During the ''million march to Hyderabad'' organised on Mar 10 in support of the Telangana demand, 16 statues of Telugu personalities were either vandalised, uprooted or broken and thrown into the Hussain Sagar lake abutting the Tank Bund.
Some of the desecrated statues were of: King Sri Krishnadevaraya, whose reign is hailed as ''golden era'' in the annals of Indian history, ancient poet Yerrapragada, who translated Mahabharat into Telugu. Saint-composer Annamayya, who sang songs in praise of Lord Venkateswara. Social reformer Kandukuri Veeresalingam, who championed the cause of widow marriages in the early 20th century, and Gurram Jashua, a great Dalit poet.
The desecration of the statues raised a massive public outcry from prominent Telugu writers, poets, social activists, political leaders and people from other walks of life mainly from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
Members of State Legislative Assembly as well as legislative council, cutting across political lines, condemned the vandalism. Meanwhile, the upper house passed a resolution urging the government to re-install the statues. Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar promised to re-install the statues.
Expressing anguish over destruction of statues, people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema organised a ''padayatra'' on the Tank Bund Road, offered homage to the great personalities and sought apologies for the disrespect heaped on them.
"They (Telangana supporters) can secure statehood. We have nothing against it. But this desecration of statues is totally unjustified. These great personalities are not confined to any region," Garikapati Narasimha Rao, a famous Telugu scholar and poet, said.
"Even if 10 lakh bulls marched on the Tank Bund road, they would not have caused any harm to the statues," Jonnavithula Ramalingeswara Rao, a poet and film lyricist, said.
Renowned Telugu poet and Gyanpeeth award recipient C Narayana Reddy, who was involved in the task of installing the statues, also condemned the vandalism.
Taking exception to the criticism against the desecration of the statues, pro-Telangana groups charged that non-Telangana leaders and others are raising a hue and cry over the incident but remained silent when "about 600 persons committed suicide in support of the statehood demand."
"They are raising a hue and cry if some lifeless statues are damaged. But they are silent over the suicides of 600 Telangana children for separate state," TRS MLA T Harish Rao and others remarked.
The Telangana groups held a ''Swabhiman Yatra'' and demanded that the statues of Telangana icons be installed on the Tank Bund.
Alleging that great personalities from Telangana were ignored when the statues were installed on the Tank Bund, the Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) leaders and all other Telangana groups demanded that the statues of Komaram Bheem, a revolutionary freedom fighter, and other icons be erected.
The 33 statues of great Telugu personalities installed on the Tank Bund Road during N T Rama Rao's regime have a special recognition and importance in Andhra Pradesh as the Tank Bund, on the banks of picturesque Hussain Sagar lake, is a major tourist attraction in Hyderabad.
The location of the statues, in close proximity to the State Secretariat and Assembly, also contributed to the significance they assumed. The luminaries, whose statues were installed, belonged to all parts of present day Andhra Pradesh.
Opposition leader Dadi Veerabhadra Rao (TDP) had said in the legislative council that late Chief Minister N T Rama Rao, a great lover of arts and culture, took great interest in the installation of the statues.
He appointed a top-level committee to select the luminaries for installation of their statues and engaged the services of expert sculptors, photographers and others from Madras for making the statues and the job was completed in a record 30 days.