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Vidarbha shutdown total
Published on 21 Jan. 2010 12:46 AM IST
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Train services were disrupted, buses were stoned and most private and government offices remained closed in Vidarbha region Wednesday during a dawn-to-dusk shutdown for a separate state, to be carved out of Maharashtra. Pro-Vidarbha groups have set a Jan 28 deadline for the government to accede to their demand. Policemen were out in strength in Nagpur and other major towns of the 11 districts of Vidarbha where the shutdown called by 68 political parties and groups such as Vidarbha Nirman Sangram Samiti (VNSS) evoked a spontaneous and enthusiastic response, the organisers said. Bouyed by the response to its shutdown call, the VNSS has served an ultimatum to the central government to grant statehood to Vidarbha by Jan 28, otherwise it would intensify its agitation. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari said separate statehood for Vidarbha had now become a “people’s issue” and was no longer restricted to the 68 parties and pro-Vidarbha groups that called for the shutdown. “It has now become a peoples’ issue and it will be wise on the part of the centre to declare a separate Vidarbha along with Telengana by Jan 28. Otherwise, it could become an emotional issue and anything can happen,” Tiwari said. During the day, at least nine long-distance trains, including New Delhi-Bengaluru Rajdhani Express and Mumbai-Nagpur Vidarbha Express, were forcibly stopped, six State Transport Corporation buses stoned, and Mumbai-Kolkata NH 6 and Varanasi-Kanyakumari NH 7 were blocked in defiance of the police orders prohibiting gathering of four or more people, officials said. Huge traffic snarls were witnessed at the state’s borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as vehicular movement on the national highways was stopped by pro-Vidarbha agitators. Those pressing for the proposed Telangana state in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh also observed a shutdown Wednesday. Nagpur city was deserted as all public and private vehicles remained off the roads and commercial establishments downed shutters. Over 200 people violating the prohibitory orders were detained in various parts of the region, including 55 in Nagpur city. The Vidarbha region comprises the districts of Nagpur, Chandrapur, Gondiya, Bhandara, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldana, Akola and Washim, with a total population of 30 million. In Yavatmal, a group of 50 farm widows led by widow-activist Bebitai Bais squatted outside the State Bank of India office, raising slogans for a separate state and for justice to the farmers. In several Yavatmal villages, rallies were taken out and local leaders demanded a separate state of Vidarbha for the region’s development. People also enacted farmer suicides, consuming poison or immolating them as crowds cheered and raised a chorus for a separate state. Meanwhile, district authorities removed large hoardings at border posts welcoming motorists to the ‘state of Vidarbha’ and ‘state of Telangana’ on grounds that they blocked drivers’ view on the highway. The hoardings were erected last Sunday by pro-Vidarbha and pro-Telangana groups and they also planned to put up similar hoardings outside all major towns and villages in the region over the next few days. The shutdown was opposed by the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which are against the carving of a separate Vidarbha. Addressing the media Wednesday afternoon, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray claimed that the demand for a separate state was “opposed by the people of Vidarbha region”. He added that the call for a Vidarbha shutdown was the handiwork of the Marwari business clan and if a separate state is carved, its chief minister would be a non-Marathi. “Until now, many leaders of Vidarbha have ruled in the state, but what have they done for the Vidarbha region?” Thackeray countered.

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