x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hyderabad gripped by strike in fight for statehood

Indian authorities deployed more than 13,000 police and paramilitary troops in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, to try to prevent a repeat of pro-independence protests in March that turned violent.

An Indian policewoman, right, tussles with an activist during a strike in Hyderabad yesterday demanding the creation of Telangana state. Mahesh Kumar A / AP
An Indian policewoman, right, tussles with an activist during a strike in Hyderabad yesterday demanding the creation of Telangana state. Mahesh Kumar A / AP

NEW DELHI // A strike aimed at forcing the government to recognise statehood for a southern Indian region shut businesses and disrupted transport yesterday, posing another challenge to the embattled prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

Authorities deployed more than 13,000 police and paramilitary troops in Hyderabad, in Andhra Pradesh, in a bid to prevent a repeat of pro-independence protests in March that turned violent. Sporadic incidents of violence erupted in the state capital and nine other districts of the region as protesters attacked vehicles, shops and factories, with businesses and educational institutions shut and public road transport suspended.

Mr Singh, and his Congress party, have already been hit by a series of corruption scandals this year and the latest controversies will add to a sense of drift in India, further paralysing reforms from land acquisition to tax streamlining.

On Monday, nine Congress members of parliament from the state resigned from the federal parliament over the party's failure to take a stand on the four-decades-old demand to declare the north-western Telangana region a separate state.

Activists want the new state carved out of Andhra Pradesh, one of the country's biggest states. Its capital, Hyderabad, is home to the Indian headquarters of international firms such as Microsoft and Google.

The resignations, which still need to be accepted by the government, could halve the government's majority of 18 weeks before a new parliamentary session starts on August 1. The government's foot-dragging over Telangana - it approved the new state in principle last year, but changed its mind after opposition criticism - adds to a slew of corruption scandals and a failure to curb high inflation that forced Mr Singh to rebut accusations that he was a lame duck.