Telangana: Protests over new state in southern India

Osmania University students celebrate after the announcement of the separate Indian state of Telangana in Hyderabad on July 30, 2013
Image caption Violent protests have taken place in Andhra Pradesh over the Telangana issue

Protests are being held in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, a day after the announcement that it will be split to form a new Telangana state.

Anti-Telangana protesters have ransacked the ruling Congress party office in Anantapur district and thrown stones at the police.

In the southern and coastal region of the state, businesses and schools are shut and transport disrupted.

The state has seen protests for and against the proposal in recent years.

With a population of 35 million, Telangana comprises 10 of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts including Hyderabad, India's sixth biggest city.

Backers of the new state say the area has been neglected by the government.

Opponents of the move are unhappy that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, will become a shared state capital for 10 years.

Passengers stranded

Wednesday's protests come a day after India's ruling Congress-led coalition unanimously agreed to the formation of the new state.

The protests have been called by the United Andhra Joint Action Committee which opposes the division of the state. Some local Congress party members have also opposed the split.

A total of 13 districts in the coastal and Rayalaseema regions have been affected by the strike, reports the BBC's Omer Farooq in Hyderabad.

Twenty-three lawmakers, including six from the Congress party, belonging to the state assembly have resigned in protest against the move, our correspondent says.

Businesses, schools and cinemas are closed and public transport has been badly hit, leaving many passengers stranded.

Protesters blocked railway lines in Nellore and roads in other districts, as well as staging demonstrations outside the houses of Congress party ministers and politicians.

Huge demonstrations have been held in Visakhapatanam, Tirupati and Vijayawada.

In the city of Ongole in Prakasham district, protesters also attacked the office of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for supporting the splitting of Andhra Pradesh. Reports say Ongole could end up being the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Hundreds of paramilitary troops were deployed after Tuesday's announcement.

The final decision on a new state lies with the Indian parliament. The state assembly must also pass a resolution approving the creation of what will be India's 29th state.

Correspondents say the timing of the announcement is linked to general elections due early next year. Recent opinion polls have shown that the Congress party is struggling in the state, which has 42 parliamentary seats.

Deep divisions have emerged over the Telangana issue in the past four years.

In December 2009, India's Congress party-led government promised that the new state would be formed, but later said more talks were needed.

The Telangana campaign grew in strength that year when veteran politician K Chandrasekhara Rao went on a hunger strike for 11 days in an effort to press the government to agree to its creation.

Demand for Gorkhaland

Meanwhile, the main Gorkha ethnic group in India's West Bengal state has stepped up its demand for a separate state for Nepali-speaking Gorkhas in the tea-producing Darjeeling hills, reports Subir Bhaumik from Calcutta.

A Gorkha youth set himself on fire to protest against Delhi's alleged "dual policy" - one of overlooking Gorkha aspirations for a separate state while going ahead with the creation of Telangana.

"His condition is serious," said Roshan Giri, leader of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is leading the movement for the separate state.

"Now that Delhi is creating Telangana, it should consider our long-term aspirations for a separate Gorkhaland. Our region is totally different from West Bengal which is a Bengali-dominated state," he said.

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