The ‘Million March' to Hyderabad, called by pro-Telangana groups and supported by political parties on Thursday, turned violent as thousands of agitators broke through police barricades to reach the Tank Bund here, where they went berserk. The crowds set fire to an OB van of a Telugu news channel and a police jeep and damaged windscreens of two other police vehicles. Eight policemen were injured in stone throwing. The mobs singled out Congress MPs K. Keshava Rao and Madhu Yashki Goud for attack and hurled footwear, water bottles and food sachets at them. The police had a tough time rescuing them.
Seven statues of eminent Telugu personalities erected on the Tank Bund when N.T. Rama Rao was Chief Minister were vandalised, and one uprooted statue was thrown into the Hussain Sagar lake. Journalists were also singled out for attack and more than a dozen video cameras and still cameras were snatched and damaged by the mob.
Normal life hit
Tension started building up in the Andhra Pradesh capital right from the morning with the police virtually sealing off the entire central Hyderabad, including the Assembly now in session. Normal life was thrown out of gear with traffic restrictions enforced strictly right from 6 a.m. But when a group of about 200 agitators managed to reach the Tank Bund by the northern end, police contingents remained inactive, paving way for the breaching of the barricade.
Once the barricades were breached, the crowds on the Tank Bund swelled to around 20,000. Dancing in gay abandon and raising full-throated slogans, the agitators became belligerent, once news broke that Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) convener Kodandaram was arrested.
Declaring that they would destroy all statues on the Tank Bund if he was not freed, the crowds went about the job an hour later. Telangana Rashtra Samiti president K. Chandrasekhar Rao rushed to the spot and announced that Professor Kodandaram was being released, but the crowds still remained restive.
After the leaders left the Tank Bund in the evening, the police used force to chase away a 1,000-strong crowd which stayed put on the Tank Bund. The retreating agitators hurled stones at the police and set fire to a DWACRA office and an ATM centre, following which the police lobbed teargas shells.
The ‘Million March' programme, fashioned after the recent Egyptian protests, had become a prestige issue for the agitators and the Andhra Pradesh government. It generated intense debate among the people as the date coincided with the annual Intermediate examinations. Faced with mounting criticism, the T-JAC later announced that the programme would be held only between 1 and 4 p.m.
The Hyderabad police had made unprecedented security arrangements, sealing off all roads leading to the Tank Bund, the link between Hyderabad and Secunderabad, but could not prevent the rally.