The son of a former Maharashtra pradesh Congress president on Saturday revived the movement for a separate Vidarbha state, launching a 74-km ‘padyatra’ and burning copies of the 1953 Nagpur Pact which had led to the merger of the mineral-rich region to the state.
The renewed statehood movement comes within weeks of the Centre’s decision to carve out a separate Telangana from the state of Andhra Pradesh, which has re-kindled embers of other statehood demands across the country.
The proposed Vidarbha state consists of 11 districts which are known to hold two-thirds of the state’s mineral resources besides the famous cotton and orange growing belts. However, the underdeveloped region has been more in the news for the suicides by thousands by farmers, driven to penury through years of exploitation by middlemen and lack of help from successive governments.
The padyatra by Ashish Deshmukh, son of former MPCC president Ranjit Deshmukh, drew heavily on youth power and thousands of youngsters joined him on his foot march from Nagpur to Sevagram ashram in Wardha district.
Deshmukh, who founded the Youth for Vidarbha State Organisation, began the ‘padyatra’ from Shahid square in Itwari after pro-Vidarbha activists burnt copies of the historical “Nagpur Pact’ which was signed way back on September 28, 1953 when Vidarbha was merged with Maharashtra.
Accompanied by his father Ranjit Deshmukh and former Lok Sabha member Jambuwantrao Dhote, once a stormy petrel of Vidarbha, Ashish also performed puja at ‘Vidarbha Chandika’ temple in the busy commercial area in Itwari before starting the march.
“Only youths can revive the old separate Vidarbha statehood movement and hence youths were involved in this agitation. Without their active participation the movement would not have the energy to reach its goal,” said Deshmukh.
He claimed to have visited 45 colleges in the region and “presented facts before the students”
Deshmukh said they are planning to intensify their efforts to convince both the major political parties, the Congress and the BJP, to concede the genuine demand for a separate Vidarbha.
On October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, the padyatra would culminate at Sevagram of Wardha, where they would hold satyagraha for a separate Vidarbha state, he further informed.