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Telangana: 11 Congress MPs on indefinite hunger strike

Monday December 27, 2010 05:44:24 PM, IANS

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Hyderabad: Embarrassing their own party's government in Andhra Pradesh, 11 Congress MPs from Telangana Monday began an indefinite hunger strike to demand the withdrawal of cases against those who took part in the campaign for a separate Telangana state.

Ignoring appeals from party leaders, including Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, the MPs started the hunger strike at New MLA Quarters after police made them vacate the Gun Park opposite the state assembly.

For over two hours the MPs sat on fast at the Telangana Martyrs' Memorial in Gun Park and paid their tributes to those killed in the earlier Telangana movement. Holding placards, the MPs raised slogans like "We want justice".

As police told the MPs that they couldn't sit on fast in view of the prohibitory orders in the area, the MPs moved to New MLA Quarters.

Telangana Joint Action Committee convenor M. Kodandaram, Maoist sympathizer and Telangana Praja Front leader Gaddar, leaders of Telangana government employees and lawyers associations visited the MPs to express solidarity.

Worried over the impact the fast could have ahead of Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee's report, the chief minister deputed two ministers from Telangana to talk to MPs and urge them to call off the fast.

The panel, which is examining the question of a separate Telangana state, is to submit its report by Dec 31.

The chief minister conveyed through the ministers that the government was ready to withdraw another 132 cases against protesters. However, the MPs demanded withdrawal of all cases.

Kiran Kumar Reddy met ministers from Telangana, Chief Secretary S.V. Prasad and Director General of Police Aravinda Rao to consider withdrawal of cases.

The government earlier this month withdrew 562 cases against 2,436 people who participated in the protests for and against statehood to Telangana.

A total of 1,667 cases were filed against 8,047 people between December 2009 and September this year.

The Congress MPs began the protest despite appeals from the chief minister as well as state party chief D. Srinivas, not to embarrass the government.

Led by senior leader and Rajya Sabha member K. Keshava Rao, the MPs offered homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the assembly before their hunger strike.

Keshava Rao said 21 legislators and other leaders were also participating in the fast.

"This is the Gandhian way of protest. This is moral self-infliction and it is aimed at bringing pressure on the government," said Keshava Rao.

The senior leader said they had to launch the fast as they were feeling helpless at their failure to convince the government to withdraw the cases.

Another MP, P. Prabhakar, told reporters that the fast was to restore the Telangana people's confidence in democracy and also to save the Congress party in the region.

They recalled that Home Minister P. Chidambaram had Dec 9, 2009 announced that the cases would be withdrawn.

The MPs also demanded that the central paramilitary forces deployed at the request of the state government be recalled.

"What is the need to have paramilitary forces when there are no incidents of violence?" asked Keshava Rao.

The forces were deployed in anticipation that the Srikrishna Committee report could trigger trouble in the state.

Of the 12 Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana, eight participated in the fast. Three of the party's four Rajya Sabha MPs also joined the protest.




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