Violent protests hit Indian city

2009-12-09 15:34

Hyderabad - Violent protests by students for a separate state to be carved out of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh shut down the main city of Hyderabad on Wednesday.

Police in riot gear manned street barricades to contain the unrest in normally peaceful Hyderabad city, home to multinational and local hi-tech firms ranging from Microsoft and Google to Mahindra Satyam.

Businesses were shut and hundreds arrested after police clashed with slogan-shouting students at the main Osmania University, demanding that the Telangana region, including Hyderabad be declared a state.

"I have never before seen the university look like a fortress," a professor at Osmania told NDTV news channel.

Demands for Telangana state have flared from time to time since 1956, when the region was merged with Andhra state to form Andhra Pradesh. While people across the state speak the same Telugu language, there are some cultural differences.

Hyderabad, modelled as a rival to Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, has a mix of modern software firms and gleaming malls next to ancient mosques and forts.

State Chief Minister K Rosaiah, a member of the Congress party that heads the national ruling coalition, said he was concerned the violent protests could scare investors.

The regional Telangana Rashtra Samiti is spearheading the protest, and its leader K Chandrasekhara Rao started a fast until death ten days ago.

More than 300 people, mostly students, were killed in widespread violence over the statehood demand between 1969 and 1972.

While the Congress has been non-committal on the demand for a separate state, the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, is supporting the movement.