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Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

India's 'Tiger of Telangana' feted

By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

Police in Telangana
The campaign for a separate state has been long-running and at times violent

From tension and fear to excitement and celebration and then to confusion and uncertainty, the people of Telangana region have seen many shades of emotions during the last few hours.

Ever since the Indian government made its dramatic announcement to accept their 50-year-old demand to make Telangana a state, the people of Hyderabad and the other nine districts of the region have endured a roller-coaster ride.

Thousands of supporters of Telangana came out on the streets late on Wednesday night to see history being made as the word spread like wildfire that the government had met their long-standing demands.

Men, women and the young and old came out of their homes in the dead of the night and gathered at the Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences where the leader of the regional Telangana Rashtra Samiti party, K Chandrasekara Rao was under observation by doctors.

Emotional

After 11 days of a "fast unto death" to press the demand for Telangana state, Mr Rao had emerged as a hero for the local masses.

Map

The 55-year-old MP lost almost half of his original weight and has been suffering from many ailments and complications.

The news that his demands had finally been accepted came just as doctors were pressurising him to break the fast because his life was in grave danger. But gritty Mr Rao steadfastly refused.

It was to see this man that people had thronged around the hospital where he was being treated. Emotional youngsters armed with drums, crackers and banners descended on the building shouting slogans in honour of "KCR" - the man now known as the "Tiger of Telangana".

"No other leader endangered his life for the poor people of Telangana like KCR has done and achieved his goal," said an emotional youngster, Tayyab, who is unemployed.

"I am sure after Telangana is formed, nobody will be unemployed."

Lawyer Vivekananda Reddy, who travelled from another city to be present for the historic occasion said that the "formation of a new state will mark the end of 50 years of injustice".

"Our farmers will get their due share in water and our boys will get decent education and good jobs," he said.

Celebrations

Such sentiments seemed to be widespread, including in the intensive care unit where Mr Rao was lying in the bed. A young woman became emotional and started crying on seeing him in such a bad condition.

K Chandrasekara Rao
K Chandrasekara Rao has become a hero (Photo: Snaps India)

Many others made a beeline to fall at his feet barely a few minutes after he had broken his fast to sip a few drops of lime juice offered by his guru and ideologue Prof Jaishankar.

Outside, the crowds were swelling, and dancing and singing youths boarded passing vehicles to display the pink banners of the Telangana regional party.

"I am an IT software professional and I am sure he will get me a job soon," said another youngster as I struggled to find a way through the throng.

Everywhere people deprived of employment, housing and other facilities gathered in celebration and in the expectation that they will witness an economic miracle in their lives. But will their new hero be able to help them?

"That will be the biggest challenge," said Prof Kodanda Ram of Osmania University.

A few hours later I found myself in the same university, where activists of the right wing Hindu students' organisation, the ABVP, were holding a programme to celebrate what they called a victory.

"Hyderabad Hamara!" (This Hyderabad is ours!) they sang amid bursting crackers.

A short while later a bigger rally of students belonging to the leftist organisations entered the same campus chanting revolutionary songs and slogans. But they were not celebrating the victory. "We are remembering the martyrs who laid down their lives for this day," one said.

But on one thing both the right and the left are unanimous. They agree that if anything can change the lives of people of this region, it will be the creation of Telangana state - giving people a distinct cultural, geographic and economic region.

But as I reach home, bad news awaits. As many as 93 Andhra Pradesh lawmakers have tendered their resignations to prevent the formation of Telangana state - they say that they don't want it to secede.

The fight may not have ended for Telangana and its people.



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