For a final salute, they came in their thousands
A Ganesh Nadar reports on the scenes of mourning in Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's last journey in Hyderabad on Friday took him from his home to the Congress Bhavan where party workers paid their last respects. Then the body was taken to the Lal Bhahadur Stadium for the public to pay homage.
Chaos stared you in the face as you approached the stadium as thousands of people tried to get in. Two young boys on a bike were carrying Congress flags. They were wearing black shirts and also wore masks, showing YSR's smiling face. Their expressions were not visible but the body language expressed shock.
The police on duty were agitated. They were trying their best and when faced with the onslaught of the human rush, they just used their riot shields and lathis. There were people going under ropes and climbing over the barbed wire. The lathis could not stop them.
The police finally closed all the gates. The stadium was packed. The VIP gallery was packed and the press box was full.
Outside truckloads of villagers continued to arrive long after YSR's body had been moved to the Begumpet airport from where it would be flown to Cuddapah and then taken to his village, Pulivendula where he would be buried.
The villagers had come from nearby villages. Mohan, the driver of one vehicle, said, "I have never voted for the Congress before. Only in the last elections I voted for the party. You know why? YSR gave me a house in Hyderabad and my brother two acres of land in my village. Never in our lives did we imagine that the government would give us poor people land or a house in this big city. I wish he had lived longer. You think all the road work across the state will stop now that he is gone?"
Another villager said that he was shocked at the news. "He was going to surprise village officials by his sudden visit and now he has shocked all of us. God alone knows why he died. I cannot understand why a good man who was working for the poor died so young. He should have been chief minister for ten more years. All his good schemes will now stop. Don't know if the next man will follow the same policies?"
Vendors selling peanuts and bhelpuri were doing brisk business as all shops and restaurants were closed.
The young girls and boys who joined in the crowd did not seem so sad. For them this was just another outing to a crowded place. Sorrow sat lightly on their young minds.
Image: Mourners pay last respects to YSR Reddy in Hyderabad