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Delay in decision to form new Telangana state prompts clashes

The Indian government has delayed its decision on whether to create a new state out of the existing southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Samanth Subramanian reports from New Delhi

Police detain a pro-Telangana supporter during a protest in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.
Police detain a pro-Telangana supporter during a protest in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

NEW DELHI // More than 30 students were arrested yesterday in Hyderabad at a protest over the Indian government's delay in deciding whether to create a new state of Telangana out of the existing southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

India's home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, had said on December 28 that his government would resolve the Telangana issue in a month. But the deadline lapsed yesterday, one day after Mr Shinde announced: "It may take a little more time to reach a final decision."

He did not set a new date for a decision.

Pro-Telangana activists had begun clashing with police on Sunday night, when the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), a loose umbrella organisation of various political, student and activist groups, announced a 36-hour protest against the delay.

Yesterday, police fired tear gas into a protest rally, while protesters who were leading a march on the Telangana Martyrs' Memorial were arrested. K T Rama Rao, the leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a political party that has been pushing for Telangana statehood, was also arrested. Speaking to journalists yesterday, he urged the government to act.

"[Whether] they want to give Telangana or not, they should announce it, so that the public can decide [upon] a future course of action."

The Congress Party-led government has tried to quench public anger over Telangana.

Rashid Alvi, a spokesman for the government, said: "Telangana is an issue of emotions and sentiments. We can't take a hasty decision. When we will take a decision, we will inform people."

The proposed state comprises 10 of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts, including Hyderabad, India's sixth biggest city. Opponents of the move say that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, could become Telangana's new capital.

While the Indian parliament will make the final decision on a new state but the Andhra Pradesh state assembly must also pass a resolution approving its creation.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been quick to capitalise on the anger against the government.

"It is a complete betrayal of the Telangana cause and people," Prakash Javadekar, a BJP spokesman, said yesterday. "The Congress government is not ready to give Telangana. There is complete policy paralysis. I assure [the people of Telangana] of full support in the parliament on the issue."

The demand for a separate Telangana dates back to the 1960s. Political parties, such as the TRS, claim that the region of Telangana remains poor because development funds are funnelled to other parts of Andhra Pradesh, and because Telangana is under-represented in the state legislature and the bureaucracy.

The Telangana movement has acquired momentum in the past few years, after BN Srikrishna, a retired judge tasked by the government to examine the issue, concluded that he did not favour the status quo. Four of the six options he presented to the government involved splitting Andhra Pradesh.

But instead of acting quickly on Mr Srikrishna's January 2011 report, the government has displayed "a lack of political courage," said K Nageshwar, a Hyderabad-based political analyst.

The government has dithered, Mr Nageshwar said, "first indicating that it was ready to deliver Telangana, and then sending the opposite signal. This drama is only consolidating pro-Telangana sentiment and polarising people further."

A rally was organised yesterday in the town of Kurnool, by lawyers and political parties that want Andhra Pradesh to remain whole.

The rally illustrated the fix in which the Indian government finds itself over the Telangana issue.

"Whether the split of Andhra Pradesh happens or not, either way there will be protests and strong sentiment," Mr Nageshwar said. "But the government needs to take a decision and deal with the consequences."

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

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