Indian Activists Begin 2-Day Strike in Southern Region to Press for Autonomy

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Indian activists calling for the creation of a new state in southern India have launched a major two-day strike to press the federal government to accept their demands for greater autonomy.

The strike began Tuesday in Andhra Pradesh state's Telangana region, which the activists say is neglected by Indian authorities and should become a state to boost the region's political and economic standing.

Their protest largely paralyzed Telangana, shutting down businesses, shops and public transport. It was mostly peaceful. But Indian police fired tear gas at stone-throwing students in the city of Hyderabad, the capital of both Andhra Pradesh state and the Telangana region.

Dozens of lawmakers from Telangana have resigned their seats in the national parliament and the Andhra Pradesh state assembly since Monday to pressure India's Congress party-led government into granting statehood to the region. Two members of the New Delhi parliament representing Telangana parties resigned Tuesday, adding to the resignations of nine Congress parliament members from Telangana the day before.

The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed to lawmakers for more time to discuss the Telangana issue. Mr. Singh's government previously agreed to statehood for Telangana in principle, but later put the plan on hold. Residents of other parts of Andhra Pradesh state have objected to the proposal.

Telangana activists have been demanding statehood for their region for decades. Several other Indian regions have made similar demands to the Indian federal government. India has 28 states and seven federally administered regions.