Rajkumar laid to rest

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TEARFUL FAREWELL: Fans and supporters of Kannada actor Dr. Rajkumar walk alongside the truck carrying his body to the funeral venue, in Bangalore on Thursday. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
TEARFUL FAREWELL: Fans and supporters of Kannada actor Dr. Rajkumar walk alongside the truck carrying his body to the funeral venue, in Bangalore on Thursday. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Anil Kumar Sastry and

BANGALORE: The doyen of Kannada cinema Rajkumar has now returned to the studio, not to star in one more classic, but forever.

The mortal remains of the citizen extraordinaire of Karnataka, who died on Wednesday, were buried with State honours at the premises of the Government-owned Kanteerava Studio near Nandini Layout (off Tumkur Road) at 5.45 p.m. on Thursday amidst chaos and violence indulged in by some of his fans.

Although the funeral of several national leaders have been held in Delhi and other places with solemnity and orderliness, it was not to be in the case of Dr. Rajkumar.

In the saturnalia of violence, of the kind unknown to the city in recent years, five persons, including a reserve police constable were killed.

While policeman Manjunath Malladi (25), a recruit of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), was lynched by a frenzied mob near the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, the others died in police firing three near the Kanteerava Studio and one at the Siddalingaiya (Union) Circle close to the stadium where the body had been kept since last night.

Policemen targeted

Hundreds of policemen were injured in stone throwing and other acts of violence. Some of them have been admitted to hospitals.

What should have been a tearful farewell for the bereaved family in particular and his friends and associates, was marred by volatile fans, who had gate crashed into the studio ground.

Violence stalked the cortege carrying the body of the superstar, which struggled to plough through milling crowds to traverse the 14-km distance from Sri Kanteerava Stadium to Kanteerava Studio.

His eldest son Shivarajkumar performed the last rites guided by priests from the ISKCON Temple and the Gayathri Temple, Yeshwanthur.

While Mr. Shivarajkumar was performing the last rites, his mother Parvathamma Rajkumar, brothers Raghavendra and Puneet, brothers-in-law Chinne Gowda and Ram Kumar, stood besides him.

As the casket containing the body was being lowered into the grave, members of the family as well as fans put three fistfuls of mud on it as per the ritual.

Meanwhile, lakhs of grief-stricken fans bid adieu to their idol. The swelling crowd, which had been gathering at the funeral venue since morning, did not easily allow even the Rajkumars near the burial spot.

Earlier, the flower-bedecked van at the head of the cortege left the Kanteerava Stadium where the body was kept to allow fans to pay their last respect just before 12.30 p.m.

The funeral procession passed through K.R. Circle, Palace Road, T. Chowdiah Road, Cauvery Theatre Junction, Sadashivnagar, Yeshwantapur and Goraguntepalya before reaching the studio near Nandini Layout by 4.45 p.m.. The cortege, which entered the studio premises, was not allowed to move further by the surging crowd. After much pleading by Dr. Rajkumar's sons, the mob allowed the van carrying the body to reach the burial area. However, it took 20 minutes to bring the coffin to the ground.

Kanteerava Studio was close to Dr. Rajkumar's heart, recalled actor Srinath.

Prominent among those present at the funeral were Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, veteran actor Leelavathi, who was the heroine for the late actor in 33 films and her son Vinod Raj. Both had tonsured their heads. While Leelavathi said now only the god was their saviour, a grief-stricken Mr. Vinod Raj said he would pray to get late Rajkumar as his father in his next birth.

Other dignitaries who attended the funeral included actors Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish, Arjun Sarja, Bharathi Vishnuvardhan, B. Saroja Devi, Vijay Raghavendra, Muruli, Kashinath, Kumar Govind, cricketer Anil Kumble, former Chief Minister and relative of Dr. Rajkumar S. Bangarappa, BJP leader and MP H.N. Ananthakumar, former Union minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Ministers R. Ashok, Katta Subramanya Naidu and Ramachandra Gowda.

Tamil film star Rajnikanth and Telugu film star Chiranjeevi's brother Pawan Kalyan were prominent among those who paid their last respects to Dr. Rajkumar at Kanteerava Stadium. Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani called on the family of Dr. Rajkumar at their residence.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy could not make it to the funeral as the police advised him against proceeding to the studio in view of the violence. He had to beat a hasty retreat from the Prasanna Anjaneyaswami Temple in Mahalakshmipuram. Mr. Yediyurappa had a taste of hooliganism when his convoy was stoned on Tumkur Road.

One of the four who died in police firing has been identified as Muniraju (43) (at Siddalingaiya Circle). The identity of three others has not been established.

Police constable Mr. Malladi died of head injuries at a private hospital. The areas around the Kanteerava Stadium and the Kanteerava Studio resembled a war field as mourners fought pitched battles with the police. As on Wednesday, hundreds of vehicles, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses, police vans and private vehicles were damaged or burnt. Three petrol outlets, one near the studio and two on Tumkur Road were set ablaze.The areas most devastated by hooliganism were Bellary Road (Cauvery cinema junction), Yeshwanthpur, Tumkur Road-Chord Road, RMC Yard, Goruguntepalya and the Outer Ring Road connecting Kengeri with Hebbal. The shifting of the victims of violence from the studio to hospitals was hindered as mobs set several vehicles on fire on Tumkur Road, blocking traffic.

Sonia's condolence

The President of the All India Congress Committee, Sonia Gandhi has said that with the death of Dr. Rajkumar, Indian cinema has lost one of its titans and the country a great artiste.

In a message to Parvathamma Rajkumar, she said his iconic status was heightened by the courage and dignity which he displayed when he was kidnapped by Veerappan. It was perhaps these qualities that shamed his captor into releasing him.

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