Long distance and local services were disrupted, state transport buses stoned and most private and government offices closed as the daylong shutdown for a separate state of Vidarbha, to be carved out of Maharashtra, began on Wednesday.
Maharashtra police deployed heavy security in Nagpur and other major towns of the 11 districts where the shutdown called by 68 political parties and groups - Vidarbha Nirman Sangram Samiti (VNSS) - evoked a spontaneous and enthusiastic response, the organisers said.
"All schools, colleges, a majority of government offices and over a lakh commercial and business establishments in entire Vidarbha have taken part in the shutdown," said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishor Tiwari.
The Vidarbha region comprises the districts of Nagpur, Chandrapur, Gondiya, Bhandara, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldana, Akola and Washim, with a total population of 30 million.
As part of the shutdown, the long distance Vidarbha Express was halted briefly by the agitators, while attempts were made to stop other trains entering from north, east and south India at various points, railway officials said.
Huge traffic snarls were witnessed at the state's borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as vehicular movement on the national highways was stopped by pro-Vidarbha agitators.
Similarly, all traffic also came to a standstill on the state highways and district roads in the entire region.
Nagpur city was deserted as all public and private vehicles remained off the roads and commercial establishments downed shutters.
In Yavatmal, a group of 50 farm widows squatted outside the State Bank of India office raising slogans for a separate state and for justice to the farmers.
In several Yavatmal villages, rallies were taken out and local leaders demanded a separate state of Vidarbha for the region's development.
People also enacted farmer suicides, consuming poison or immolating them as crowds cheered and raised a chorus for a separate state.