It was indeed a potentially explosive situation on the Necklace road with a massive agitated crowd on one side and hundreds of policemen bracing for what was promising to be a worst-ever confrontation on Sunday.
But help came from the most unexpected quarters — the rain Gods. Sharp showers that lashed the Necklace road and environs areas helped solve a tricky situation to everyone’s satisfaction.
The sudden spells of rains provided an opportunity for both sides — the protest organisers and the police — to honourably withdraw from a situation which could have metamorphosed into quite an ugly one.
The announcement by TJAC chairman M. Kodandaram that protesters would not leave the venue till a road map for formation of Telangana State was declared set in motion a flurry of activity among the police top brass.
Top on their minds was the possibility of moving in forces to break up the meeting, a move that could have elicited a fierce retaliation. By evening, the violence streak of protesters was pretty much visible.
They forced their way through scrums of policemen in riot gear, torched police vehicles and indulged in a no-holds-barred stone hurling. As if to test the patience levels of protesters, police let in a couple of water cannons and ensured a blackout of all Telugu TV news channels. The crowds resisted the move as anticipated and the police withdrew.
After an hour of nail-biting anxiety came the manna from heavens. Rain lashed the venue again and the organisers huddled themselves for a discussion on whether to continue the strike.
“Rain made us cancel the programme. It was all slushy. There was no place to sit leave alone lie down. We had to think of people who came there,” explained a TJAC leader later.
And when the announcement about the protest being called off was made, the police bosses’ sigh of relief was pretty loud. It was a face-saving move for both parties as the crowd dwindled to three or four thousand by then and also for an edgy police top brass as they would have had to tackle an emotive crowd.
Utility of force
Sunday’s confrontation will no doubt be a good subject for a study in use and utility of force in dealing with political agitations. The strategy of aggressive posturing by police and restrictions on movement had indeed served the purpose of confining the agitators only to part of Necklace road.
But it also made protesters more belligerent. They breached the police cordon at Khairatabad flyover and clashed with policemen whenever there was ‘disproportionate use of force” on those attempting to reach the venue.
Police had completely cordoned off the flyover and also the stretch between Necklace road rotary to Jal Vihaar, NTR Marg and upper Tank Bund apprehending violence to break out on these stretches. The Necklace rotary — Jal Vihaar stretch runs along the railway track providing an ‘inexhaustible’ supply of rocks (ballast) which could be used as missiles.
Next, the stretch would make Raj Bhavan ‘reachable’ via MS Makhta for the protesters. While Secretariat had to be cordoned off, upper Tank Bund too would have provided an opportunity to the militant people to indulge in mischief.
Vital installations protected
“In all, we succeeded in protecting all vital installations in the city; controlled the damage to a large extent by confining the violence only to a small stretch on Necklace road; did not use any lethal force. And we did it after a gruelling 15-day Ganesh Bandobust”, sums up a senior police officer.