Fresh protests have rocked the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh after the government approved a plan to split the state in two and create a new area called Telangana.
For several years, the Congress-led federal government has expressed a willingness to bow to activists in the west of Andhra Pradesh (AP) who claim that have been discriminated against for years and want their own state. This week the authorities in Delhi approved the plan, sparking celebrations from people in Telangana but angry demonstrations from those opposed to the splitting of AP.
Reports said that a large number of areas in coastal AP were suffering from protests and sporadic violence as people responded to a call for a 48-hour shut-down. Almost all the major roads were blocked, including the important national highway between the cities of Chennai and Kolkata.
Protesters also attacked the offices of the Congress party state leader, Botsa Satyanarayana. A number of Congress cabinet ministers who come from AP have resigned in protest at the government’s decision.
The struggle for a separate state of Telangana dates back to even before the 1950s when AP was created. But in recent years the people of Telangana have complained of discrimination at the hands of politicians from the east of AP and say they have lost out when it comes to jobs, government services and education.
The campaign has been spurred by the increasing importance of the city of Hyderabad, now India’s four largest city and the hub of a valuable IT and property market.
Reports said that the anti-split protests in the east of AP, in an area known as Seemandhra, have led to the closure of schools, shops and offices. Large numbers of people have been left without electricity after all but one of the seven units of the Vijaywada thermal power station were closed as its employees went on strike in protest.
The decision by the Congress party-led government to go ahead with the splitting of AP, approved by the cabinet on Thursday evening, appears to have been taken for political reasons.
The Congress has been losing support in AP and ahead of next year’s election it has calculated it can secure extra parliamentary seats by pushing through the split.