Life in Andhra Pradesh's Rayalaseema and Andhra regions ground to a halt on Monday as the shutdown called by various groups opposing statehood to Telangana evoked total response.
State-owned Road Transport Corporation (RTC) buses went off the roads in all 13 districts of the two regions while shops, business establishments, banks, petrol pumps, cinema halls and educational institutions remained closed.
A day before the all-party meet called by the central government on the Telangana issue on Tuesday, the shutdown opposing the proposed division of the state revived the agitation in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
The strike has been called by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) comprising student groups and political parties, including the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Roads in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur, Kurnool, Tirupati and other major towns in the region were deserted as the RTC suspended all its services. Only a few private vehicles could be seen plying.
Dozens of protesters were arrested in Vijayawada for taking out a rally. There was tension in parts of Kurnool town too as police arrested activists who were forcing shopkeepers to down shutters. Police have warned agitators of stern action if they resort to violence during the strike.
In Visakhapatnam, police provided additional security to IT companies. The move comes after the IT sector voiced its concern over frequent shutdowns and protests in the state.
A total shutdown in Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana had paralysed normal life on Dec 30. The region witnessing massive protests for statehood for over a month was also shut down on Dec 24.
Andhra and Rayalaseema had witnessed a series of shutdowns and protests from Dec 9 when the centre announced that the process for formation of Telangana state would be initiated. The announcement followed 11 days of protests in Telangana.
The agitation returned to Telangana after the centre made a second statement Dec 23 saying the issue needed wider consultations. Mounting pressure has forced New Delhi to call a meeting of eight recognised parties of the state.