HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh was rocked by massive protests Monday during a shutdown called by the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to protest against the arrest of its leader N Chandrababu Naidu over his indefinite fast to demand a relief package for farmers.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from many parts of the state as TDP activists damaged state-owned buses and forcibly downed shutters of shops and business establishments.
The shutdown was partially successful in Hyderabad. Buses went off the roads while educational institutions, shops and business establishments were closed.
Former chief minister Naidu, along with son Lokesh, and several TDP leaders were bodily lifted from the hunger strike camp in New MLA Quarters amid high drama and tension around 4.30 a.m. Monday.
TDP protests immediately erupted in all 23 districts of the state after Naidu was arrested. TDP workers took to the streets, burnt effigies of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, stopped buses from coming out of depots and staged road blockades.
"If necessary, we will move a no-confidence motion against the anti-farmer government in the state," TDP leader P. Keshav said while leading a protest.
The leader of the opposition was shifted to Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), where he is continuing his fast. TDP leaders claimed he refused to undergo treatment.
Naidu told TDP leaders who called on him that he would continue his fast unless the government gives a firm assurance to come to the rescue of farmers.
The TDP chief is on a fast for four days demanding that the government pay adequate compensation to farmers who lost their crops due to the recent rains.
Defending the arrest of Naidu, Health Minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy said it was the responsibility of the government to provide him medical care as his condition was deteriorating.
NIMS director P.V. Ramesh told reporters that doctors were closely monitoring Naidu’s condition and said he should break the fast keeping his health in mind.
Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneswari, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party president Bhim Singh and leaders of TDP, Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) called on him at NIMS and expressed their solidarity.
However, Congress leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir termed Naidu’s fast as "ridiculous" and said that hundreds of farmers committed during his rule (1995-2004).
Angry over Naidu’s arrest, TDP called for a state-wide shutdown Monday. CPI and CPI-M supported the call.
Protests against Naidu’s arrest broke out in different parts of Hyderabad, Tirupati, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Guntur and other towns.
In Nalgonda district, protestors set afire offices of the agriculture department and mandap parishad development officer.
TDP leaders alleged that a leader who served as chief minister for nine years was ill treated by police. Television pictures showed an angry Naidu grabbing the hair of policemen when he was bodily lifted from the hunger strike camp.
At one point Naidu fell down when police personnel tried to put him on a stretcher amid utter chaos and protests by TDP leaders and workers. Police officers had a tough time in handling the situation as Naidu was protected by armed guards of the National Security Guard (NSG).
Naidu’s son Lokesh sustained minor injuries when policemen lifted him as he tried to resist his father’s arrest. Policemen were seen holding Lokesh by his collar to shift him to a waiting police vehicle. Several party leaders sustained bruises in the melee.
"The manner in which Naidu and others were arrested reminds us of the black days of emergency," said TDP legislator E. Dayakar Rao.
Police were gearing up to arrest Naidu since Sunday evening as his blood pressure, sugar and sodium levels fell significantly. Earlier, he rejected the appeal of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy to end his fast.
Around midnight, police made an attempt to convince Naidu to call off his fast but failed.
TDP leaders also resisted police attempt to arrest Naidu around 1 a.m. by forming a human chain and locking the gates of the New MLA Quarters from inside.
However, a few hours later police broke open the door and arrested Naidu and others(IANS)