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Protests For Separate Vidarbha State Turn Violent

Protests for a separate Vidarbha state turned violent on Sunday as activists vandalised scores of buses and burnt documents on streets of Nagpur. Vidarbha, comprising 11 districts of eastern part of Maharashtra, was merged with the then newly-formed Maharashtra on this day in 1960. Demands for independent statehood go back several decades.

Protesters on Sunday vandalised government-owned buses in Yavatmal district, breaking their windscreens and setting fire to official documents. In Nagpur district, sloganeering protesters blamed the incumbent state government headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in coalition with Shiv Sena.

"They (BJP) have been heading the Maharashtra government for one and half years. If they don't fulfill their promises within two years, we will intensify this agitation. We have decided to declare this on May 01 as our democratic right," said Ravi Sacheti, a protester, in Nagpur.

Activists also unfurled a multicoloured flag on what they called a Black Day for the state. "Vidarbha region was merged with the state of Maharashtra on this day in 1960. We observe this day as a Black Day. We have also unfurled a Vidarbha flag," said Shrihari Aney, another protester.

Vidarbha is one of the least developed regions of Maharashtra which registers an alarming number of farmers' suicides. People of the region believe that separate Vidarbha state would ensure development and solve other problems of the region. The BJP executive committee in 1987 had passed a revolution favouring smaller states including Vidarbha. However, their key ally Shiv Sena is opposed to a new state.

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