Hyderabad: Ten MPs from Telangana, including nine belonging to Andhra Pradesh's ruling Congress, and over a dozen legislators were Saturday arrested along with over 3,000 others for participating in the opening day of the three-day 'rail blockade' across Telangana. One of the Congress MPs was sent to jail for 14 days.
Ponnam Prabhakar, the member of the Lok Sabha from Karimnagar, was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by a magistrate in Karimnagar. He was sent to the district jail.
This is the first case in which an MP and a leader from the ruling party has been arrested and jailed in the ongoing movement for separate Telangana state.
Jeevan Reddy, a former state minister, was also remanded in judicial custody for two weeks.
Two more Congress MPs, S. Rajaiah and G. Vivek, two state legislators and some other leaders of Telangana movement remained in police custody and are likely to be produced before the magistrate Sunday.
K. Keshava Rao and Madhu Goud Yaskhi, two of the MPs who were released, met Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy to lodge their protest against booking serious cases against Prabhakar. The chief minister, however, said Prabhakar refused to take the bail.
The two MPs alleged that the state police booked false cases against the leaders and activists. They said Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi told them that railway police had not booked any case.
Protesting the large-scale arrests and 'police excesses', Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), which has called the rail blockade Saturday night, called for Telangana shutdown Monday.
Sending a strong message to those participating in the movement for a separate Telangana state, police booked MPs, legislators, former ministers and other leaders. Three of the MPs and two legislators were booked under the Railway Act.
Police also booked Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief and MP K. Chandrasekhara Rao and JAC convenor M. Kodandaram under the Railway Act for calling the blockade that has disrupted rail movement.
The arrests evoked criticism from all quarters, including state ministers from Telangana. At a meeting held Saturday evening, the ministers disapproved of the government action in arresting the MPs and legislators. They urged the chief minister not be tough with the agitators.
Leaders of opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were arrested when they staged a sit-in outside the camp office of the chief minister, demanding release of those arrested during 'rail roko'.
According to police spokesman and Additional Director General of Police S. A. Huda, 2,382 people were arrested across Telangana Saturday. They include 2,133 taken into preventive custody and another 249 arrested for specific cases.
The arrested MPs include K. Keshava Rao, G. Sukhender Reddy, Balram Naik, Rajaiah, Madhu Goud Yaskhi, Ponnam Prabhakar, G. Vivek, K. Rajagopal Reddy (all of Congress) and TRS MP Vijayshanti.
Chandrasekhara Rao's son and TRS legislator K. Taraka Rama Rao, who was arrested twice in the day, was booked for trying to assault policemen discharging their duties.
The police officer said the arrests were continuing in Telangana, which comprises 10 districts including Hyderabad.
The clashes between police and protestors at some places triggered tension while state and central forces were mobilised in large numbers to protect railway property.
Five policemen were injured in two incidents in Warangal and Hyderabad.
Director General of Police Dinesh Reddy had earlier warned that anybody participating in 'rail roko' would be booked under Railway Act. He had also cautioned agitators that they may get life imprisonment under the act.
Senior railways and state police officials made an aerial survey of about 1,600 km long railway tracks in the region.
Led by Additional Director General, Government Railway Police V.S.K. Kaumudi, senior officials in a helicopter flew over the railway tracks to review the situation on the ground.
Claiming that the situation was peaceful, the railway authorities restored some trains cancelled earlier. These include six trains between Hyderabad and Mumbai.
Railways had earlier cancelled as many as 136 trains and diverted 80 other trains in view of the blockade. It, however, operated 11 express and passenger trains as scheduled.