The 'Chalo Tank Bund' protest, called by the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation Joint Action Committee (TSRTC JAC), turned violent on Saturday, 9 November, after police lathicharged protesters.
The JAC, which is a collective of TSRTC unions, chose to defy police orders denying permission for the protest, and marched towards Ambedkar Circle in Tank Bund, Hyderabad. Retaliating to the lathicharge, protestors allegedly pelted stones at the police personnel, injuring a few. Police also allegedly pelted stones and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The TSRTC JAC had given a call for 'Chalo Tank Bund' to protest against Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. The protest was supported by opposition parties including Congress, BJP, TJS, CPI, CPI (M) and several others.
Saturday marked the 36th day of the ongoing strike.
However, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar had denied permission for the protest. Roads leading to Tank Bund were closed on Saturday and fortified with barbed wires, barricades and several police checkpoints. Around 100 protestors coming from Liberty circle, however, managed to breach the security and confronted the police at Basheerbagh.
The protestors were warned of action if they did not disperse. However, they remained defiant, which resulted in a lathicharge. Police then forcibly detained scores of protestors including women and took them to police stations in various parts of the city. But even as police detained one set of protesters, another wave of striking employees attempted to storm Tank Bund.
With opposition parties also supporting the strike, the Telangana police on Friday night began rounding up district leaders of the BJP and the Congress who were heading towards Tank Bund.
The state president of the Telangana BJP K Laxman has been under house arrest since Saturday morning.
“He was to take part in the protest, he is still under illegal detention. He was supposed to participate and address the rally at tank bund. A lot of leaders from across districts have been taken into preventive custody. About 60 to 70 of our leaders coming from the districts have been detained from their homes since yesterday (Friday) night. Going by the pattern of how K Chandrashekar Rao throttles the opposition’s voice this was along the expected lines,” alleged Krishna Saagar Rao, BJP state spokesperson.
Speaking to TNM, Congress leader Dr Sravan Dasoju said their party is in support of the protesting RTC staff.
“The working president of the Congress Ponnam Prabhakar and several other leaders are under house arrest. Several of our district leaders have also been detained by the police from last night. We don’t have an exact count at the moment,” he said.
Plans have been afoot to hold the 'Chalo Tank Bund' protest, akin to the Million March protest held during the Telangana agitation in 2011. The decision to hold a massive rally was taken at a public meeting held by TSRTC staff at the Saroornagar Stadium on October 30 as the government did not concede to their demands of merging the TSRTC with the government.
Million March was one of the most violent protests in the history of Telangana agitation as the protestors torched the OB Van of a news channel and a police jeep; and damaged a few police vehicles. Statues of several Telugu icons located on the Tank Bund were then allegedly vandalized by the protestors.
(With inputs from Mithun MK. Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)