With the resounding success of the jallikattu saga in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, it is now the turn of Andhra Pradesh to follow suit. Only this time, the purpose is to ensure that the Centre accords ‘special status’ to the state.
Several Whatsapp groups and social media pages are abuzz, as Andhraites plan a day-long protest at the RK Beach in Visakhapatnam on Republic Day this year.
Thousands are expected to gather at the beach in support of their long-standing demand that 'special status' be accorded to Andhra Pradesh.
The hashtag #APDemandsSpecialStatus is currently one of the trending topics on social media in the state, with enthusiasts urging people from all over AP to gather at the beach in a massive show of solidarity for the cause.
"We have been coordinating with several hundred people through Whatsapp groups and Facebook pages for the protest. We are trying to mobilize as many people as we can for the protest,” says Satish -a student from Visakhapatnam- who plans to be a part of the protest along with his friends.
Speaking to The News Minute, organisers say that arrangements are being made to provide free transportation to the venue.
“We have already spoken to three autorickshaw unions. They support our cause and have promised to make available at least 40 autos in the RK Beach area to provide free transport to protesters," says Sai Keshav, one of the organisers who is coordinating with youngsters from Guntur to ensure maximum participation.
Like many others, Keshav and his friends plan to reach Visakhapatnam on the previous day itself.
"People are seething with anger at the gross neglect of the state by the Centre for so long. There is so much of potential in here, but what do we get…absolutely no support from the Centre," he fumes.
Speaking about what exactly sowed the idea of such a protest, Keshav replies: "When we saw the jallikattu protest in Marina, we were inspired to start our own protest for our very own cause. Just the way the youth of Tamil Nadu got an ordinance passed in favour of jallikattu, we too shall seek to put pressure on the Centre to pass a ‘special status’ ordinance for AP."
He also claims that there are many active Whatsapp groups that function solely to try and get as many people to participate in the protest. Many people have even reportedly volunteered to provide food, snacks and water to the protesters.
The lack of a central organiser is evident, as there is a sense of disarray among volunteers over certain aspects of the protest.
"We had trouble getting police permission too, as a two-day CII Partnership Summit is to be held on 27-28 January at the same venue. They have however agreed to let us hold it, as long as we are peaceful.
We initially decided to start the protest at 9 am in the morning, but we may have to start as early as 7.30 am, or as late at 11 30am. The protest may go on till late in the night, as the YSRC party plans to hold a candle march in the evening,” remarks Keshav.
According to Harish -an organiser- more than 50,000 people will join the protest, with 7000-odd people expected to join from Vijayawada alone.
Several Telugu actors too have backed the demand for special status, with ‘Power Star’ Pawan Kalyan even releasing a special song Desh Bachao -a protest musical- to extend his full support to the movement.
Actor Varun Tej tweeted: "Will be supporting anything that is for the welfare of the people of our states. I support the special status of AP." (sic)
Sai Dharam Tej wrote: "It's time for us to be united and fight for what we were promised and deserve. AP demands special status." (sic)
Actor Sundeep Kishan confirmed his participation in the silent protest. "Will be taking part in the silent protest in Vizag on the 26th to do my bit as a responsible citizen. Please join us,” (sic) Sundeep tweeted.
The state government however persists in its claim that the planned protest is the handiwork of the ‘Opposition parties’.
Hitting out at the Opposition on Monday, state Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu accused them of simply wanting to create a ruckus.
Naidu also took strong exception to the comparison of Special Category Status (SCS) promised to Andhra Pradesh with TN’s jallikattu campaign. "Some parties are trying to provoke people and create disturbances. But we will not allow this. We will be very firm," he told reporters.
Massive protests broke out all over the state last September, after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a 'special economic package' for Andhra Pradesh, instead of ‘special status’ that the state had demanded.