A day after the Centre’s decision to divide Andhra Pradesh, the state already seemed split down the middle as coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema erupted in anger and Telangana in celebration.
Pro-Telangana supporters during a demonstration in support of TJAC's 'Chalo Assembly' protest in Hyderabad. (PTI Photo)
There was total shutdown in the 13 districts comprising Seema-Andhra — as the two non-Telangana regions are called — with schools, colleges, cinemas and markets closed. But the streets were far from quiet as rallies and road-and-rail blockades demanding rollback of the decision fought for space with large police contingents.
Vishakapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Kurnool were among the cities where life came to a standstill. A home guard in Vizag committed suicide, apparently distressed by the division move. In Anantapur, police baton-charged protestors as the situation threatened to go out of control. At many places, statues of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi were desecrated or destroyed. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka stopped bus services to Andhra.
There were ripples across the country too as other groups demanding statehood— from Darjeeling to Assam and UP to Vidarbha — threatened to give the UPA government a fresh headache. Clashes in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district between supporters of a separate state for ‘Karbi tribals’ and police and CRPF resulted in one death.
In Delhi, Congress MPs and central ministers from Andhra and Rayalaseema planned a strategy meeting on Thursday to chalk out their future course of action as their counterparts from Telangana called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to thank them.
A cabinet meeting on Thursday is expected to initiate the process for the creation of the new state. The first step is likely to be the formation of a group of ministers to look into key elements such as division of resources and area and drafting of the bill.
In the southern state, ministers remained evasive about plans to resign in protest. Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy met several of them and reportedly asked them not to resort to any such action. He also invited them for talks on Thursday.
"We are saddened but there is nothing much we can do now. The Centre should understand why these youngsters are agitating. Where is any promise for their future," state minister Dokka Manikya Rao said.
On the streets, people voiced various reasons for opposing the state's division. Students, teachers, lawyers, job aspirants and some NGOs said it "would take away Hyderabad - a world-class city of opportunities". Others said they would be at Telangana's mercy for water from the Godavari and Krishna rivers.
Given the history of flip-flops, celebrations in Telangana were wary and muted. Even the Telangana Joint Action Committee appealed to people to wait till the Telangana bill was actually passed. "We are confident the state will be created but there are still some minor apprehensions," said Putta Bhagwan, a school teacher from Siddipet.
(Inputs from HTC Delhi)