PUCL Bulletin, February 2003

Civil liberties activist dies a natural death
-- By K.G. Kannabiran

Raghava Ranga Rao is fairly well known in Telengana districts of our state. He was a communist who played his role in the Telengana Armed Struggle and later came into the Civil Liberties Movement and played a crucial role in the development of civil liberties movement in the state. He along with Sri and Japa Lakshma Reddi of Karimnagar believed, as many of us do, that the fight against an oppressive system is a basic human right. He died on the 28 October at the age of 87. He fell down and sustained a fracture of the hip and one thing led to the other and he passed away. He died a natural death.

But why am I taking so much of pains to convey that he died a natural death? Because he is the first civil liberties activist-leader who was allowed to die a natural death. All the others who predeceased him were killed by the police and quite brazenly. It all began in 1983. In the month of January that year I was in Karimnagar on a fact-finding mission along with my colleagues, when I received a message that our young activist Gopi Raj Anna, a lawyer, was shot dead by ABVP boys of that area in the presence of his wife. That was the beginning. Later in the same year on 3 September Dr. Ramanathan, a children's doctor was shot dead in his clinic by the police.

This was justified as a sequel to the killing of, Yadgiri Reddy, a subordinate police officer in Warrangal. He was the Vice President of APCLC. By all accounts he was a fine physician and a fine human being. He was silenced because he was fighting on a day-to-day basis the oppressive practices of the state against the revolutionary dissent. Japa Lakshma Reddi of Karimnagar was dragged out of his house and shot in the early hours of the morning of 7th November 1987. It was justified as a sequel to the killing of ADB Reddy a police officer the previous day, After the Armed Struggle he joined the civil liberties movement of the state and was committed to the cause of human rights and social transformation. Narra Prabhakar Reddy, a young lawyer practicing in Warrangal was shot inside his house in the morning of 7th December 1991.

His is supposed to be a sequel to the killing of Hayagreeva Chari, a Congress politician, by no means the best of them, At a time when he was receding into obscurity he was killed by CPI ML PW and rewarded him with a state funeral. Prabhakar Reddy was the General Secretary of the District Bar Association and was the Sarpanch of his village. He was a courageous advocate who could withstand the threats by the police in defending the Naxalites in courts. Desire to defend the dissent alone was not sufficient to practice in Warrangal, as quite a few advocates realised. State sponsored hoodlums killed Purushotham of Mahboob Nagar and Syed Azam Ali of Nalgonda, as the state was not provided with a pretext by PW to kill them.

They were killed for no reason at all. Deft but disingenuous paper work would be there to misguide any casual inquiry about these deaths. Inquest enquiries and similar inquiries by executive magistrates into causes of unnatural deaths are passed off as valid accounting of deaths to the uninformed and the disinclined But is it sufficient to refute the charge of culpable homicide? Civil liberty activist Kaira was killed because his auditing of the dead in Punjab had dangerous propensities. Andrabi, a lawyer of Kashmir was killed for the reasons for which the others spoken to about earlier were killed. Despite all these the efforts to civilise governance has not stopped.

All these human rights activists were killed because the state was afraid that they might enforce the constitution. They had, and those who continue, have the possibility of creating conditions for enforcing the pivotal fundamental obligations contained in the Directives of the Constitution, They were helping the state to realize its authentic character given to it by the Constitution. The Indian State is not an abstract entity to enable a Ruler to cockily reply, "I am. the State". It is a state with well-defined limitations and form a well defined value system of the Constitution. The unlawful killings diminished the state and its officers and not the movement.

The news of the death of my friend Raghava Ranga Rao brought back to my memory my life in the movement and the brutal deaths of some of my colleagues in the movement. Raghava Ranga Rao's was also subjected to stresses, strains and uncertainties. Some of us, like the proverbial cat, had many lives. Emerging from the flash back I realized that my journey to Nalgonda was tension -free unlike the earlier journeys, and that was because Raghava Ranga Rao died a natural death. I thought I should thank the Chief Minister and his men for permitting a civil liberty activist to live his full span and allowing him to die a natural death!

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