Indian protesters clash over creation of Telangana state

Oct. 7, 2013 at 6:04 AM
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NEW DELHI, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Parts of India's Andhra Pradesh state were paralyzed after more than 30,000 electricity workers went on indefinite strike as a protest against the proposed creation of Telangana state.

Hundreds of smaller towns along the coastal regions were plunged into darkness on the weekend and electric train schedules were severely disrupted or services cancelled because of a lack of power, The Times of India reported.

Several power stations were partially closed and police in several coastal regions battled street mobs that looted buildings and set fires, Indian media reported.

The indefinite strike in Andhra Pradesh, on the Bay of Bengal, follows a 48-hour strike that ended on Sunday.

The strikes are to protest the decision by the decision by the Congress Party's federal cabinet in New Delhi to split the state.

Protesters in Vizianagaram town defied a curfew and engaged police, who had shoot-at-sight orders, in running street battles, The Hindustan Times reported. Among the properties attacked were those of the head of the state's Congress Party.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in the town of Kothapeta and used batons against a mob in Palliveedhi.

"A lot of violence was reported, with the protesters indulging in arson, looting shops, setting a bank on fire and damaging public and private properties," the state's north coastal zone Inspector General of Police Dwaraka Tirumala Rao said.

"In view of the violence, authorities ordered a curfew late last night."

The BBC reported that at least four federal ministers have offered to quit the government over the controversial decision that has sparked protests both for and against the creation of Telangana.

India's ruling Congress Party announced July 30 it would carve up the southeastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh to create a land-locked Telangana state -- the culmination of a half-century struggle by Telangana people.

Andhra Pradesh would remain as a coastal state.

But protesters against the carve-up are calling what would be left Seemandhra, the accepted name of the combined regions of Rayalaseema in southern Andhra Pradesh and the regions north along the coast.

The new state would be India's 29th state and have a population of more than 35 million within its 44,300 square miles, a 2011 census indicated.

But the decision was met with periodic street protests that have resulted in clashes with police.

Under the Congress Party's proposal, Andhra Pradesh's capital and India's sixth-biggest city, Hyderabad, will be included in the new state and serve as joint capital for at least a decade.

Hyderabad, as the capital of a mostly agricultural new state, will remain a magnet for IT research and pharmaceutical investment dollars.

The BBC reported that the timing of the announcement is aimed at general elections scheduled for early 2014.

Recent opinion polls show the Congress party is struggling in the state and hope the creation of Telangana would be looked upon favorably by ethnic Telangana people, the BBC said.

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