Southern Indian State Engulfed in Protests
Massive protests in Andhra Pradesh accuse the government of reneging on an earlier promise to create a new state
Last updated on: December 24, 2009 2:01 AM
In India, the southern state, Andhra Pradesh, has been engulfed in protests by campaigners accusing the government of backtracking on an earlier promise to create a new state, called "Telangana".
Police fired tear gas in Andhra Pradesh's capital, Hyderabad, to disperse thousands of protesters who took to the streets, Thursday, following a late-night announcement by Home Minister P. Chidambaram that the creation of a new state called Telangana will have to wait until consultations with all political parties.
The protesters, many of them students, set buses on fire and stoned vehicles. Many businesses shut down.
They are accusing the government of backtracking on a commitment made two weeks ago to carve out a separate state, called Telangana, from the northern regions of Andhra Pradesh.
Several lawmakers from the Telangana region resigned from the state legislature and the lower house of Parliament, in protest.
K. Chandrasekara Rao, who is spearheading the campaign for the creation of Telangana, says the home minister has gone back on his promise.
"We have been once again betrayed, because the statement which he has made has no clarity at all," Rao said. "There is no time frame fixed. He mentioned a word called wide-ange consultation. How much time is it going to take? Another 50 years or what?"
Campaigners for Telangana are demanding that the government announce a time schedule for creating the new state.
But the federal government says it needs to hold more consultations on the creation of Telangana, because political parties in the state are divided on the issue and because the situation in the state has changed.
Ever since the government agreed to create Telangana, Andhra Pradesh has become sharply polarized about the move. In recent days, the state has witnessed counter protests by those who oppose the move to split Andhra Pradesh.
The demand for Telangana has dragged on for decades, fueled by complaints that the development of the economically backward region has been neglected.