VISAKHAPATNAM: After creating a huge online buzz, the silent protests demanding special category status to Andhra Pradesh, which was planned on the lines of Jallikattu stir in Tamil Nadu, fizzled out on Wednesday. Barring a few initial skirmishes in the morning, the police succeeded in restricting youngsters and political party activists from staging protests.
However, a high drama unfolded at Vizag airport in the afternoon when YSRC chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy staged a sit-in on the runway itself after he was not allowed by cops to enter the lounge on his arrival to take part in a candle rally planned on the Beach Road on Thursday evening.
As he disembarked from a Hyderabad-Visakhapatnam flight, along with other YSRC leaders, the police stopped them in their tracks.
Protesting that the police were not allowing a flight passenger to get out of the airport, he staged a sit-in on the runway. After more than two hours of high drama, the cops bundled up Jagan, along with his entourage including V Vijaya Sai Reddy and Ambati Rambabu and sent them back to Hyderabad by a Dubai-bound flight with a stopover in Hyderabad in the evening.
The cops seized Jagan’s convoy kept ready in the city beforehand as well as took his 23 private security guards into custody.
Jagan was caustic in his criticism of the government and accused it of oppressing the people and stifling their voice. “The government is butchering democracy,” he said.
Three days ago, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who dubbed the protest as a provoking act by Opposition parties to create disturbances, made it clear that the protest would not be allowed in any cost.
The police acted accordingly right from Wednesday night itself and took several political and student leaders in North Andhra into preventive custody. YSRC leader Tammineni Sitaram was arrested in Pydi Bhimavaram in Srikakulam district and Botsa Satyanarayana and few others were house arrested in Vizag. Many protesters were taken into preventive custody.
At the RK Beach in Vizag, the epicentre of the protest, around 300 youth were taken into custody. To thwart any attempts of protest at the RK beach road, the police have opted for a three-level security and cordoned off the entire stretch.
Resenting the restrictions imposed on free movement, youth exchanged heated arguments with cops, leading to sporadic lathi charge at a few places. OSD (Operations) Attada Babujee tried to pacify students. Meanwhile, some cops were seen carrying banners with slogans --’Anti social elements are waiting for the opportunity - Please cooperate with police for peace - we are for your safety and security’.
Political leaders, who were staging protest demonstrations at different places too were arrested. The entire Beach Road wore a deserted look, except for the presence of policemen. Around 3,000 security personnel were deployed in Vizag, including around 600 policemen at the 3.5 km long beach stretch alone, covering over 10 entry points to the beach. Additional forces were rushed from Ravulapalem in East Godavari district where they were deployed for preventing ‘Kapu Satyagraha Yatra’ by Mudragada Padmanabham.
Actor Sampoornesh Babu and director Tammareddy Bharadwaj were detained when they tried to enter the Beach Road from the Park Hotel. Many tourists were forced to get down of the vehicles and walk to reach their hotels as prohibitory orders were in place. However, the authorities ensured that the delegates to the CII Partnership Summit were not put to any inconvenience. In Tirupati, YSRC leader P Mithun Reddy was placed under house arrest and around 100 students and youth were taken into custody on Wednesday.
Some agitators staged unique protests by taking out ‘Gangireddulu’ covered with banners with slogans like ‘Pratyeka Hodha - Andhrula Hakku’ (Special Status - Andhras’ Right). Chandragiri MLA Chevireddy Bhaskar Reddy and Pawan Kalyan fans took out rallies at Pakala and Anantapur respectively.
In Vijayawada too, around 100 students, youth, political activists who were trying to stage protests at Prakasam Barrage, KR Market, Padmavati Ghat, Lenin Centre and Ambedkar Statue were picked up. Congress activists, who staged a protest sporting black gags, were arrested too. Left party activists were held at Lenin Centre.
Finding fault with the youth getting out on roads based on some tweets and provocative statements, the ruling party leaders said there was no need for protests as the government was making efforts to do justice to the state in every manner. K Atchannaidu challenged Jaganmohan Reddy for an open debate. Union minister of state YS Sujana Chowdary was sarcastic while saying, “Andhras are good at cockfights. Let them also organise swine fights. Why fight for SCS?”
In response, Pawan Kalyan tweeted- “Regrettable that Union Minister Sujana Chowdary is comparing the fighting spirit of students with pig fights.”
Hailing ‘the spirit of Telugu youth’, Pawan demanded the immediate release of the arrested sans conditions. He reiterated his comment of stale laddus being given to the state in the name of the special package.