Ministers resign over decision on new Indian state

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2009 6:09 AM

Amid mounting street demonstrations and violence, 20 state ministers resigned Saturday to protest India's decision to carve a new state out of its southern region of Andhra Pradesh.

Trouble erupted after the federal government in a surprise move Wednesday agreed to give in to an 11-day hunger strike by a senior politician, K. Chandrasekhara Rao, who demanded the creation of the new state of Telangana out of the vast state of Andhra Pradesh.

Supporters of the new Telengana state have complained their area in the north was underdeveloped and ignored by powerful politicians from southern Andhra Pradesh. Demands for a separate state have erupted sporadically since the 1950s.

Protesters burned or damaged 25 buses and other vehicles and disrupted train and bus services Saturday. Shops, businesses and schools were closed for the day, a police statement said.

Three major towns _ Anantpur, Chittoor and Nellore _ were hit by the violence and police rushed in reinforcements, it said. The region is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Hyderabad, the state capital.

Columns of black smoke rose from a warehouse set ablaze by demonstrators in Anantpur, police said.

The 20 ministers who resigned Saturday said they want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government to reverse its decision to bifurcate the state.

Nearly 140 lawmakers have stepped down over the past two days from the state legislature.

"We want Andhra Pradesh state to remain united," said Ramanarayana Reddy, one of the ministers who resigned.

Rao said Saturday "there will be no turning back on Telangana."

The federal government's decision has given hope to ethnic minority groups across India that have pushed for states of their own for decades, including in the remote northeast, where long simmering separatist demands often boil over into violence.

There are movements calling for the break-up of at least six other states besides Andhra Pradesh.

Leaders of the Gorkhas _ a group of ethnic Nepalis living in West Bengal _ have also called for an indefinite strike to push their decades-old demand for the creation of Gorkhaland.