The martyrs memorial at Gun Park may have become the symbol of Telangana struggle but four decades after installation and even after birth of the new state, it still awaits a formal inauguration and, its creator, his dues.
The memorial turned a monument symbolizing rebellion in recent years with students and politicians courting arrest at the Gun Park. Its place in the history of Telangana state was further cemented when the state’s first chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao paid his respects at the memorial early Monday morning before being sworn in.
This statue, a 25-feet tall one is the handiwork of Aekka Yadagiri Rao, 74, a nationally acclaimed sculptor, who retired as Professor in Department of Sculpture from JNTU (Fine Arts) in 1999-2000. It is ironical that the Telangana martyrs memorial built by him in 1974 is yet to be inaugurated till date. If that was not enough, authorities still owe him some money for the work, which when calculated with interest comes anywhere close to Rs.25 lakhs, according to Yadagiri Rao.
Aekka Yadagiri Rao, who was born in 1938 in the old city, started his artistic journey in the early 1960s. His inspiration was his uncle Raghava, who himself was a sculptor. Under his tutelage, Yadagiri Rao who was in his teens then started making Ganesh idols from plaster of paris for Vinayaka Chavithi festivals.
His passion for art fetched him a teacher job in College of Fine Arts department in JNTU in 1971 from where he retired as Professor 30 years later. He was awarded the gold medals by AP State Lalit Kala Akademi(1974) and Hyderabad Art Society(1975). Yadagiri Rao also received honours from state government, various universities, organizations (state and national) during his journey.
Well-known art critic Jayappa Swamy had compared this sculptor’s works to the creations of world renowned Picasso (France) and Henry Moore (United Kingdom).
Art historian and Padmasri Jagdish Mittal commented that this trendsetter sculptor is adept in creating notable three-dimensional images in all media, be it terracotta, plaster of paris, metal sheet, wood, granite or bronze.
When questioned about the inauguration which never took place, he replied, “I was entrusted with the job of creating this structure in memory of Telangana martyrs in 1972. The work was completed in just over two years. In the meantime, the Congress high command made sure that all Telangana leaders listen to its diktats.
After that, nobody dared to talk or utter a word about Telangana which led to indefinite postponement of the inauguration. Still I knocked the doors of the then MCH (Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad office) which gave me the contract, countless number of times for five years in between 1975 and 1980, with the hope of getting my due amount. However, I gave up my hope thereafter.”
The structure was commissioned by the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad in 1972 despite opposition from the state government of the day to install a memorial for the 360 students killed in police firing during the 1969 Telangana protest. Sculptor Aekka Yadgiri Rao was selected to build a memorial after his proposal to carve out the structure from granite was approved. “I was chosen over several other sculptors of repute. I had huge boulders brought from Mysore which I later sculpted into the memorial,” recalled Rao, 76, who shared an emotional moment with KCR at the memorial on Monday. “From the black stone base to marble lily flower atop the structure reflects the sacrifice and endeavor of the martyred students from each of the districts of Telangana,” he added.
Rao, then a teacher at JNTU College of Fine Arts, was given the contract to build the monument for Rs 90,000 with a condition that the final payment would be revised subject to the outcome.
“I had put in extra elements like an additional step and polished the stone, besides using a monolith structure for the body of the memorial. I had done more than what I had proposed and was promised payment after measuring the memorial. The result was that the MCH owed me Rs 60,000. Every time I asked for it I was told the payment would be made after inauguration of the monument,” Rao said. Till this day, the memorial has not been inaugurated.
Dr Chirenjeevi Kolluri, of the 1969 Telangana Movement Founder’s Forum said his forum had tried to install name plaques in four languages at the site two years ago but their attempts were foiled by the state police.
As for Rao himself, he hopes his work gets the right recognition. Statues of horse and flag at Indira Park, Durgabhai Deshmukh on Tank Bund and Ambedkar statue in Karimnagar are some of Aekka Yadagiri Rao’s creations.
“It is not about money anymore though I knocked on several doors to get the remainder of my due and had also approached the courts but in vain. I simply hope that the new government gives me recognition in some form befitting my contribution,” he said.
Source: The Hans India/ToI/DC