April 14, 2006

rajkumar: may he rest in violence

Mobs hold city to ransom
Bangalore: Distraught mourners virtually took control of the city on Thursday, indulging in arson and fighting pitched battles with an outnumbered police force. The violence left five dead and over 200 persons, including 100 policemen, injured.
According to police commissioner Ajai Kumar Singh, among the dead four are civilians and one is a policeman. Of four civilians, three died in firing near Kanteerava Studio where Rajkumar was laid to rest. Among the injured civilians, condition of eight is critical.
The situation went out of control in the morning as crowds gave vent to their fury along the procession route —from Kanteerava Indoor Stadium to Kanteerava Studio. They burnt hotels, petrol bunks, buses, civilian vehicles, police jeeps and cars; pelted stones at policemen, stations, hospitals, glass facade buildings and media OB vans. Over 100 vehicles, including 20 of the police, were burnt.
People climbed atop police vehicles as a convoy of vehicles made its way to the burial site. The surging crowds were so uncontrollable that chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had to return without attending the burial. He was stopped near Mahalakshmi Layout Anjaneya Temple by the police and advised not to proceed to the studio.
Deputy CM B S Yediyurappa’s car was attacked near the studio when he went there to pay homage. The crowds did not spare the police too: they attacked the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) and a police station near Yeshwantpur Circle. A DCP’s car was torched at the Circle. Several people, including policemen, sustained injuries in the melee. Earlier, the crowds went berserk near the Kanteerava Stadium where Rajkumar’s body was kept for public homage. The police lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets. The police ran out of teargas shells on a couple of occasions. Over 3,000 shells were fired, a senior police officer said. A group of anti-social elements attacked a police van and set fire to it near Siddalingaiah Circle near the stadium and assaulted the policemen. When a mob almost killed a Karnataka State Reserve Police constable near the Circle, police lobbed teargas when a civilain Muniraju (43) died. The constable, identified as Manjunath Malladi (28), died in hospital.
Bangalore: Condemning the acts of vandalism on Thursday, Akhila Karnataka Rajkumar Abhimanigala Sangha president Sa Ra Govindu put the blame entirely on anti-social elements. Govindu told The Times of India: “Such incidents should not have happened. This is not the way to send Rajkumar on his last journey. I am very unhappy that some antisocial elements have done such things to mar our name.’’ Govindu also said there was no bandh call for Friday. “We did give such a call on Thursday, but there will be no bandh on Friday,’’ he said.
A little planning would have helped matters
By K R Sreenivas/TNN
Bangalore: The arson and violence in Bangalore since Wednesday afternoon was unprecedented in recent times, with the police appearing ill-equipped. While the unanticipated surge of crowds may have worsened matters, lack of planning was also evident. As the crowds went on the rampage, the police appeared hopelessly helpless. Says noted litterateur and playwright Girish Karnad: “When someone is alive we consider that it is not ‘shuba’ to talk about death. So we are never prepared for it. The moment the news came that Rajkumar was dead, the authorities would have known trouble was waiting to break out. Someone should have sat with the family and made a plan. In the West, they keep the body for three or four days for people to pay their respects. This allows the authorities time to plan for the funeral procession. Here, there was no preparation. It is not so much a criticism of the authorities as a comment on our culture.’’
Retired DGP S N S Murthy says: “Surely, what happened today was not the way to pay tribute to the legend. There must be a more civilised way... There must have been some lacunae in the arrangements. Police must have been outnumbered.The officers on the spot are the best judges.”
So what kept them from taking stringent action, asks another senior retired police officer. Is the Karnataka police so slack that it cannot control such crowds, he asked, in the light of the fact that it was not just residents who were terrorised, but even policemen.
Sources said CRPF personnel wanted a free hand in dealing with the crowds, but were denied permission. A senior officer said their brief was to maintain restraint till the funeral was over.
Even when Rajkumar was alive, things went out of control at a felicitation held last year. When the then CM Dharam Singh arrived, the mob went wild and threw chappals at him, pointed out Karnad. “It brings out other frustrations in people. The Bengaluru rebels are frustrated, perhaps, that the glory of Bangalore does not percolate down to them. If someone cries for some reason, it is not the real reason. It is political unrest.”
Bangalore: Hysterical violence leaving blood on the streets, vehicles burning, and a virtual bandh... Bangalore was brought to a grinding halt on Thursday as it bade farewell to Rajkumar.
What did Bangalore do? Virtually nothing. No petrol or diesel was available, no drivers or cab owners were willing to risk stepping out, banks remained closed and offices, schools and colleges had a holiday, ATMs remained shut, hotels, restaurants, petty chai kadais were all padlocked. Frenzied crowds had taken over the streets.
Every street corner had photos of Natasaarvabhouma Rajkumar with people garlanding it, lighting lamps, burning incense sticks. Almost all cars in the city sported a picture of Rajkumar.
The worst came when the cortege travelled from Kanteerava Stadium to the Kanteerava Studio. The 15-km route was marked with violence.
At the stadium earlier, police were forced to lob teargas shells and lathicharge every five minutes to disperse the fans who rushed to reach star’s body. Eldest son Shivaraj Kumar appealed to the fans: “My father used to call you all as his abhimani devargalu (fans are gods). Devargalu (gods) symbolise peace, I request you to remain calm and allow our father to sleep in peace.’’
That didn’t deter them from rushing towards the body. Shivaraj’s younger brother Raghavendra too made an appeal, but in vain. The police swung into action again around 11 am. Some people collapsed while others ran all over the stadium to escape the lathi.
The VIPs who reached the stadium to pay tributes to Annavru had a tough time. Veteran actress B Saroja Devi appealed to the fans: “We have worked with him, please allow us to see him for two minutes.’’ As all hell broke loose, many wondered: “Why aren’t the police better prepared having seen the kind of violence when the actor was kidnapped by Veerappan?’’

You people are not fans: CM
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy went on air appealing to people to maintain calm if they really loved the superstar. “People who are going against all that Rajkumar stood for cannot be called fans. If they continue behaving badly, the government will be forced to take stringent action. Don’t let such a thing happen in the wake of our Annavru (as Rajkumar is fondly called) passing away.’’
Battles rage on the roads
By Rakesh Prakash/TNN
Bangalore: “When the police are not allowing us to see Rajkumar for the last time, why should we spare them?’’ — so asked a 10-yearold outside the Kanteerava Studio. Picking up a stone, he then flung it at a fire tender and made good his escape in the bylanes of Yeshwantpur industrial suburb. His fury reflected the mood outside the studio. If the police lobbed teargas shells and opened fire, the crowd —which outnumbered the cops — found their missiles in stones, empty soft drink bottles, gas cylinders and oil cans. After pitched battles, the casualties: three among the crowd dead, nearly a hundred policemen injured.
Three hours before the funeral rites began, the area around Kanteerava Studio turned strife-zone. Trouble began around 2 pm when the police began to chase away fans gathered at the Studio, where Rajkumar’s wife Parvathamma and other film personalities were awaiting the star’s body. Agitated, the fans gathered at the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Circle at Nandini Layout Cross on the ring road.
What started as slogan-shouting against the police took a violent turn when the police tried to disperse them. The mob started playing hide-n-strike — setting ablaze police vehicles and retreating into bylanes. In a matter of minutes, the crowds set fire to five fourwheelers and three two-wheelers. Then the expected — they set fire to an entire petrol bunk, complete with a tanker and dispensers. A fire tender and two trucks that were parked at the bunk were also set on fire and the office ransacked. Two constables and fire service personnel who tried to reach the spot were caught in a cross-fire of stones.
Later, the crowd surged towards the studio, raining stones on the police. Two police jeeps and three two-wheelers were set on fire right in front of the studio gate. At this point, the police opened fire, killing one.
With the news of the death spreading like wildfire, the crowd turned more violent. They removed empty bottles from three stationary trucks belonging to a soft drink company and threw them at the cops. Simultaneously, others set fire to a petty shop. A gas cylinder inside blew up like a bomb and touched a high-tension electric pole, setting off sparks.
“We had just moved away from that petty shop when the cylinder exploded. Otherwise, at least five of us would have got killed,’’ city armed reserve constable Venkatesh said. With such lawlessness, the firing became continuous outside the stadium.
At this point, deputy CM B S Yediyurappa arrived at the venue, against police advice. The mob began stoning his vehicle and he was injured. The police opened fire, killing two.
Tension escalated when Rajkumar’s body arrived in the police van. The mob attacked the RAF personnel following the van with bottles and stones. Though they managed to keep a huge surge at bay, fans cut open the Studio fence and poured inside. There, the police left it to the family members and there seemed to be no end to the chaos. Silence came to the venue only hours after the funeral rites were completed and several persons were rounded up by the police.
Parvathamma said: “I was unable to participate in my husband’s funeral because of hysterical fans.’’
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Singletons miss daily bread
Bangalore: With malls, restaurants, grocery stores and even the nearest juice centre shut down, singletons in Bangalore were stuck in their houses wondering where to get their meals from.
“I am feeling so helpless. I did not know where to go out for breakfast or lunch. We rely mostly on food from restaurants since we don’t have cooking arrangements in our flat,” says Prateek Chowdhary, a 24-year-old bachelor who stays in BTM II Stage along with three friends.
“Some shops in my locality were half open for a while in the afternoon. I was to get a packet of milk and bread as the limited stock got over within minutes,’’ adds Alok Ranjan, another young bachelor.
Kavitha Stephen, a HR consultant staying as paying guest in Banashankari, had to make do with only ready-to-eat noodles and bread since Wednesday afternoon. “Most of the time, I end up eating in the office canteen and a mess in my neighbourhood. I am living on noodles and some old bread for the past two days. Another day of ‘bandh’, and even this will get over,’’ she rues.
Very few have been thoughtful and smart as Manoj Reshamia, a BPO employee who managed to pick up a few fast foods items from the grocery shop in his office at the last minute on Wednesday night. “I have asked two friends to join me for dinner as they too are stuck with nothing to eat at their place.’’
Cable TV blackout
Rajkumar was the staple on TV as the only channels on air were news and Kannada channels. Said a cable operator, “I heard that other operators have been receiving threat calls not to relay entertainment channels.’’ Since all avenues of entertainment — malls, multiplexes and theatres — were shut, Bangaloreans fell back on TV. “I’ve been receiving calls from a lot of people asking me why they’re not able to tune into other channels, but Rajkumar fans would take it as a mark of disrespect if any other channel were to be relayed. Hopefully things will be back to normal tomorrow,’’ said another operator in Koramangala. But there were others who stuck to the news channels out of choice. “I don’t think I’d have watched MTV or any other channel anyway. I’m concerned about what’s happening in my city — there’s so much violence and destruction,’’ said Pooja Shah, an advertising professional.
Rs 50-crore claims
Vehicles and offices in the city were targets of public ire on Thursday. Insurance claims are expected to exceed Rs 50 crore in the coming week. Vehicles and property covered under comprehensive package are eligible to claim insurance against damages. However, no claims can be made till Monday.

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