Church leaders in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu have expressed condolences at the death of Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a five-time state chief minister who supported freedom of religion despite being an atheist.
Karunanidhi died on Aug. 7 of an age-related illness in a hospital in state capital Chennai. He was 94.
The self-proclaimed atheist politician “always had a soft corner for religious minorities and especially for Christians whether in power or not,” said Father Vincent Chinnadurai, former chairman of the state’s Minorities Commission.
The church in Tamil Nadu has lost a friend and a well-wisher, the priest said about the leader of the powerful Dravidian political movement in the state over six decades.
During his last term as chief minister from 2006-11, Karunanidhi gave special reservations for low-caste Christians in education institutions and government jobs, Father Chinnadurai said.
“He really cared for the poor and came up with various schemes for helping poor and minority groups. He was a real champion of social justice,” the prelate added.