Amidst attacks by suspected pro -Telangana elements, a large number of Government employees from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions congregated today for a rally, where speakers asked the Congress to rescind the move to bifurcate the State or face political consequences.
The rally at the sprawling Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here, organised by Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association (APNGOs), coincided with a bandh in Telangana, from where stray incidents of violence were reported.
The shutdown, called by groups backing the proposed division of Andhra Pradesh and formation of separate Telangana, was near total in the region while it evoked mixed response in Hyderabad, whose status is a bone of contention between united AP and Telangana supporters.
All eyes were on the "Save Andhra Pradesh" rally, where speakers issued a stern warning to Congress and asked the party to drop its July 30 decision to bifurcate the State or get ready to face political consequences.
The participants demanded that all Union Ministers and MPs from Andhra-Rayalaseema regions quit their posts forthwith to stall the bifurcation process.
Vowing they would not accept the bifurcation, APNGOs said they would undertake a "Million March" in Secunderabad if the Centre did not stop the process to divide Andhra Pradesh.
According to some estimates, the rally was attended by about one lakh employees, some of them from Telangana, but police put the figure at 35,000 to 40,000.
"Our resolve is to have a unified state. Bifurcation is detrimental to everyone," speakers said at the event.
"The ongoing movement in Andhra-Rayalaseema for a united state is next only to India's freedom struggle. It's the movement led by the people, of the people and for the people," APNGOs Association President P Ashok Babu said.
The division would have a severe negative impact on employees, students and State Road Transport Corporation workers, he claimed.
"Government employees are on strike for the past 30 days, even foregoing their salaries. They are voluntarily taking part in the strike to save Andhra Pradesh from getting divided," he added.
In the morning, pro-Telangana supporters pelted stones on policemen and employees from Andhra-Rayalaseema regions in a bid to thwart the rally.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma said 366 bandh supporters were taken into preventive custody and released later.