Pic: File photo of Telangana Human Chain in front of Charminar
By Sujai Karampuri
It is the foolishness of New Delhi and the arrogance of Samaikhyandhra proponents to suggest that Hyderabad may be centrally-ruled or be the joint-capital of two new states. This proposal comes from a gross misunderstanding of the current sentiment of Telangana people both by New Delhi and by the Samaikhyandhra leaders.
All these days when Telangana agitations did not spillover into something what would be described as ‘uncontrollable’ or ‘violent’, these detractors got smug about their ambivalent and lackadaisical handling of the issue. They started to believe that they can continue to ‘contain’ this people’s movement for years, and if needed, for decades, through tactics of delay and evasion by setting up meetings and consultations while suppressing the agitations through repressive measures. They started to characterize the movement and its leaders as capable of barking but not biting. They concluded that as long as they allow these leaders to continue to bark, the movement will never bite. Therefore, New Delhi (like United States) allows Seemandhra (like Israel) to continue to occupy, control and rule Telangana (like Palestine) forever and forever while the resources and lands of Telangana continue to be used and colonized by Seemandhras.
The only reason the current intense movement has not spilled over into the zone of ‘uncontrollable’ is because Telangana leadership has taken immense care and precaution not to let it go out of control, even if it meant it produced no tangible results. While it would have been much easier to attain separate Telangana through violent methods, resorting to arson, killing, pillage, looting, like what our Andhra brothers did when attaining their own Andhra State in 1953, the leaders of Telangana ensured that the movement did not become violent for certain reasons which are beyond the comprehension of New Delhi or Seemandhras.
The self-imposed restraint, instead of being appreciated, is derided and ridiculed as a sign of weakness, the way aggressive Chinese army laughed at passive resistance of Tibetans. In the recent past, there were many instances and instigations provided by Samaikhyandhra activists that could have easily pushed the current Telangana Movement to go out of control. Given the history of Telanganas who launched themselves into a violent Naxalite movement after the failed 1969 Telangana agitations, it would not have come as a surprise to an observer if the current Telangana Movement included armed resistance. Yet, it did not.
In spite of being one of the most popular movements in the recent history of modern India, where nearly 35 million people actively support the cause of separate statehood, where more than thousand agitations have taken place in the last two years, and where nearly 10 lakh state employees have gone on strike even after being threatened with loss of pay, the current Telangana Movement remains peaceful, nonviolent, and completely under control. Even Mahatma Gandhi could not manage his agitations with so much restraint. Telangana Movement is more nonviolent that any of Gandhi’s nonviolent campaigns. To appreciate the sobriety of Telangana agitators, it makes sense to compare the behavior of Telangana people with their fellow Andhra brothers.
Though there are lakhs of Andhra people living in Telangana, there was a not a single incident of violence perpetrated against them in the last two years of intense agitations. It is common knowledge that Andhra region does not have many Telanganas because they were never welcome there to begin with. Recently, when some Telanganas crossed over the border to enter Andhra to visit a temple, they were brutally attacked and beaten up.
The current Telangana Movement is unlike any other movement in the history of Indian subcontinent. Though it is highly emotional, charged, and sentimental, it remains one of the most nonviolent movements, without ever attacking even one person belonging to Seemandhra.
Even at the height of the movement, the ire and anger of Telangana people was unleashed against their own political leaders, but not anyone else. When one of the Andhra movie producers taunted Telangana people saying ‘they couldn’t even stop my movie, how will they achieve Telangana?’ the people of Telangana did not become violent, though it was an open invitation. So, the question we have before is: when Telangana leadership surely knows that resorting to violent methods is a simple and easy step to attain Telangana why did they not allow the movement to go violent in spite of so many instigations from Samaikhyandhra activists and the dillydallying from New Delhi? The answer lies in the learning from the history of Telangana which only the people of Telangana seem to appreciate while everyone outside this region seems to deride and ridicule.
Telangana has seen many violent movements in the past. Starting with Sayudha Poratam of 1940s where the first and largest armed peasant revolution of India took place, followed by state-sponsored Razakar violence, to brutal suppression of 1969 Telangana agitation, and then to a prolonged and bloody Naxalite movement in the region, the region has seen death of hundreds, thousands and lakhs of its own people. Far bigger loss due to such violent movements was complete decimation of Telangana’s stillborn democratic institutions, which resulted in further marginalizing the marginalized, further impoverishing the impoverished, and further disenfranchising the disenfranchised. These violent movements destroyed its political system paving the way for a government that was unrepresentative of its people, allowing Seemandhras to take control of Telangana region, their fates, their resources, their opportunities, their water, and their energy. What took the biggest toll on the region was the complete emaciation of the region’s self-respect and self-dignity.
Being mocked as a lazy, drunkard, and rustic by the carefully orchestrated campaign by Andhras, the region lost its identity and confidence. This learning from the history of past movements gave the leadership in Telangana a deep sense of appreciation of the dangers of a violent movement. It has given them a sense of responsibility not to engage in violent methods, even if instigated by their opponents and rulers. Instead we will use every agitation to become stronger in our identity, in expression of culture, while continuously building the democratic institutions, thereby bringing political power to the common man, emancipating him from the social shackles, giving him the desired self-confidence, while keeping a check on our own leadership, so that when Telangana forms, we hope it will be a land of equal opportunity, of social harmony and overall prosperity. This self-restraint and this composure is often ridiculed by our detractors and seen as a major weakness. Also, the prejudices of Andhras only make it worse – they think that this lazy lot cannot sum up energy, courage and unity to form their own state. Hence, they come to the assessment that the movement can only bark, but not bite.
The detractors are deluding themselves that this movement lacks the bite. They keep dreaming of further suppressing the region to rule this region forever. In the worst case scenario, if a state has to be created, they want to deprive this region of its capital city and water resources to punish Telangana so that it is incapacitated and emasculated for a long time.
A plan is being hatched to make Hyderabad a centrally-governed city or a joint-capital with the hope that they can continue to flood the city with more and more Andhras so that there will never be a day in future when Telangana can claim this city for themselves. Such a move is fraught is misunderstanding and misjudgment of what Telangana means to Telanganas, and what Hyderabad means to Telangana. It does not take into account into recent history of people’s sacrifices for the cause and the capacity of this region to become extremely violent when pushed into a corner.
Once the state is formed, Telanganas will taste the first morsel of victory. You cannot deny the rest of the meal after that. In fact the mere whiff of the meal provided by P Chidambaram’s statement announcing formation of new state on 9th December 2009 launched the two-year long agitations. The people, who have been asked to restrain themselves till now, will unleash their pent up anger if denied Hyderabad. It will be the ultimate betrayal; it will only validate their long held position that Seemandhras with the support from New Delhi have discriminated, marginalized and cheated this region for their vested interests. There will be a backlash against Andhras which was carefully avoided all these years. Hyderabad will witness a much magnified and vicious version of 1969 movement where slogans like ‘Go Back Andhras’ will appear on every door step. That is not good for future of Telanganas or the future of Hyderabad which remains largely cosmopolitan unlike most Andhra cities and regions which are fairly homogenous.
All this is unnecessary. The current proposal to make Hyderabad a joint-capital or centrally administered region should be overwhelmingly rejected. India has made stupid decisions in the past which it had to revoke later, but only after enough damage was done. It made Bombay a centrally administered city only to give it back to Maharashtra, after violent agitations.
Hyderabad should be made capital of Telangana without any conditions. Any move to do otherwise will be counterproductive and will result in pain for the people living in this region. Such dirty politics will only backfire eventually leaving a trail of destruction.
I was talking to a friend from Telangana who remained unenthusiastic on this issue for quite long time now. He was not keen on separate Telangana and was quite skeptical about the whole movement. But when I told him that Telangana may be carved but without Hyderabad, he rose up in palpable anger, and shouted, ‘we will never allow that. If it means I have to get onto streets, I will. Telangana without Hyderabad is unthinkable’.