Violence, tension as anti-Congress sentiment sweeps the region; government seeks 25 more companies of Central forces

Protests rocked the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions on Friday against the Union Cabinet’s approval for the proposal to create Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. It was a total shutdown across all 13 districts there on the first day of a 48-hour bandh.

An anti-Congress sentiment swept the regions as protesters attacked the houses of Pradesh Congress president Botcha Satyanarayana and several other leaders. Police fought pitched battles with the agitators and fired 25 rounds of teargas shells to prevent them from targeting the house, college and a hotel of Mr. Satyanarayana at Vizianagaram.

Many places resembled battlegrounds as protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and trees and threw stones at the assets of Congress leaders, including a hotel owned by Minister T.G. Venkatesh in Kurnool, where the District Congress Committee office was ransacked by a mob. A statue of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was vandalised, and the BJP office was attacked.

Shops, cinemas, hotels, educational institutions, petrol bunks and government offices remained closed across coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, even as a large number of vehicles were stranded on national highways, including the Kolkata-Chennai route. Many areas in West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam plunged into darkness as Electricity Department staff tripped sub-stations.

Devotees had a harrowing time in reaching Tirumala because of the two-day shutdown. YSR Congress and Telugu Desam Party supporters clashed at Anantapur and Visakhapatnam.

Tension prevailed in Rajahmundry when hundreds of students, teachers, employees and farmers, rallying under the banner of the Konaseema Joint Action Committee, reached the residence of Amalapuram MP G.V. Harshakumar in school buses and demanded his resignation.

Water supply to the house of Congress MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy was cut at Ongole, where the protesters also burnt his effigy. Tension prevailed at Guntur when Samaikyandhra agitators tried to barge into the houses of Union Minister J.D. Seelam and Agriculture Minister Kanna Lakshminarayana.

The government is bracing itself for the agitation in coastal and Rayalaseema districts, seeking 25 companies of Central forces in addition to the 45 that have already been deployed. Of the 45 companies deployed, nearly a dozen have been stationed in Hyderabad and the rest in Seemandhra.

TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu announced an indefinite fast in New Delhi from Monday, while YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy would begin a hunger strike at his Lotus Pond residence here at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy reviewed the law and order situation with Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty, Director-General of Police B. Prasada Rao, Principal Secretary (Home) T.P. Das and senior police officers. He asked the police to handle the situation carefully.