14-Apr-2006

State Honours

Raj Kumar was buried with full state honours but neither state nor honour was present. There were all of five or six policemen apparently playing the role of spectators, representing the state. The Deputy Chief Minister and some of his party colleagues scurried to and from the burial scene in undue haste. Not a word to the sons who were left quite alone. As for the gun salute it might have happened in Mysore for all one could discern in the commotion. Honour too was absent. What honour when the sons of the man had to cry and plead to be allowed to finish the burial rites before sundown. They were completely helpless. The crowd was thick and deep till the very edge of the pit.

As for the place where the actor's body was kept in state for public viewing earlier in the day - there was hardly any dignity or grace in that. It was a sordid, harsh and dispiriting scene. Only the line of people silently trailing past the barricades gave an indication that here was a man who was not ordinary. Surely this man who had earned the love of so many deserved more?

Once again the difference between the common people and the rest was shown up. The real fans - who had bought the tickets to their hero's movies these many days - were left outside the gates everywhere. If they were not following the cortege so closely they would have been far from the actual burial too. The politicians who were looking for photo-ops and to doing the right thing more than anything else - I saw Mr Deve Gowda even smile as he got out of his car - walked right in and out.

Why did the violence happen? I think there must be more than one reason. Miscreants who were not fans, fans who were angry, and poor management by the authorities.

There were people who were not fans in the crowd. They couldn't be fans - they were dancing into the cameras with wide grins. What kind of fans could they be? As to the people who caused the trouble - how could they be fans of the gentle star (as Deccan Herald put it somewhere)? They had to be rowdy elements waiting for such events to do their handiwork. And our current political culture thrives on these kind of people. Every political party cultivates them. And they all pay for the culture when they are in power. How many miscreants does it take to cause damage by throwing stones and setting vehicles ablaze?

Fans had probably sufficient reasons to feel angry. There was enough mismanagement going around. One has to look at a map of Bangalore to see how stupid the choice of place for public viewing was. Palace grounds would have been far nearer and more convenient from the hospital, and to the final resting place too. Maybe the police had other objections like difficulty in monitoring access, but with the size of the crowd, anyplace would have been a problem.

And the police exacerbate things. They needed to treat the people who came to the Kanteerava stadium with decency. They should have been informed and managed better. Hitting out indiscriminately with lathis was no way to handle the situation. Again dignity was lacking - it was beaten up with canes. And if it is true that many fans couldn't have a last glimpse of their hero, then that's one more reason for feeling aggrieved. But did angry fans do any damage? Maybe the police will confirm in the days ahead. I too like many others think they didn't.

NB: I was not at the scene, but at home watching the live TV coverage.

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