Ignoring appeals from leaders, including Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, Congress MPs from Telangana on Monday began an indefinite hunger strike to demand withdrawal of cases against those who participated in the recent movement for a separate Telangana state.
Eleven MPs began the protest despite appeals from the chief minister as well as state party chief D Srinivas to not embarrass the government.
Led by senior leader and Rajya Sabha member K Keshava Rao, the MPs offered homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the state assembly before they began their hunger strike.
They then marched to the Telangana Martyrs Memorial to pay their tributes to those who were killed or died in the earlier Telangana movement. Holding placards and raising slogans of "We want justice", they sat at the memorial.
The 21 state legislators and other leaders of the party formally began their fast at the New MLA Quarters.
"This is the Gandhian way of protest. This is moral self-infliction and it is aimed at bringing moral pressure on the government," said Keshava Rao.
The senior leader said that they had to launch the fast, as they were feeling helpless at their failure to convince the government to withdraw the cases in accordance with the announcements by the central government.
Another MP, P Prabhakar told reporters that the fast was to restore the Telangana people's confidence in democracy and also to save the Congress party in the region.
They recalled that union home minister P Chidambaram had on Dec 9, 2009, announced that the cases would be withdrawn.
"We don't want any categorization. All the cases should be withdrawn," said Keshava Rao.
Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy on Sunday night appealed to the MPs not to go on fast. He said that the government had already withdrawn 565 cases booked against 2,431 people and the remaining would be withdrawn in a phased manner.
The MPs are also demanding that the central paramilitary forces deployed at the request of the state government be recalled. "What is the need to have paramilitary forces when there are no incidents of violence?" asked Keshava Rao.
The forces were called ahead of the Srikrishna Committee's report. The panel is to submit its report by Dec 31.
A meeting of MPs, ministers and state legislators held in Hyderabad on Sunday said that they would resign en masse if the Srikrishna Committee gave recommendations against the formation of a separate state.
Of the 12 Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana, eight are participating in the fast. While Jaipal Reddy is a central minister, three other MPs did not join for personal reasons.