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.
Police arrest protesters during a protest against the creation of separate Telangana state in Vishakhapatnam. 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 remaining 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 service 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.
A statue of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi vandalized by anti-Telangana protestors in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh. (PTI Photo)
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.
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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.
Andhra Pradesh 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.
Anti-Telanga protestors gather for a protest after UPA government on July 30 endorsed the creation of a new state 'Telangana' in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh state on July 31, 2013. (AP Photo)
“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.
Policemen throw stones at anti-Telangana protestors in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh on July 31, 2013. (AP Photo)
The shutdown hit normal life in Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram, Eluru, Kakinada, Vijayawada, Guntur, Nellore, Ongole, Chittoor, Tirupati, Anantapur, Kadapa, Kurnool and other towns.
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.
Clamour for more states grows
A day after the Congress pushed for Telangana’s statehood, similar demands for smaller states were further stoked across the country.
Several top leaders, cutting across party lines, came out in support of smaller states, especially in Uttar Pradesh, even as the splinter groups fighting for such states announced their fresh agitation programmes.
While welcoming the Congress’s decision on Telangana, BSP chief Mayawati reiterated the demand for splitting Uttar Pradesh into four parts.
Other leaders like BJP's Uma Bharti, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and UPA ally RLD’s leader Jayant Chowdhury too, favoured reorganization of the largest electoral state.
Mayawati reminded the Centre that her government had passed a resolution in the last UP assembly for curving out Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Pashchimanchal.
READ: Many more Telanganas
BJP vice president Uma Bharti demanded that the Centre should form a States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) to take a holistic approach towards the demands for new states but give top priority to create Bundelkhand.
Calling upon central ministers from UP to pressurize the government to split UP, Maywati said, “When the BSP was leading the state government, we passed resolution for creating four states to ensure better governance and administration.
It is unfortunate that the Centre kept it pending since then. The Centre should complete this process, besides forming Gorkhakland and Vidarbha,"
Rashtriya Lok Dal, a UPA ally, demanded curving out Harit Pradesh out of UP. Jayant Chaudhary, RLD MP and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh’s son said, “the Telengana statehood is an inspiration for us."
Union heavy industries minister and NCP leader Praful Patel was vocal in favour of a separate Vidharbha state even as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar maintained that creation of smaller states can lead to better governance.
Congress Working Committee member Vilas Muttemwar has also written to party chief Sonia Gandhi to demand separate Vidarbha.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh maintained that the current structure of UP makes if “difficult to govern”.
His party colleague and Lok Sabha MP Jagadambika Pal said that he will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand creation of Poorvanchal.
“If the Congress comes to power to UP it will ask the Centre to appoint a Second SRC. The size of UP and the administrative and the political interference are destroying UP.
No chief minister would know the names of 72 districts by heart. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh have been reorganised.
Reorganisation of UP is long overdue," Ramesh added. Patel announced that "if the people of Vidarbha want a separate state NCP will be supportive of it."
While the Union Cabinet meeting on Thursday may decide to form a Group of Ministers (GoM) to initiate the process of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh groups like Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling has called for a shutdown to support their demand for Gorkhaland.
In Assam too, at least three regional groups decided on fresh agitation programmes while reports of violence emerged from Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Bodo leaders too, told Ht that they will press for a 1000 hours of economic blockade in the key corridor of Assam.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, however, once again ruled out any bifurcation of the state to create Gorkhaland.
READ: Mamata rules out Bengal division
Gorkhas demanded a separate state for themselves from the British and have been reiterating their demand ever since then. In 1980s, Gorkha leader Subhash Ghising lead a violent agitation seeking autonomy. Consequently in 1988, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a body with certain administrative powers, was formed.
After Mamata Bannerjee took over as West Bengal's chief minister, she formed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration giving the Gorkhas a semblance of an autonomous administration. However, GTA has failed to live up to its promise. Mamta has also made it clear that her government will never let Darjeeling become a separate state.
Assam: Bodo leaders demand separate state
Intensifying their demand for Bodoland, a delegation of Bodo leaders today met home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and urged him to take urgent steps for creation of the new state bifurcating Assam as in the case of Telangana.
Led by Bodoland People's Front chief Hagrama Mohilary, the delegation told the Home Minister that their demand for a separate Bodoland state was one of the oldest in the country.
In a memorandum, Mohilary said the Bodoland Territorial Council was created in 2003 under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the Bodo leaders were informed at that time that there was no policy to create new state and hence Bodoland could not be granted a full state.
"We welcome creation of new state of Telanagana. However, we feel it is discrimination against people of Bodoland. In case Bodoland is not given similar treatment, the Bodo people are likely to start a mass movement," he said.
Assam: demand for Karbi Anglong
Agitators belonging to Karbi Students Association and Karbi Riso Adorba attacked the houses of Congress MP Birensing Ingti and MLA Bidyasing Engleng on Wednesday and set cars on fire on Wednesday. The police had to fire in air to quell the agitators.
A demand for separate Karbi Anglong state was first raised in 1951. The banned militant outfit, Karbi Peoples' Liberation Tigers (KPLT), has now threatened an indefinite bandh if the issue is not taken up in Parliament's monsoon session.
UP: Cong MP for formation of Poorvanchal
A Congress MP has batted for formation of Poorvanchal to be carved out of Uttar Pradesh.
Jagdambika Pal, MP from Domariyaganj in eastern UP, said he would approach Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand creation of Poorvanchal.
"The region has a chequered history. It has contributed immensely to the freedom struggle of the country. Due to its backwardness, it deserves to become a separate state in the interest of the people of the region," Pal told PTI.
His remarks came on a day when former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP leader Mayawati renewed her party's demand for splitting the state into four parts, besides creation of Gorkhaland and Vidarbha.
"BSP has always been in favour of smaller states for which it had sent a proposal duly passed by the state Assembly on November 23, 2011, when it was leading the government, for splitting Uttar Pradesh into four states for better governance and administration," the BSP supremo said in Lucknow.
Maharashtra: demand for Vidarbha
Pro-Vidarbha activists have called for rallies in Delhi and Vidarbha region in Maharashtra on August 5. "I have sent a letter to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi as she had promised that whenever Telangana is considered, Vidarbha will be discussed too. I just wanted to remind her that our demand is more genuine and an emotional one," said Vilas Muttemwar, a Congress leader from Nagpur.
A group of eight Marathi speaking areas in Madhya Pradesh, this region was annexed to Maharashtra in 1956, under the linguistic reorganisation of states by the government of India in 1956. Though rich in minerals, coal, forests and mountains, Vidarbha has been underdeveloped and has seen a spurt in suicides by thousands of farmers.
(With inputs from agencies)