Thousands defy government, march for Telangana

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 10, 2011 15:30 hrs

Hyderabad, March 10 (IANS) Thousands of people from all walks of life violated ban orders and broke police barricades to participate in the 'million march' at Tank Bund here Thursday to intensify the movement for a separate Telangana state.

Activists of various political parties, students, government employees, lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists, writers and cultural artists participated in the march planned on the lines of recent pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

Demanding a bill in parliament for carving out separate state, the protestors took an oath to further intensify the movement.

Normal life came to a standstill in the city as it was virtually under police siege since early morning. Over 12,000 personnel from police and central paramilitary forces were deployed to foil the march.

However, as the events later showed, the protestors succeeded in holding the march, the first such show of strength in the city for a separate state.

Though the agitators promised that the march would be peaceful, the protests were marred by violence later in the day.

Police used teargas shells in the evening to disperse the mob and took back control of Tank Bund, a three-km-long road along Hussain Sagar Lake connecting the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

Damaged statues, burnt vehicles and stones were strewn all along the road, a popular spot for tourists. The protestors also set on fire a ATM of Andhra Bank, a government office and damaged window panes of a hotel.

Director General of Police Aravinda Rao told reporters that tear gas was used to disperse 1,000 protestors, who resorted to violence after the march had concluded.

Eight policemen and an equal number of journalists were injured in the attack by protestors.

The police chief said 20,000 people participated in the march but Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) put the number at 100,000.

The area was rocked by violence as the protestors attacked mediapersons, damaged cameras and vans, vandalized statues of Telugu literary and historical figures and set afire police vehicles.

As many as six statues were damaged and their broken parts were thrown into the lake. More than 25 video and still cameras of mediapersons were destroyed when they were capturing the destruction of the statues.

The city was rocked first by the large scale traffic curbs imposed by police and later by the protests and the violence.

TJAC, which comprises parties fighting for a separate state, succeeded despite the police carrying out large scale arrests in the entire region. About 50 trains were cancelled to prevent people from other Telangana districts reaching Hyderabad.

Police erected 350 check posts on the outskirts of Hyderabad to prevent Telangana activists from entering the city. Vehicles were allowed only after thorough checking.

It was utter chaos on the roads of Hyderabad and Secunderabad as the curbs caused severe inconvenience to students going to exam centres and the people going to offices and work places.

Curfew-like situation prevailed around Tank Bund, secretariat, Raj Bhavan and the assembly.

Tension prevailed at Osmania University as students clashed with police after they were prevented from taking out a rally to Tank Bund. Police fired teargas shells to control the students.

The police arrested dozens of protestors in various parts of the city but around 1 p.m. the activists started reaching Tank Bund in groups from different directions. Soon the crowd swelled to hundreds and then to thousands as they outnumbered the police.

Police arrested TJAC convenor M. Kodandaram, legislators and leaders of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as they started for Tank Bund from various points in the city.

Two Congress MPs K. Keshava Rao and Madhu Goud Yaskhi, who managed to reach Tank Bund, came under attack. Asking them to resign, the protestors threw footwear, water bottles and other missiles at them. Keshava Rao's vehicle was also damaged by the crowd. The two leaders, however, escaped unhurt.

Kodandaram, who visited Tank Bund in the evening after he was released by police, claimed that the march was a huge success.

TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao also joined the protest and took oath with all the activists to continue their fight for a separate state.