The stretches leading to MG Road in Vijayawada are decorated with sizeable flex posters in tribute to the late Kapu leader Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga, who was murdered in the city this day in 1988, 29 years ago.
Ranga was murdered early one morning, the day after he launched an indefinite fast with his supporters beside Nirmala Hridaya Bhavan (Mother Teresa Bhavan). The reason for the fast was said to be a demand for house pattas for the residents of Giripuram locality.
In the midst of chants of â€śLong live Radhaâ€™s leadershipâ€ť from his followers, Rangaâ€™s son Vangaveeti Radha reached the bust that was set up in memory of his father. Some youths on bikes followed the group shouting â€śVangaveeti Ranga Amar Rahe!â€ť
Following Rangaâ€™s assassination, the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh saw rampant violence while Vijayawada witnessed a nearly month long curfew. It was reported that the violence claimed more than 42 lives while property worth of Rs 100 crores belonging to a specific community was destroyed.
A report in India Today by senior journalist Amarnath K Menon shows that the eruption of widespread violence and targeted looting shook the NT Rama Rao led government. NTR was compelled to issue a 72-hour ultimatum to his party MLA Devineni Nehru Rajasekhar, said to be the mastermind behind the assassination. While Nehru surrendered, the then home minister Kodela Sivaprasad Rao resigned taking responsibility for the riots.
Vangaveeti Radha, largely hailed as the successor to the late Kapu leader, is now one of the core leaders in the state opposition YSRCP led by Jagan Mohan Reddy.
At the fully charged gathering, loudspeakers play â€śRanga anna ninnu TDP gundalu champenaâ€ť (Dear Ranga brother, those TDP goons have killed you) and â€śIdi Vangaveeti kathi kapunu kaase shakthiâ€ť (This is Vangaveeti sword, the power that guards the Kapus) and keep the energy up.
The scene brings to mind the recent remarks by Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan when he said one cannot talk about Vijayawada politics without mentioning the assassination of Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga.
Pawan had said, â€śThe caste division which existed after the murder of Ranga continues even today. We are not able to come out of the morass created by hatred for other castes. There may be huge buildings now and the look of the city may have changed but our hearts have not changed.â€ť
Activist and scholar K Balagopal, who has done significant research on coastal Andhra caste politics, opined that the violence that took place between the agrarian Kammas and Kapus in the latter part of the 1980s was intended to â€śestablish caste supremacy in the political domain.â€ť
The event also comprised a rally that witnessed the presence of Vangaveeti fans and YSRCP cadres. A flex which was put up near the statue featured images of the late Kapu leader, former Chief Minister late YS Rajashekar Reddy and â€śtheir successorsâ€ť Vangaveeti Radha and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Speaking to the media, Vangaveeti Radha said Ranga was a pro-poor leader and was always biased to the poor.
â€śWe as Rangaâ€™s fans will continue to fight collectively for any issue in the coming days.â€ť
Claiming that Ranga was a leader beyond caste and religion, he added, â€śItâ€™s his greatness that he is still alive in the hearts of the people even 29 years after his death.â€ť
Actor GV Sudhakar Naidu, who also participated in the event, announced that he would produce a web series with 150-170 episodes on Vangaveetiâ€™s life.
He said, â€śRanga lent a supportive hand to many poor; that hand was taken away from us 29 years ago.â€ť
The security arrangements were stepped up in the wake of the death anniversary given the disturbances in the past.
Also read: Who was Vangaveeti Ranga?