Friday, March 11, 2011

Pro-Telangana mob dumps Andhra heroes' statues in lake

HYDERABAD: Angry pro-Telangana mobs uprooted 11 statues of Andhra icons, including that of Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya, and flung them into the Hussain Sagar lake on Thursday, as a potential precursor to a fresh spiral of violence. The protests seemed designed to deepen linguistic and political faultlines between pro- and anti-Telangana sections over an Andhra identity. 

Apart from hurling Krishnadeva Raya's statue — his 16th century reign represents the high noon of Telugu culture — the Telangana activists also smashed the statue of Sir Arthur Cotton, the British engineer who brought irrigation and prosperity to the state. 

Statues of Annamacharya, famous for his hymns in honour of Lord Balaji of Tirumala, were also vandalized among eight others, which included eminent Telugu statesmen and literary figures. 

The statues of 33 iconic personalities of Andhra Pradesh were installed more than 25 years ago by then chief minister N T Rama Rao. "This action represents the assertion of the people of Telangana that their culture is not the same as that of Andhra and that they don't care for Andhra," said an analyst. 

In the five-hour violence between 1.30pm and 5.30 pm, Telangana activists also set on fire the Dwacra building on Lower Tank Bund road, a police vehicle, the OB van of a television channel, looted an ATM and damaged another police vehicle and cameras belonging to TV channels. 

The marauding mob also manhandled Congress MPs K Keshava Rao and Madhu Yashki and forced them to flee. DGP K Aravinda Rao said cases were being registered for the violence unleashed by the protesters, including the desecration of statues, and promised to bring offenders to book. 

Furious activists attacked Rakshak, a police van, and as soon as the cops inside fled, set it on fire. Even as the security personnel began advancing towards them, the crowd starting throwing stones. Faced with relentless stone-pelting, the Rapid Action Force too retreated hastily. 

After that, the protesters had a free run as all security personnel had withdrawn from either end of the Tank Bund road. The violence that ensued ended only after police reinforcements arrived with tear gas shells to clear the area of protesters around 6pm, after which the Tank Bund road was sealed.

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