Hyderabad: The movement demanding statehood for the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh has gained further momentum with the agitation being adopted by student organizations, affiliated to various political parties, which have formed a joint action committee (JAC) to steer the agitation.
The deadlock over the “fast-unto-death” programme of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhar Rao, which reached its eighth day on Sunday, continued with both him and the ruling Congress sticking to their rival stands.
Rao, now undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad, refused to end his fast in the absence of a clear assurance from the government on the formation of a Telangana state and the introduction of a resolution in the state legislative assembly.
Fasting unto death: A 3 December photo of TRS president Rao at NIMS in Hyderabad. He has refused to end his fast in the absence of a clear assurance from the government on the formation of a Telangana state. Bharath Sai / Mint
Andhra Pradesh chief minister K. Rosaiah expressed his inability to accede to the demand and said the Centre was aware of the situation and that a call on the formation of a Telangana state will be taken along with similar statehood demands from other regions in the country.
Even as Rao’s health deteriorated, forcing the authorities to shift him to the ICU, the JAC and the TRS called for a 48-hour shutdown of the Telangana region, from Saturday midnight.
Following this, life in the Telangana region, comprising 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh, including Hyderabad, came to a standstill on Sunday.
On Saturday, following unfounded rumours that Rao had gone into a coma, or lost consciousness, a section of the agitators resorted to stone throwing in Hyderabad, damaging several private properties in Punjagutta and Ameerpet, close to NIMS.
With the shutdown call in the Telangana region coinciding with the “black day” observed on 6 December following the anniversary of the Babri mosque demolition, the state government has deployed additional police forces, including the Rapid Action Force to maintain law and order.
Rosaiah has appealed to Rao to immediately withdraw his fast to bring the law and order situation back to normal.
Meanwhile, the JAC stepped up pressure on elected representatives in the Telangana region, asking them to come out openly in support of the issue. The zilla parishad (the district civic body) of Warangal district passed a resolution backing statehood for Telangana at a meeting on Saturday.
The students’ JAC targeted elected representatives of the Congress in the Telangana region, from local civic bodies to members of the legislative assembly (MLA) and members of Parliament (MP), attacking their properties. A vehicle belonging to S. Satyanarayana, MLA from Ramagundam, was set on fire on Sunday afternoon in Ramagundam.
State cabinet ministers from the Telangana region, under pressure from students and activists, met the chief minister and Pradesh Congress Committee president D. Srinivas, urging them to take up the issue immediately with the Centre. Srinivas said he would leave for Delhi on Monday to appraise the Congress high command on the prevailing situation in the region.
A group of Telangana ministers also met TRS chief Rao in the hospital, offering him their support for the cause, and urged him to withdraw the “fast-unto-death” programme. Rao declined to agree to their appeal and told them to persuade Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi to respond to the agitation and announce a political process aimed at the formation of a Telangana state.
In a bid to restrict the participation of students, the state government had on Thursday declared a 15-day closure for colleges in the region. However, following pressure from students and supporters of the movement belonging to the teaching and non-teaching staff, officials kept the hostels open. Rosaiah, who last week directed police forces to maintain restraint while dealing with the students, said on Saturday evening that the government is not prepared to allow the destruction of property. “Maintaining restraint by police does not mean that the police should remain mute spectators to violence,” he said. The chief minister’s concern is that separatist movement risks being taken over by “anti-social elements” and turning further violent.
JAC leaders Rajanna Yadav, Ellanna, Bala Laxmi and Kumara Swami appealed to students not to resort to violence and damage of private property, urging them to be peaceful. With the total number of deaths both on account of heart attacks and suicides reaching 13 by Sunday, as confirmed by the JAC, they appealed to the rank and file not to resort to suicide.
Meanwhile, Congress Working Committee member and former MP G. Venkataswami appealed to Congress president Gandhi to immediately look into the issue and initiate the process towards carving out Telangana state.