Anti-Telangana protests, shutdown rock Seemandhra

Hyderabad, Oct 4 (IANS) Protests and shutdown rocked Seemandhra while some central ministers and MPs from the region announced their resignation Friday to protest against the cabinet approval for the formation of a separate Telangana state.

YSR Congress president Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy announced he would go on an indefinite fast here from Saturday while state ministers and Congress legislators from Seemandhra decided not to quit so that they can defeat a Telangana resolution in the assembly.

Barring stray incidents of violence, the first day of the 48-hour shutdown called by various groups opposing state's division, passed off peacefully.

Vijayanagaram remained tense as protestors were continuing their sit-in at the camp office of state Congress chief Botsa Satyanrayana. Police had earlier used teargas shells to disperse protestors who attacked the camp office and also damaged police vehicles.

Electricity generation came to a halt at power plants in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam as employees joined the 48-hour strike. Officials said this could affect the electricity supply to some districts.

Normal life in all 13 districts of Seemandhra, as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra are together known, came to a halt. Shops, businesses, transport and educational institutions were closed in all towns.

Opposing the state's division, protestors took to the streets forcing closure of hotels and shops and burning tyres on main roads. They erected road blocks on state and national highways, halting all traffic.

Vehicular traffic from and to the neighbouring states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Odisha came to a halt.

While buses of the state-owned transport corporation are off the roads for nearly two months due to the indefinite strike by employees, private vehicles were also taken off due to the shutdown, causing hardships to commuters.

More than six lakh government employees, teachers and workers are on strike since Aug 13. Their leader P. Ashok Babu threatened to intensify the strike.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy Friday reviewed the law and order situation and directed police to handle the situation carefully.

Kiran Reddy directed police not to use even rubber bullets. "However they should protect the government and private properties and maintain peace and tranquility without allowing violence," said a statement from the chief minister's office.

State police have sought 20 companies of paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from the central government for deployment in Seemandhra, sources said. As many as 45 companies of paramilitary forces were already deployed.

Five central ministers submitted their resignations while Union Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju Friday said he has decided to resign.

Textiles Minister K.S. Rao, and ministers of state K. Chiranjeevi and Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy also announced their resignations Thursday night.

D. Purandeswari and K. Krupa Rani Friday said they too were resigning. They faxed their resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Four Congress MPs - V. Arun Kumar, Ananta Venkatarami Reddy, A. Sai Pratap and Sabbam Hari - resigned Thursday while two more MPs - K. Bapi Raju and R. Sambasiva Rao - announced their resignations Friday.

State Law Minister E. Pratap Reddy resigned from the cabinet and the Congress party.

However, other ministers from Seemandhra and legislators decided not to quit till the Telangana bill is defeated in the assembly. They had had a meeting with the chief minister, who is also against the state's division.

Infrastructure Minister G. Srinivasa Rao told reporters that the chief minister advised them not to quit till they defeat the Telangana resolution in the assembly.

Stating that there is no precedent of forming a new state without the consent of the concerned assembly, Srinivasa Rao said the resolution would have to be moved in the house.

Jaganmohan Reddy said he would launch an indefinite fast in Hyderabad from Saturday. Jagan, as the MP from Kadapa is popularly known, accused the Congress of dividing the state to earn votes in elections.

Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao and leaders of some Telangana groups met police chief Prasada Rao and urged him not to give permission for his fast. Telangana lawyers' Joint Action Committee has threatened to disrupt Jagan's fast.

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