Protests erupted on Friday in southeast India and several federal ministers tendered their resignations, a day after the government bowed to a longstanding and often violent campaign for a new state called Telangana.
Demonstrators blocked roads and took to the streets in coastal regions of the state of Andhra Pradesh after the highly contentious decision by the cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to split the state into two.
Telangana, which will be India’s 29th state if it gets parliamentary approval, will be created out of an impoverished northern area of Andhra Pradesh that supporters say has been neglected by successive state governments.
In Ananthapuram district, 400 kilometres from Hyderabad, protesters shouted slogans and tore down posters of the ruling Congress party amid fears of more violence, which has regularly flared in recent years over the issue.
In New Delhi Human Resources Minister Pallam Raju confirmed that he had quit the cabinet in protest, while two others – Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi and Textiles Minister KS Rao – tendered their resignations, the PTI news agency reported.
In Andhra Pradesh a former ally turned rival of the ruling Congress party, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, said he would go on an indefinite hunger strike to protest at the decision and promised that demonstrations would continue.
The main city of the region, IT hub Hyderabad, will serve as joint capital for both states for at least the next 10 years, the government said.
India last redrew its internal boundaries in 2000, with the creation of three new states in economically deprived areas in the northern half of the country.
Critics say Thursday’s step could open a “Pandora’s box” of demands for statehood by other regional groups in ethnically diverse India, which also has a host of separatist movements.