Charges dropped, Naidu arrives in Hyderabad (Night Lead)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HYDERABAD/AURANGABAD - Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and his party colleagues returned to Hyderabad Tuesday night to a warm welcome by hundreds of supporters after the Maharashtra government dropped charges against him for attempting to visit a dam under construction in the state.

The leaders arrived at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad on the city’s outskirts in a chartered Air India aircraft from Aurangabad.

Flashing the victory sign, Naidu stood in an open-top vehicle and waved to his supporters who had gathered in large numbers.

Raising slogans of “Long live Naidu” and denouncing the Maharashtra government, TDP activists brought the former chief minister and other leaders to the city in a procession.

Earlier Tuesday evening, there was high drama at the Aurangabad airport as Maharashtra police forcibly put Naidu and other TDP leaders on the 116-seater Airbus A-319 chartered aircraft.

Most of Naidu’s supporters stopped the aircraft by lying flat in front of it. Naidu also took a long time to board the aircraft,” said an airport source in Aurangabad.

“The policemen had to literally go to each of Naidu’s supporters, physically lift him and urge him to board the airport,” the source said.

Official sources in Mumbai said the dropping of charges was prompted by state-wide protests against Naidu and the TDP’s anti-Babli dam agitation.

The TDP leaders, including Naidu, were arrested Friday when they entered Dharmabad town, around eight kilometres from the Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border in Nanded district, to protest against the Babli dam on Godavari river. They alleged that Maharashtra was building the dam illegally and this would deprive Andhra Pradesh of its due share of Godavari waters.

Earlier Tuesday, Naidu and his supporters were moved from Dharmabad in Maharashtra’s Nanded district to the Aurangabad Central Jail. They were remanded to judicial custody till July 26 but all charges against them were dropped by evening.

Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneswari, his son Lokesh and senior party leaders greeted Naidu and his colleagues at the Hyderabad airport. Police had a tough time controlling TDP workers who barged into the airport premises carrying party flags.

The TDP leaders drove directly to a private hospital in Banjara Hills where those who were injured in caning by Maharashtra Police at Dharmabad in Nanded district Tuesday morning, will be treated.

Some women legislators told reporters that they were ill-treated by the police during their detention at ITI Dharmabad since Friday. “I thought we will never return alive,” said A. Madhava Reddy.

Another legislator said they were put to untold hardships and were mercilessly beaten up by the police.

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