Gaddar, balladeer, activist, former Maoist, dies at 74

Gaddar had been ailing for a long time. DC Image

Hyderabad: Revolutionary folk singer and popular balladeer Gaddar, whose songs turned into protest anthems and touched crores of people over the decades, passed away here on Sunday following a brief illness.

He was 74. He is survived by his wife Vimala, son Suryam and daughter Vennela. His other son, Chandrudu, passed away in 2003.

Gaddar’s last rites will be performed with state honours on Monday, following instructions of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao.

The final rites will be conducted in Maha Bodhi Vidyalaya, a school owned by his family in Alwal. The procession will leave at 12 noon from LB Stadium, where the mortal remains have been kept to enable the people to pay their last respects.

A former Maoist ideologue, he was popular by his stage name Gaddar rather than his actual name of Gummadi Vittal Rao. He was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in the city for the past 10 days after suffering a cardiac arrest.

A media statement issued by Apollo Spectra Hospitals on Sunday read: “Gaddar passed away at 3 pm due to lung and urinary problems and advanced age. He was suffering from severe heart disease and got admitted on July 20. He underwent a bypass surgery on August 3 and recovered from it. However, he is a past patient of lung and urinary problems, which, along with advanced age, aggravated and led to him passing away.”

Gaddar was born to a Dalit couple at Toopran of Medak in 1949. Gaddar worked for a brief period in Canara Bank in 1975, before taking to ‘revolutionary politics.’ He went underground in the 1980s and became a member of the CPI-ML (People’s War). He was the founder of the Jana Natya Mandali, the cultural outfit of the People’s War Group (PWG) of Naxalites, which later transformed into the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Gaddar rose to be renowned as the people’s singer, highlighting people’s issues in his songs. He also acted in a few movies, including ‘Maa Bhoomi’ and ‘Rangula Kala’.

During the direct talks between the Congress government led by then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy and the PWG in 2004, which was a first, it was Gaddar, along with revolutionary writers Varavara Rao and Kalyan Rao, who acted as emissaries for the Naxalites.

Gaddar, who, while being a Maoist supporter, had campaigned against electoral politics and believed that ‘bullet was powerful over ballot’ and voting was a futile exercise.

However, in 2017, Gaddar announced he had severed all ties with Maoists and declared himself an ‘Ambedkarite’, and in the 2018 Assembly elections, he voted for the first time in his life.

Gaddar, who had supported the Telangana agitation in his early days, took an active part in the Telangana Statehood agitation after its resurgence in 2001.

In June this year, he announced the launch of a new political party, the Gaddar Praja Party, and said he would contest the upcoming Assembly elections in Telangana.

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