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Celebrations as India gets new state of Telangana

HYDERABAD, India--Celebrations erupted in southern India to mark Monday's creation of the new state of Telangana, the culmination of a campaign stretching back nearly six decades.

Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, who at one stage went on hunger strike as part of the push to create India's 29th state, was sworn in as chief minister during a morning ceremony in Hyderabad.

Rao raised the Indian flag, waved to crowds from an open-top jeep and inspected troops during a ceremony at a parade ground.

Residents began celebrating on the stroke of midnight when the state came into being, with a fireworks display lighting up the skies over the city. Crowds took to the streets, waving flags and cheering.

“Great many expectations and great many challenges,” the chief minister's politician son Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao told CNN-IBN.

“Lots of hopes from the people of Telangana are vested on the shoulders of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (party),” he said.

India's new Prime Minister Narenadra Modi was among the first to congratulate Rao, promising his “complete support to the people & Government of Telangana” in a message on Twitter.

“India gets a new state! We welcome Telangana as our 29th state. Telangana will add strength to our development journey in the coming years,” Modi added.

“Telangana's birth comes after years of struggle and sacrifices by several people. We pay our respects to them today.”

Fears of Economic Upheaval

Telangana has been carved out of an impoverished northern area of Andhra Pradesh state. Hyderabad, an IT hub home to giants Google and Microsoft, will serve as the capital of both states for the next decade.

The campaign to create a separate state in one of India's most economically deprived regions began in the late 1950s, with its champions arguing the region has been neglected by successive state governments.

However wealthier coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh fiercely opposed the split, fearing that it would trigger economic upheaval.

Andhra Pradesh's chief minister resigned earlier this year on the eve of a vote by parliament to approve Telangana's creation.

The build-up to the vote was marred by chaotic scenes in parliament, with lawmakers coming to blows while one representative even squirted pepper spray at colleagues.

Analysts had seen the decision by the then-Congress government to back the state's creation as a strategic move designed to increase its support in the south in a general election year.

However Congress won only two of the 42 seats in the undivided Andhra Pradesh when the election results were announced last month.

“Congress fulfilled its promise (to create the state), but it suffered a political defeat,” Congress leader Digvijay Singh told CNN-IBN.

“We want both states to work together.”

Andhra Pradesh, created in 1956, was India's first state to be set up on grounds of a shared language and laid down a precedent for establishing states along linguistic lines.

India last redrew its internal boundaries in 2000, with the creation of three new states in economically deprived areas in the north.

Critics say the bill creating Telangana could open a “Pandora's box” of demands for statehood by other regional groups in the ethnically diverse nation, which also has a host of separatist movements.

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Newly formed Telangana state's first chief minister, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, gestures to supporters during the state's Formation Day celebrations in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, on Monday, June 2.

(AFP)

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