Telangana: A separate ethnic region merged with Andhra in 1956; Seemandhra: A region carved out of Madras State in 1953; consists of areas of Coastal Andhra and Royalaseema; Andhra: Short for Seemandhra; Tank Bund: A name given to a bridge on Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad; Telangana uprising: A non-violent movement for demerger of Telangana from Andhra. It is an ongoing struggle since its merger with Andhra State in1956.
Why have Statues on Tank Bund?
It is fairly accurate to say that Indian politicians cherish a veritable passion for erection of statues anywhere and everywhere. This became apparent to me in my recent visit to Andhrapradesh and Rajasthan in January of this year. As I toured Rajasthan, I saw many village four-corners spruced up with statues of prominent personalities. It beats me why these places that are subject to heavy vehicular traffic were chosen to honor their illustrious dead? Could it be to take them up to even greater heights or popularize them even more? Whatever the reason, it was pathetic to see these statues breathing in and out the black toxic fumes from the passing diesel vehicles. I doubt if anyone ever cared to dust off the dirt from these statues to give them a respectable look. It is a given that India abounds in beautiful edifices coalesced with Hindu and Moghul architecture in the world, and it is also a given that India sadly lacks the foresight to maintain them appropriately.
My stay in Hyderabad was full of nostalgic feelings of my college and High School days. The city has changed beyond recognition. My alma mater, Nizam college, was still there but obscured by commercial buildings and a massive flyover. Air and noise pollution were in their intense form. The traffic congestion, one-way streets and missing road signs made it virtually impossible for me to visit my alma mater. But the Tank Bund was one that I was determined not to miss.
My visit to Karimnagar in Andhrapradesh took me over the Tank Bund, a road that links Hyderabad with Secunderabad. As the driver drove me up the Bund, it was all a Déjà vu. It brought forth the nostalgic feelings of my days in high school and college. In those days it was a serene place for students as well as families to gather at sunset to imbibe the beauty of nature and the serenity of the lake. The sail boats that moved around slowly gave the lake the grandeur of an evening splendor. It was an ideal place for meditation.
The Bund has now changed a great deal. It is widened to accommodate the ever growing vehicular traffic. The incessant honking of cars had become the order of the day. It resembled a paradise in shambles.
I saw many marble and granite statues meticulously lined up along the sides of the Bund. All in all there were 33 statues and an exquisite Budha statue in the middle of the lake. These statues were no different from statues in Rajasthan in that they did not escape the wrath of nature or the abuse from birds.
The statues on the Bund piqued my curiosity. I asked the driver if he knew whose statues they were. He let out a cynical laugh and said in an uncompromising tone “Sir, I do not know beans about these statues but I know for sure that they do not belong to persons from Telangana. I don’t know why these statues are here in Telangana in the first place?” Subsequently I came to know that 27 of these statues were of kings, poets, revolutionaries and social reformers from Seemandhra. They were erected by an actor turned Chief Minister from Seemandhra with heavy taxpayers’ money.
My journey to Karimnagar was no different from that of Jaipur to Jodhpur or Jodhpur to Udaipur. Every village center has a statue of one kind or another. The trucks enjoyed the free-for-all driving on the narrow roads. Honking was incessant and dreadfully annoying. The trucks conspicuously displayed the signs “blow horn, blow horn to pass” or something of the sort on the rear ends.
Particularly painful was the sight of the statue of our “father of the nation” in the center of a street junction in Karimnagar. The white statue with mini dhoti and a staff in the hand hardly looked white anymore. It was covered with dirt and soot. In the wee hours of the morning, the statue became an attractive place for sparrows, crows and stray dogs.
In my last few days in Hyderabad the political grapevine was laden with the fear of an impending mammoth Million-March that would paralyze the normal life in the city. The march was attributed to Telangana activists agitating for demerger of Telangana from Seemandhra. My desire to stay in the city at once got transmogrified into a fear of missing my return flight to America. But that fear was unfounded. We reached home on February 9 without a hitch.
On March 10 the internet buzzed with news of the Million-March. The news conveyed that the march braved the assaults by the paramilitary force, dodged the barbed wires, and surged through barricaded gates in waves unseen never before to reach the Tank Bund. Seven statues on the Tank Bund were destroyed. The unexpected had now happened.
What then was the reason for destruction?
No one denies that illustrious and famous should have coveted niches in the history of their land. A statue is one such niche. But a statue must have a rightful place that befits the stature and status of the icon. Is Tank Bund an appropriate place for a statue? No. Why?
Not too far away from where I live in America there is a beautiful lake called “Canandaigua Lake.” The British settlers could have named it Victoria Lake, but they didn’t. They were magnanimous to have it named “Canandaigua Lake” as a tribute to the valiant native Indians who fought a fierce battle against them to the end. In naming the lake so, the settlers desisted from the hegemonic subjugation and cultural degradation of the natives.
Canandaigua Lake is humongous in comparison to Hussain Sagar Lake. It is adorned with vineyards, wineries and picnic spots all along its East and West shores. In summer it becomes the busiest tourist attraction. The docks will be filled with myriads of anchored boats of all sizes and types. Ducks and cranes hover over in the sky looking for live fish. The lake simply transforms into an unforgettable, idyllic and enchanting sight. For locals it is a sought-after picnic spot for relaxation and enjoyment. Parents bring their youngsters to feed the ducks and take them on boat rides. The roads converging to the lake are all beautifully laid out by green trees and lawns. So why are there no statues of illustrious and famous? It beats me! By the same token, why are there no statues on Rainbow Bridge to Canada or Washington Bridge in New York? These questions deserve an answer.
The world’s tallest statue of Abraham Lincoln stands in Ashmore, Illinois, the State of his birth. The 72 feet tall statue was built in 1969. It was placed at the entrance to a campground, an unlikely place for a famous person. The passing of time took a toll on it. The body was sprayed with bullets; fingers were broken; the paint began to peel off and the attachments were blown away. Birds found a way into the statue. Slowly the statue began to crumble and wear off. It is now dubbed as the ugliest Lincoln statue. Out of respect to Lincoln, people want now to dismantle and move the statue altogether.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln “common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.” Sure, Abe would have been happy to see his statue removed.
Therefore, an appropriate place for a statue is neither a tank bund nor an amusement park. A Museum or a memorial park in his/her birth place will pass for appropriateness.
The story of statues on Tank Bund is no different from that of Abe Lincoln. These statues if not protected and guarded will in time become spit-spots for pan-chewers, perches for birds, rest stops for pigeon droppings and dog stops for relief. The talk of the government now to reinstall the broken statues defies good judgment?
Nonetheless, the troubling question now is, “why were the statues mutilated by Telanganites (T’Nites”) after a quarter of a century?” The answer is simple and clear. It is the meltdown of reactions bred by vicious and unfair actions of the Government and the police brutalities against T’Nites. President Kennedy reflected this beautifully.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable.
– John F. Kennedy
Behavioral psychology amply demonstrates the relevance of actions to their reactions. Judicial system is none other than an institution for enforcing reactions appropriate to the committed crimes. In animal kingdom reaction is the God given defensive mechanism for survival. Science theorizes that an action generates an equal and opposite reaction. Rocket science, aerodynamics and thermodynamics are full of deductions that quantify reactions for the comfort and enjoyment of mankind. In a nutshell some reactions are essential and some are not. Whether good or bad, they are all here to stay as long as the actions keep rolling. But we can eliminate bad reactions only and only if we can nip in the bud the related primary actions.
Violent actions by the Government against the activists of Telangana movement are plenty to quote despite the movement’s non-violent nature. The movement is built on the principles of Sathyagraha and non-cooperation as espoused and preached by Mahatma Gandhi. But strange as it may sound, these principles find no takers in a land that Gandhi is revered as the father of the nation and apostle of non-violence. The peaceful marches, processions and sit-ins have all become the targets for lathi charges, rubber bullets, unjust arrests, random jail lock-ups and police brutalities, worse than those that Gandhi ever met at the hands of British rulers. Was there a good reason to drag the injured students from an ambulance and beat them mercilessly? Why were not these vicious acts ever found a way to mass media? The truth is that the media barons are all from Seemandhra region and they monitor and manage what is heard, printed and videoed. As a consequence the violent actions committed by the Government are now being translated into reactions of the worst kind. The destruction of the statues on Tank Bund is a case in point.
The media hype on the destruction of statues on Tank Bund likens to the saying in Urdu “Cheel uditho Bhail udi.” This hype is the most egregious chicanery to malign a non-violent movement. Would I tolerate the statue of Churchill or Chou En- Lai on the Tank Bund? Would America allow Barack Obama’s statue erected on the Tank Bund? Would I like to see an unfamiliar icon’s statue implanted in my backyard? Tank Bund would be the least desirable spot for persons of fame in other lands. So it is fair to say that all statues have their own abodes and places. Installation of statues from one region in another region when the regions are mutually disconnected in culture and history defeats the very purpose of the installation for honor and respect.
“However great a person might be,�
Should he remain obscure from me,
The great statue will never exact
Honor or homage deep from my heart.”
– Gopal Alankar
Statues are not everlasting. They have finite life. They succumb to vagaries of weather and vicissitudes of human behavior. Buddha’s statues have all but disappeared from Afghanistan. Whatever has happened to Stalin statues in Russia or those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq? Why was President Sanjeeva Reddy’s statue destroyed in Vijayawada in Seemandhra?
Having said that the Tank Bund is not a place for statues, I do not condone the destruction of extant statues. Destruction is not a righteous deed. And the destruction of Telangana culture is not righteous either. The destruction of social fiber of Telangana through film characterization of T’Nites as lowly, brute and uncivilized is righteous neither. I see nothing wrong if T’Nites fight tooth and nail if their Telangana History is effaced from the pages of the books they read. I say that they must resist with all their might the plundering of their beautiful land around Hyderabad, and oppose the usurpations of Telangana river waters. Aren’t these the righteous things to do? What is unrighteous about decrying the insensitivity of the government towards the fluoride victims in Telangana?
Frankly, the huffing and puffing of Andhra media on fallen statues has a hidden agenda to discredit the Telangana movement as violent. The incessant moans and groans on the front pages of print media by Andhra elite have a veiled threat of retribution. The unabated shedding of tears on TV screens for lifeless fallen statues has the symptoms of a theatrical act purported to mobilize the public denunciation of Telangana movement.
Where have all the tears gone when 600 precious lives were lost since the movement began? Where have all the moans and groans gone when many students lost their lives in suicides? Where have all the sobs and throbs gone when students were beaten to bleeding? Where have all puffing and huffing gone when Telangana jobs were pillaged? Where was the Andhra fury when President Sanjeeva Reddy’s statue was destroyed in Vijayawada? Give me a break!
Andhra journalism has become the perfect quintessence of smoke screen for shenanigans. It does not measure up to standards of good reporting. The time has come now for them to resort to fair and balanced journalism, and it is time to call a spade a spade. There isn’t any other way to cut the mustard for good journalism.
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