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Hundreds protest over decision on new state
Hyderabad, DEC 13 (AGENCIES):
Published on 13 Dec. 2009 10:43 PM IST
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Hundreds of people went on a hunger strike Sunday to protest India’s decision to create a new state out of its southern region of Andhra Pradesh as violence ebbed in the region. Thousands of protesters took to the streets, set public buses on fire and clashed with police for three days after the federal government on Wednesday unexpectedly gave in to an 11-day hunger strike by a senior politician, K. Chandrasekhara Rao, who demanded the creation of the new Telangana state. Rao and others complained the Telangana area in the north was underdeveloped and ignored by powerful politicians from southern Andhra Pradesh. Demands for a separate state have erupted sporadically since the 1950s. The government decision led to counter protests. Twenty of the state’s 34 ministers and nearly 140 lawmakers resigned, demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government reverse its decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. No new violence was reported Sunday, but a group of university students in the town of Vijaywada and hundreds of women in Kurnool city, outside the Telangana area, went on a hunger strike. “We will lay down our lives for the sake of a united Andhra Pradesh state,” said Hem Lata, a 45-year-old woman in Kurnool. One factor driving the counter protests is that under the government’s proposal Hyderabad _ the state capital and a base for several multinational corporations _ would be located deep inside Telangana. There was no official decision yet on whether Hyderabad would be part of the new state, the old state, or serve as a joint capital. The region is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Hyderabad. One opposition lawmaker, D. Umamaheshwar Rao went on an indefinite hunger strike in Vijaywada _ the path adopted by Rao to get his demand accepted by the federal government. Nearly 400 students blocked an interstate highway, and shops, businesses and schools remained closed for a second day in three major towns _ Anantpur, Chittoor and Nellore. The federal government’s decision has given hope to ethnic minority groups across India that have pushed for states of their own for decades, including in the remote northeast, where long simmering separatist demands often boil over into violence. There are movements calling for the break up of at least six other states besides Andhra Pradesh.

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