A saga of chilling feud between two families of Anantapur

By Mohammed Shafeeq, IANS,

Hyderabad : The killing of warlord Gangula Suryanarayana Reddy alias Maddelachervu Suri here brought an end to the chilling factional feud and a bloody saga of revenge between two families of Andhra Pradesh’?s Anantapur district which Ram Gopal Varma turned into a movie “Rakta Charitra”.

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Two generations have been brutally eliminated in the nearly four-decade long fight between the families of Suri and Paritala Ravi. Except one brother of Suri, who died in a road accident, all other family members of the two warlords were murdered by rivals in the most brutal fashion.

Suri, the key accused in the murder of former Andhra Pradesh minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Paritala Ravi and in the killing of 26 people in the 1997 bomb blast in Hyderabad, was the last family member of his generation to fall to bullets.

It was an end that was not unexpected even for Suri. Ever since he was released from prison in December 2009, the 39-year-old Suri always feared for his life.

“Factionism has destroyed my life. I don’t believe I am still alive. I know I will also be murdered one day but in reality I died long ago,” the man had said recently in an interview.

The faction fight in Rayalaseema region, especially in Anantapur, revolves around the feud between the families of Ravi and Suri.

In the backward region bordering Karnataka, rival factions backed by powerful castes and political parties have been fighting for political and economic domination for decades.

According to a police officer, the factions have no match to the brutality with which they eliminate their rivals.

Suri and Ravi, whose roles in “Rakta Charitra” were portrayed by actors Surya and Vivek Oberoi respectively, inherited the war from their fathers.

Inspired by the Naxalite movement for land distribution among landless poor, Ravi’s father Paritala Sriramulu and his followers began occupying the lands of landlords in Penukonda assembly constituency in the early 1970s.

The gory dispute erupted when Sriramulu took control of the lands belonging to Suri’s father and then Congress legislator Gangula Narayana Reddy and the latter’s friend Saane Chenna Reddy.

In 1975, Sriramulu and four of his relatives were hacked to death when they were going to attend a marriage.

Following this, Sriramulu’s younger son (Ravi’s younger brother) Paritala Hari joined People’s War Group (PWG) and took revenge for his father’s killing by eliminating Narayana Reddy in 1982.

Hari was killed in 1984 during an alleged gun battle with police.

Ravi then went underground and joined the Naxalites. From 1984 to 1989, the two groups clashed several times.

Suri, who was studying in the ninth standard when his father was murdered, discontinued his education and vowed to take revenge.

S. Chenna Reddy belonging to the group of Suri’s father, was elected to the Andhra assembly from Penukonda in 1989. Ravi started uniting people who had allegedly suffered excesses at the hands of Chenna Reddy’s son Obul Reddy.

Chenna Reddy was killed by Naxalites posing as policemen in 1991. The PWG claimed it was to take revenge for the murder of Sriramulu.

In the by-election, Chenna Reddy’s elder son Ramna Reddy was elected.

In 1993, Ravi’s faction plotted to kill Suri by delivering a portable television set loaded with explosives to his house when he was away. Unsuspecting members of his family switched on the television, killing his mother Sakamma, brother Raghunath Reddy, sister Padma and two other relatives.

Suri went into hiding fearing for his life.

The next year saw Ravi elected to the assembly from Penukonda as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) candidate. N.T. Rama Rao made him a minister.

As Ravi became more powerful, his faction started eliminating its rivals one after another. Ramna Reddy and his brother Obul Reddy were hacked to death separately in Hyderabad in 1996 and 1997.

To avenge the killing of his parents and other family members, Suri plotted a major attack.

On Nov 19, 1997 when Ravi was coming out of Ramanaidu studio in Jubliee Hills in Hyderabad after starting the production of a Telugu film on his father, a car bomb exploded.

While Ravi escaped unhurt, 26 people in the convoy were killed.

Suri was the main accused in the case and he was later sentenced to life. But he continued to call the shots from the jail through his associates.

In 2004, Suri’s wife Gangula Bhanumati contested as the Congress candidate against Ravi from Penukonda. Although Ravi was reelected, the TDP lost power, making him vulnerable to attacks.

Dozens of Ravi’s associates were killed by rivals.

Finally, two gunmen shot dead Ravi in front of the TDP office in Anantapur town Jan 24, 2005. The killing sparked violence in the district.

In a sensational disclosure before a television channel, Suri’s close aide Julakanti Srinivasa Reddy alias Muddu Seenu said he killed Ravi as he wanted to see smile on the face of his boss.

Seenu, however, was caught under dramatic circumstances in November 2005 at a lodge in Chandanagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

The case took a twist Dec 9, 2008 when Seenu was brutally murdered in Anantapur jail by co-prisoner Om Prakash after a quarrel over switching off the light.

Seenu’s family alleged that Suri got him murdered as he wanted to turn approver in Ravi’s murder case.

Suri, who spent 13 years in jail, was released in December 2009 after the government granted him remission for good conduct.

He told the media that he was fed up with the faction violence and desired to lead a peaceful life.

But the past continued to haunt him. Death finally caught up with him as one of his close aides became his killer, allegedly over a property dispute.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])