Hyderabad: At Hyderabad's Osmania University today, for four hours, a group of 200 students tried to defy the police stationed there to march towards the state government's headquarters. The purpose of the rally was to honour the memory of Konda Bapuji, an activist at the frontlines of the movement for a new Telangana state. But the march today was also intended as a dress rehearsal for a much larger one, scheduled for September 30, and titled "The Million March" in anticipation of a huge turnout.
Thousands of students and activists have said they will spill onto the streets of Hyderabad to participate in a rally organized by the Joint Action Committee of Telangana, the engine of a movement that wants the state of Andhra Pradesh to be bifurcated.
Hyderabad is geographically a part of the Telangana region; the other two parts of the state are Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema.
Sunday's march has been declared illegal by the government. The march may coincide with the procession to immerse idols of Ganesh at the Husain Sagar which is scheduled to begin on September 29, and the police says managing that procession will be tricky enough. A large UN convention starts in Hyderabad on October 1, and a march on the eve of that session will embarrass the state government, a happy side-effect for Telangana activists.
"We are giving them a 48-hour deadline to make an announcement on Telangana. The Congress government will be responsible for whatever happens on the 30th of September," said Krushank, a student at Osmania University, which has served over the last few years as the epicentre of protests demanding a new state.
The police has begun checking buses and trains entering the city and students who are trying to enter the city to participate in the protest are being sent back. "We are fully geared to meet the challenge. We don't want our forces fatigued and tired. So we have split and are getting separate forces to tackle each of these challenges. The security arrangements are distinct and separate for all three events," says SA Huda, additional director-general dealing with law and order for Andhra Pradesh.
Three years ago, it was apprehensions of another massive pro-Telangana march that led to a surprise midnight announcement by P Chidambaram, who was then union Home Minister. In Delhi, on December 10, 2009, he said the centre had decided to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. The backlash was so severe from those who do not live in Telangana that the decision was rescinded. Since then, the politically sensitive issue has been put on hold by Delhi, while pro-Telangana parties, led by the TRS and its K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), have been urging the central government to deliver what it once promised. Congress leaders from Andhra Pradesh and Governor ESL Narasimhan, who is believed to be against the idea of a new state, have met recently with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. Sources in the party say that it is not prepared to risk another political agitation or political alienation ahead of the next general election, scheduled for 2014.