NEW DELHI // Calm prevailed on the first day of an announced 48-hour "shutdown" of Hyderabad to pressure the Indian government into creating a new Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh.
A few suburban rail services were rescheduled or cancelled, and some university examinations were postponed in response to the Telangana Joint Action Committee's (TJAC) strike - or bandh, in local parlance
On the Osmania University campus, groups of pro-Telangana students clashed with policemen, throwing stones before being dispersed by tear gas. But otherwise, the city functioned as normal.
"My train in from Delhi was late by only five or 10 minutes," said M Ravi, an engineer who arrived in Hyderabad yesterday afternoon. "The schools are closed, but buses and auto rickshaws are running."
The shutdown was timed to coincide with a 19-day United Nations summit on biodiversity, which began yesterday in Hyderabad, drawing nearly 8,000 delegates from more than 150 countries.
Elaborate security arrangements were in place. "We are having a lot of paramilitary force also, to ensure all goes well. We are fully prepared," said V Dinesh Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's director general of police, on Sunday.
The movement for a separate Telangana dates to the early 1970s, but its backing has ebbed and flowed. Only recently, as coalition governments at the federal level have looked to smaller, state-level parties for numerical support in parliament, have separatist parties been consistently able to raise Telangana as a bargaining chip.
The logic for Telangana, as put forward by the TJAC, is rooted in economics. The Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh includes Hyderabad, the state's capital as well as its economic engine.
Yet some of the region's districts are among the poorest in India because, Telangana's proponents claim, successive state governments have funnelled development funds to other parts of the state, and because Telangana is under-represented in the state legislature and the bureaucracy.
Security yesterday was stepped up following a pro-Telangana protest march on Sunday turned violent, as members of the crowd spilt out of their assigned protest venue, burnt vehicles and attacked policemen.
Late on Sunday, Anurag Sharma, Hyderabad's police commissioner, estimated that the march had drawn nearly 80,000 people. Three police vehicles had been set on fire, and 18 policemen and five protesters had been injured.
"We tried our best by making all arrangements and even gave the protesters specific areas [and] routes towards the venue," Mr Sharma said. "But some of them tried to break the barricades … They also violated prohibitory rules, and when the police objected, they threw stones at the police."
For its part, the TJAC has alleged "unprecedented repression" of people who came into Hyderabad from Telangana for the march.
"We are asking for an announcement of a road map on accepting the Telangana demand," M Kodandaram, a political-science professor who chairs the committee, told protesters on Sunday evening.
Telakapalli Ravi, a political analyst based in Hyderabad, thought that the call for the bandh may have been issued in too much haste, which resulted in its relative inefficiency.
"In a protest march like on Sunday, some kind of sentimental attachment or participation is formed, so the march was successful," Mr Ravi said yesterday.
"But when it comes to a bandh, you need either spontaneity from the people or some kind of organisation. Both were not there."