Hyderabad: A protest organized on Sunday by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), an umbrella body of groups agitating for a separate Telangana state, turned ugly as vehicles were burned in Hyderabad and police resorted to baton charges.
Thousands of people gathered in the state capital and decided to sit through the night to press for their demand.
The state government, which initially refused to give permission for the so-called Telengana march, granted conditional approval under pressure from ministers and parliamentarians from Telangana. The TJAC, which earlier wanted to hold the rally on Tank Bund, agreed to shift it to Necklace Road next to the Hussain Sagar lake.
The campaigners refused to leave the venue. TJAC convenor M. Kodandaram told the crowd to protest against the state government’s “excesses” to disrupt the protest rally. The centre should make its stand clear and announce a road map for the formation of a separate state, Kodandaram told a huge gathering.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy of the Congress party called an emergency meeting with state police chief V. Dinesh Reddy to discuss the law and order situation.
Hyderabad city police commissioner Anurag Sharma denied any police excess. “The police have maintained utmost restraint in dealing with the protesters, but we acted when things started going out of control,” he said.
“We are holding the march to express our democratic right for Telangana statehood,” Kodandaram had said earlier in the day over the telephone.
In anticipation of the protest, the state government had cancelled several trains and buses to Hyderabad from Telengana. The police had taken hundreds of protesters into preventive custody.
Police arrested Congress party parliamentarians from Telangana, who staged a sit-in protest in front of the chief minister’s office to protest arrests of people coming to Hyderabad. Some state cabinet ministers from the region have threatened to quit.
All the routes leading to the residences of Kiran Kumar Reddy and governor E.S.L. Narasimhan were blocked.
The state unit head of lobby group Confederation of Indian Industry expressed concern about the law and order situation. “The government should end the stalemate,” chairperson Suchitra Ella said. “The uncertainty is hurting the investments in the state.”
The protest began a day before an international meeting on biological diversity in which nearly 8,000 delegates from 193 countries are likely to participate.
A similar demonstration was held in March last year, which led to large-scale vandalism, including the destruction of some statues of Telugu icons on Tank Bund.