Violent farewell

Published : May 05, 2006 00:00 IST

FOR millions of his fans, Rajkumar was more than a matinee idol, he was a god. No wonder then that for a day and a half the whole of Bangalore and many parts of Karnataka came to a complete standstill as a mark of respect for him. But the hours leading to his burial at Kanteerava Studios were marred by some of THE worst instances of arson ever witnessed in Bangalore. Three petrol bunks, a hotel, countless commercial establishments and private and public vehicles were damaged or set on fire. The administration, including the police, fought a losing battle against the arsonists who appeared well-prepared to create mayhem. Even three days after the events, the Bangalore Police were clueless about the persons behind the violence.

It all started soon after Rajkumar's body was taken from the hospital to his residence. Fans mobbed the actor's residence, snatched the body and placed it in an ambulance (even ripping off its door and smashing its panes) and began giving the driver contradictory directions. For over four hours the fans (and the police) failed to fathom where the body should be placed for public viewing.

The body was first taken to the Bangalore Palace, then the van was driven towards Vidhana Soudha, the seat of government, but after a fracas between groups of fans it was decided to take the body to a school near the actor's house. From the school premises it was taken to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. But there too they were unsure where the body would be placed. The arrival of the ambulance led to stampedes, bursting of teargas shells, police firing and deaths. Arsonists went on a burning and looting spree.

The next day, during the 14-km-long funeral procession from the stadium to Kanteerava Studios, chaos and arson continued, resulting in more firing and deaths. In the two days of violence, eight people died, including a police constable, and over 200 people were injured. Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was unable to attend the funeral as he was advised to stay away in view of the unruly crowd. Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa was injured in the stone-throwing.

Pleas from Rajkumar's family had no effect on the mob. Parvathamma Rajkumar even lamented that she was not able to get a glimpse of her husband's face before the body was buried.

The State administration does have a lot to answer for this outrageous farewell to a disciplined man.

Ravi Sharma

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