Madhuramma (84) could not hide her disgust at the police when she was shown her son’s body in the morning – a face without the right eye (a big hole from front to end of the skull), missing skin from the back and also the missing right foot.
She last saw her son in the eighties before he went underground. For a few brief moments the mother tried to have a last glimpse through tear-filled eyes, but soon gained composure and consoled other women. “I have hundreds of sons and daughters to look after,” she said.
Madhuramma had three sons, two of whom had joined the Maoist movement. After Koteswar Rao, his younger brother Venugopal has climbed the hierarchy in the central committee of the CPI (Maoists).
“All of you (police ) will die the worst death,” she cursed when she was brought before the embalmed body kept in a glass coffin on the wee hours of Sunday. The body of the Maoist leader was flown to Hyderabad by a SpiceJet flight on Saturday and brought here in the dead of the night avoiding waiting cameramen and scribes at the Hyderabad airport.
The funeral procession started around 12:30 pm but took several hours to reach the Sandapalli funeral grounds as the body was taken around the town.The family permitted the activists to perform the last rites as per the Maoist norms – dead body draped in red and a lal salam.
“Koteswar Rao was a Brahmin when he left us but he has come back dead as a Maoist. We respect his vision and ideology”, said Deepa Rao, elder daughter of Rao’s elder brother M Anjaneyulu. “Both of us studied in the same class and same school even though I am elder to him,” Anjaneyulu said. The retired government employee lit the funeral pyre of his brother amidst the hoarse sloganeering of “Comrade Kishenji Amar Rahe” and “Lal Salam”.
Cheruku Narasimha Reddy, a doctor and childhood friend of Kishenji said there were 35 injuries on Kishenji’s body. “It seems he was tortured and later taken to a jungle and killed in cold blood”, he charged.
The body was kept in the portico of the three-room house of Anjaneyulu for public darshan as the police refused permission for display at the local college grounds and overnight demolished a tent set up for the purpose. Three DySPs, five circle inspectors,150 home guards, a platoon of Greyhound commandos, 35-odd watchers ( former Maoists who had surrendered) and nearly 20 sub-inspectors with a force of two companies kept watch on the house.
The house was blasted to rubbles by the police after ultras had killed local police DySP Butchi Reddy in 1985, suspecting the hand of Kishenji. It was rebuilt in 1991.
Poet and civil rights activist P Varavara Rao condemned the Trinamool Congress party for playing dirty and not giving a copy of the post mortem to the family. “After assuring us to give the post mortem copy within an hour, hospital authorities in Midnapore refused to part with it and said it would be produced in the court only,” he told reporters.
The family and civil rights activists will move the national human rights commission and also the Supreme Court for justice.
In a statement Maoist spokesman Abhay said the party will take revenge action against the “fake encounter killing of Kishenji”. The Maoists have called for Telangana bundh on December 1 and 2 and a national bundh (in West Bengal and other states) on December 4 and 5. “We will not let the death of our dear comrade go waste. We will definitely retaliate,” he said.
Both activists and police were surprised at the lack of public adoration and crowds for darshan of the dead Maoist leader. “People don’t know him at all in this region as he worked more in the North, particularly West Bengal. There are not even black flags in the town,” said a police official who added that since morning not even 1,000 persons had come visiting to Peddapalli .He surmised that people did not come to see an ultra who worked for a banned organisation. “But thousands had come to see and police had a tough time when other top guns like Devanna and Nalla Adi Reddy of the district had died elsewhere and their body was brought home for funerals,” a local scribe recalled.
Not many political leaders turned out at the funeral. While Pedapalli MP G Vinod (Congress) briefly appeared on Sunday morning and vanished, none of the top Telugu Desam Party leaders came to console the Mallojula family.