Marina.
The police claimed that the day passed peacefully without any major incidents in Coimbatore and other districts. A large number of police personnel, however, maintained a strict vigil in important locations to prevent any untoward incidents.