Hyderabad: Tension gripped parts of Andhra Pradesh yesterday as the YSR Congress government cracked down on the opposition Telugu Desam Party, putting its president and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu under house arrest.
Police also detained his son, former minister Nara Lokesh, and hundreds of party leaders and workers in a bid to foil ‘Chalo Atmakur’ or the March to Atmakur rally in protest against the increasing attacks on TDP supporters by the ruling party workers.
Tension prevailed since yesterday evening as both the TDP and the YSR Congress had called for ‘Chalo Atmakur’ against each other. TDP had organised the protest after eight of its workers were killed and dozens injured in various attacks by ruling party supporters since the change of government in the state. YSRCP on the other hand called for a counter rally for victims of political violence under the previous TDP regime.
Fearing clashes between the two parties in the Guntur district, especially the sensitive Palnadu region, police imposed prohibitory orders this evening.
“We have imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 banning all rallies,” declared the state director general of police Gautam Sawang.
The crackdown began in the wee hours as TDP leaders and workers were leaving for Atmakur in the Guntur district where TDP workers fleeing political violence in villages had taken shelter at a camp set up by the party.
A large posse of policemen surrounded Naidu’s house in Amarvati and the main gate was tied with ropes as he boarded a car to leave for Atmakur. They also stopped several TDP leaders and workers who tried to go towards Naidu’s house.
The angry former chief minister lashed out at the government telling the media: “This is the darkest day for the democracy in the state. I have never seen such a fascist rule in the state.” He also alleged that thousands of TDP workers were arrested.
“We will see how long they can detain us. We will continue our fight for justice with the victims of violence,” Naidu said.
“I am warning the state government and the police that they cannot play this kind of politics,” he said, adding that no repressive measures can control the TDP.
He said that the organised political violence by YSRCP had forced the TDP workers to flee their villages.
“Chalo Atmakur was called to save democracy and safeguard human rights of the families affected by the violence,” Naidu said.
Naidu held Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. He pointed out that attacks on TDP supporters had increased since Jagan came to power in May last.
“In 110 days rule of Jagan, YSRC leaders and workers have committed 565 acts of atrocities, 10 murders, 201 attacks and 136 cases of harassment and damaging properties and land grabbing in 66 other incidents,” Naidu said.
While the initial attempt by the Guntur district police to persuade TDP workers to leave the rehabilitation camp and return to their villages failed on Tuesday, the police forced them to board buses on Wednesday and moved them to their respective villages. About 120 families of scheduled castes were taking shelter at the camp. TDP leaders alleged that the police had stopped the supply of food and water to the camp.
Rejecting the allegation of police high handedness, the DGP said: “We had to put Mr Naidu under house arrest because of fear of breach of peace in Palnadu. It has nothing to do with his opposition to the state government.”
The latest round of confrontation was seen as an extension of more than three decades of rivalry between the YSR family and the Telugu Desam. There was a similar spike in violent attacks against TDP supporters when Jaganmohan Reddy’s father YS Rajasekhar Reddy was in power from 2004 to 2009 while YSR’s supporters came under attack during TDP rule, specially in Kadapa, a YSR family stronghold.