Lakhs of people took to the streets Friday at the start of a 72-hour shutdown in coastal Andhra and the Rayalaseema regions to protest against the creation of a separate state of Telangana, a day after the Union Cabinet set in motion the process of splitting Andhra Pradesh.
Simultaneous protests broke out in cities and towns from Srikakulam in north coastal Andhra to Anantapur in Rayalaseema. All state and national highways were blocked, schools, colleges, businesses and government offices were shut, and protesters attacked the homes of lawmakers, asking them to resign.
Tensions ran high in Vijayawada where thousands of students came out to protest against the UPA government’s decision. Anger spilled on to the streets and massive protests were witnessed in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Chittoor, Guntur, Anantapur, Kadapa and Kurnool.
The shutdown was total and was marred by sporadic incidents of violence. Seemandhra and the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGOs) Association president Ashok Babu warned that the protests could turn violent because of growing public anger.
Amid reports that union ministers M M Pallam Raju, Panabaka Lakshmi, K Sambasiva Rao, K Chiranjeevi, K J Surya Prakash Reddy and Killi Krupa Rani had resigned in protest, YSR Congress president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy requested all elected representatives from Seemandhra to resign and create a constitutional crisis.
Jagan also announced an indefinite hunger strike to protest against the move.
Rajya Sabha MPs led by Renuka Chowdhury are also expected to resign Saturday.
Seemandhra Secretariat employees clashed with police and staged violent protests at the secretariat. Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy was closeted in a meeting with several MPs and MLAs at his residence until Friday evening. Sources said the CM was not available to Congress leaders from Delhi who tried to get in touch with him and privately expressed his strong displeasure at the way the Cabinet note on Telangana was pushed through.
Heavy police and paramilitary force was deployed in sensitive districts since Thursday night in anticipation of a violent backlash. Hundreds of people have been taken into custody for putting up road blocks and lighting fires on highways.
The house of state Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana in Vizianagaram was attacked by protestors and police used tear gas to disperse them when they attacked his camp office. Police also baton charged the mob which pelted stones and damaged window panes of the building. The protesters also damaged five police vehicles.
People surrounded the homes