Hyderabad: Rail movement in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh came to a standstill Thursday as agitators demanding a separate state stopped several trains as part of a 12-hour rail blockade that has virtually snapped rail links of south India with other parts of the country.
Leaders and activists of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), which called the blockade, squatted on the tracks at various places to stop the trains, officials said.
The railways have already cancelled 31 express and 116 passenger trains, partially cancelled 20 express and 14 passenger trains, rescheduled 23 and diverted 23 express trains as a precautionary measure.
The South Central Railway (SCR) has also cancelled all 51 DHMU (Diesel Hydraulic Multiple Unit) services in Telangana and MMTS (Multi-Modal Transport System) trains in Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
Passengers had a tough time as protesters belonging to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other constituents of JAC blocked the movement of trains at several places in Warangal, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda districts.
According to police, protesters stopped 14 passenger and 11 goods trains. Police arrested 149 protesters for disrupting rail traffic.
Activists stopped several trains at Kazipet junction in Warangal district, which connects the railway lines in the south to the north.
Tension prevailed near Nekonda in Warangal district when pro-Telangana activists attacked the car of state minister Thota Narasimham, who was travelling to Hyderabad by road after protesters stopped Gautami Express.
The minister, hailing from Andhra region, was coming to the state capital by the train when it was stopped near Nekonda. As the minister boarded a private four-wheeler and was heading to Hyderabad, it was stopped by the activists. They pelted stones damaging the windowpanes. The police rushed to the minister`s rescue.
The Delhi-Hyderabad Dakshin Express was forcibly stopped at Ghatkesar near Hyderabad early Thursday. JAC convenor M. Kodandaram and BJP leader Indrasena Reddy were among the leaders who participated in the rail blockade at Ghatkesar.
The Tirupati-Secunderabad Narayanadri Express was forced to stop at Chityala in Nalgonda district.
The Tirupati-Secunderabad Padmavati Express and the Vizag-Hyderabad Padmavathi Express trains were stopped by protesters at Bibini Nagar.
Secunderabad-Rajkot, Bangalore-Ernakulam, Hyderabad-Narsapur, Secunderabad-Machilipatnam, Chennai-Egmore and Hyderabad-Mumbai Hussain Sagar express trains were among the key trains stopped by the protesters.
The movement of goods trains has also been hit in Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts, affecting the transport of coal produced by the state-owned Singareni Collieries Company Limited.
The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) is operating special buses for the stranded railway passengers.
The train services are likely to return to normal after 6 p.m.
Meanwhile Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhara Rao on Thursday said that the central government will make an announcement on carving out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh in two weeks.
"As per the indications I received from Delhi, the centre will make an announcement in two weeks," he said, addressing Congress leaders from Telangana sitting on hunger strike here.
Hailing the 48-hour fast of Congress leaders, KCR, as Rao is popularly known, said it would go down as an important event in history.
The TRS chief said by submitting their resignations, 141 public representatives from the region have sent a clear message to the centre that they would not settle for anything less than a separate state. He claimed that the move also demonstrated the unity among leaders from the region.
KCR said the people of the Telangana region wanted self-respect and self-rule and were no longer ready to suffer discrimination.
"At the time of Telangana`s merger with Andhra state, the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said that Telangana can separate whenever it wants. How long we will be cheated?" said KCR, who is the MP from Mahabubnagar.
KCR said Congress leaders from Telangana never went against the party chief and alleged that it was leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of the state who defied the party head by not accepting the centre`s statement of Dec 9, 2009.
Following KCR`s 11-day fast in 2009, the centre announced that the process for formation of separate Telangana state will be initiated.