Bringing their struggle for united Andhra Pradesh to the state capital, thousands of employees from Rayalaseema and Andhra regions on Saturday held a massive show of strength, urging the Congress to withdraw its decision to bifurcate the state and declaring that they are not ready to give up Hyderabad.
Lal Bahadur Stadium in the heart of the city echoed with the slogans of "Jai Samaikhya Andhra" or united Andhra as striking employees from Seemandhra, as the two regions are collectively known, turned out in large numbers to oppose Congress decision to carve out separate Telangana state.
Amid a total shutdown in Telangana called by groups fighting for separate state and unprecedented security by police and paramilitary forces, about 100,000 employees and others including women descended on Hyderabad.
By succeeding in holding the first public meeting titled 'save Andhra Pradesh' here despite threats by some Telangana groups, the employees and others opposing bifurcation have declared that they are not ready to give up their rights over Hyderabad, which is geographically a part of Telangana.
P Ashok Babu, president of Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGOs) Association, said the people of Seemandhra were not ready to accept division or give up Hyderabad as their livelihood is linked to the city
The Congress on July 30 decided to carve out separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital. It, however, said the city would serve as joint capital of two states for 10 years.
Gazal Srinivas and other cultural artists, through their songs and other performances, stressed the need to keep the state of Telugu-speaking people united.
There was mild disruption when some people raised slogans against the organizers. The participants handed them over to police. Ashok Babu appealed to the employees to remain peaceful.
The meeting was held despite the shutdown called by Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) to protest "anti-Telangana" stand of the government in allowing Seemandhra meet while denying permission to it and other pro-Telangana groups to take out peace rallies.
Life came to a halt in Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana. Educational institutions, shops and business establishments were closed while buses of the state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) went off the roads. All local trains in Hyderabad were also suspended.
Tension prevailed near the venue in the morning when police used mild force to disperse students of Nizam College, who raised slogans of "Jai Telangana". Police entered the college building and removed non-boarders from the hostel.
At Osmania University, students tried to take out a rally but were stopped by police in view of the prohibitory orders. The students pelted stones on police, who retaliated with baton charge and firing of teargas shells. The students wanted to take out a rally to stop Seemandhra meet.
Protests were also held at some other places in the city. Pro-Telangana students tried to barge into APNGOs Bhavan building but were arrested by the police.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) legislators staged a sit-in at the assembly, not far from L. B. Stadium, to protest government's attitude.
The city turned into a fortress for the Seemandhra meeting as police and paramilitary forces threw a thick security blanket around the stadium. Police sealed off all routes and allowed only Seemandhra employees.
More than 5,000 policemen and paramilitary forces personnel were deployed as part of the massive security around the stadium. The police also imposed traffic restrictions at several points in the core area of the city.
Police and paramilitary forces were deployed on Vijayawada-Hyderabad and Kurnool-Hyderabad roads to provide security to employees coming to the state capital in buses, cars and other private vehicles.
Thousands of employees from 13 districts of Rayalaseema came to Hyderabad by trains and buses for the meeting, the first show of strength in by those opposing state's division. Seemandhra employees working in government offices in Hyderabad also attended the meet.