|Police fire teargas on pro-Telangana activists in Hyderabad on Sunday. (PTI)
Hyderabad, Sept. 7: Several thousands of employees from Seemandhra today braved attacks by pro-Telangana elements and gathered here for a rally for a united Andhra, threatening to hold a “Million March” if the Centre stuck to its decision to bifurcate the state.
The “Million March” to Hyderabad, called by pro-Telangana groups, was held on March 11, 2011. Thousands of agitators had broken through police barricades and headed for Tank Bund, a thoroughfare on Husseinsagar reservoir, where they damaged 24 statues of leaders, most of whom were from Seemandhra.
Today’s Save Andhra rally, organised by the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association, was also attended by some employees from Telangana districts like Nalgonda, Khammam, Medak and Warangal to express solidarity with colleagues from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
People literally spilled out of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium as over 80,000 employees with valid identity cards made their way in and several thousands, without ID cards, gathered outside. A grandson of Marxist ideologue P. Sundaraiah and Telugu ghazal singer Srinivas were special invitees.
Political leaders were kept away following restrictions imposed by Andhra Pradesh High Court. The Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) tried to foil the rally for a united Andhra —Samaikhyandhra — by calling a 24-hour bandh but it had little impact in Hyderabad.
To counter the rally, Telangana Rashtra Samiti legislators staged a sit-in by the Gandhi statue on the Andhra Assembly premises. Led by E. Rajender, Harish Rao and P. Srinivas Reddy, the sit-in was in protest against the Kiran Kumar Reddy government’s “discriminatory” attitude and its refusal to let them take out a parallel rally.
In the morning, pro-Telangana supporters pelted policemen and employees from the Seemandhra region with stones as they were heading to the rally venue. Masquerading as students, they gathered in the Nizam College hostel near the stadium and targeted the rallyists.
When police entered the hostel to disperse the mob, they too were pelted with stones, forcing them to lob teargas shells. At least, three policemen were injured. Several people were taken into custody.
“We were quietly walking on the road leading to the stadium when suddenly we were pelted with stones. Two of my colleagues were injured in the incident,” Visweswara Rao, a government employee from Adoni in Kurnool district, said.
As many as 20 buses ferrying rallyists from coastal Andhra to the stadium were attacked in the city by pro-Telangana agitators, media reports said.
Trouble also erupted in Osmania University as pro-Telangana supporters, heading towards the rally site to disrupt it, were stopped inside the campus gates by the special protection force deployed since last evening.
Minutes before the rally started at 2pm, a group of bikers arrived near the Assembly building and raised pro-Telangana slogans. Another group tried to march towards the stadium but the police took them into custody.
“This is a dark moment when our rights as legislators have been denied,” E.Rajender, the TRS floor leader in the Assembly, said. The MLAs then staged a dharna on the Assembly premises.