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Telangana braces for fresh unrest after lull

Hyderabad, Jan. 27: Pro-Telangana campaigners today geared for an intensified agitation after a yearlong lull following this evening’s statement by the Congress leadership seeking more time to decide on the statehood demand.

Hyderabad’s Indira Park, which has gained the nickname “Agitation Park”, resounded with angry slogans as the Joint Action Council (JAC) spearheading the movement began a 36-hour token dharna and threatened a bigger turmoil.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has been at the centre of the statehood campaign, accused the Congress of “betraying” the people of Telangana and urged Congress ministers and lawmakers from the region to resign.

“They (Congress leaders) should leave the Congress and join the agitation in support of a separate Telangana. We will unite all the forces and try to pull down the (state) government,” TRS lawmaker Harish Rao said.

Congress MPs and MLAs from Telangana are expected to meet tomorrow to take stock of the situation but the mood among them was gloomy.

“The Congress high command has let us down once again — the third time in the past three years and the 16th time in the past 50 years,” said K. Keshava Rao, former Congress Working Committee member and senior party leader from Telangana.

The region, which had been in the grip of unrest between December 2009 and end-2011, had been relatively quiet for over a year. But the mood was belligerent this evening at the 36-hour “samara deeksha” at Indira Park, teeming with students and supporters of the TRS, BJP, CPI and other political and non-political organisations and echoing to drumbeats and shouts of “Jai Telangana”.

Police arrested groups of students trying to gherao Raj Bhavan. BJP state president G. Kishan Reddy staged dharnas in the city and was taken into custody.

Osmania University students tried to hold a march on the streets but the police fired tear gas and caned them to prevent them leaving the campus. The students fought the law-keepers with stones.

The police also foiled attempts by TRS activists to storm the Assembly and other government buildings.

The government initially denied permission for the samara deeksha but, following appeals from civil society leaders, agreed to allow a dharna at Indira Park till Monday evening provided peace was not disrupted.

“How many years of dialogue is needed? The Congress high command has cheated the people of Telangana and the only alternative is to fight it out on the streets,” TRS leader Harish Rao told the gathering. However, the doyen of the agitation, TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, remained silent.

Since December 9, 2009, the Telangana agitation had rocked the state’s economy and disrupted thousands of students’ academic year, sparking unemployment and lawlessness.

It was suspended in end-2011 after the Congress persuaded Chandrasekhar Rao to provide it a breather to handle a presidential election, sort out parliamentary issues and deal with the political threat posed by Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.

On December 28 last year, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had announced a one-month deadline for a decision on Telangana after an all-party meeting.

But today, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress central leadership’s man in charge of Andhra Pradesh affairs, said there was no deadline.

“Repeated postponements on taking a decision cannot resolve the Telangana issue,” Harish Rao said.