The voice of the bard of the Dalits, balladeer Gaddar, who fought for their emancipation from the exploitation of the landed gentry, fell silent on Sunday, 6 August, when he breathed his last at a corporate hospital in Hyderabad.
He was a prominent poet, activist, and former Naxalite who fought for the rights of the oppressed and the cause of Telangana.
He was 74 and is survived by his wife and three children. His death was announced by his son Surya. The balladeer was admitted to the hospital on 20 July, and underwent heart surgery a few days ago.
Though the doctors expected that he would recover soon, his death came as a big blow not only to his family members but also to his followers.
Gaddar came from Toopran in the erstwhile Medak district in present-day Telangana. He inspired Dalits with his soul-stirring songs in the local dialect. His original name was Gummadi Vithal Rao.
He had his school education in Nizamabad and Mahabubnagar districts. He did his graduation in Hyderabad.
The most inspiring of all his songs was “Podustuna Poddumeeda nadustuna kaalama, poru telanganama“, which captures the travails faced by the people of Telangana.
He inspired people by singing in films. His “nee padam pai puttumachanai” song in Orey Rikshaw fetched him the Nandi award.
He joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War in the 1980s as a member of its cultural wing, Jana Natya Mandali.
He assumed the name of Gaddar by taking inspiration from Gadar Party, which fought against the British in India’s quest for Independence.
Street plays of Gaddar
His street plays and rallies inspired the Dalits and other weaker sections against the injustice meted out to them.
An attempt on his life took place when unidentified persons opened fire at him at his residence in Venkatapuram in Secunderabad on 6 April, 1997.
Though doctors removed four bullets, one remained in his spine: It could not be pulled out without giving scope for other complications.
Gaddar left the Naxalite movement in 2010. He took an active part in the second phase of the Telangana movement and fought for social justice and equality for the marginalised sections.
He formed the Telangana Praja Front, a mass organisation. He fought for justice for the families of Dalits who were massacred in Karamchedu on 17 July, 1985, in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandi condoled the demise of Gaddar in a tweet.
“Saddened to hear about the demise of Shri Gummadi Vittal Rao, Telangana’s iconic poet, balladeer and fiery activist. His love for the people of Telangana drove him to fight tirelessly for the marginalised. May his legacy continue to inspire us all,” he said on X (Twitter).
Saddened to hear about the demise of Shri Gummadi Vittal Rao, Telangana’s iconic poet, balladeer and fiery activist.
His love for the people of Telangana drove him to fight tirelessly for the marginalised. May his legacy continue to inspire us all. pic.twitter.com/IlHcV6pObs
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 6, 2023
(The date of the Karamchedu massacre has been corrected)