Hyderabad supports Telangana

By Narasimha Reddy Donthi

The recent 48-hour bandh on 5-6 July was a huge success. Media reports have shown that the bandh was complete and peaceful. Interestingly, Hyderabad also shut itself down. People preferred to stay indoors. Significantly, this has happened voluntarily, without any apparent enforcement.

Even small and tiny tea vendors took a holiday, even it means a dent in their incomes. Pushcart business was also low key. Informal eateries did not open their wares. Many parts of the Old city also followed suit. In this part of the city, where most of the neglected sections have their abode, it is always a dicey situation to call for a bandh. Only a bunch of political parties can enforce bandh, only after their rank and file becomes mobile and threatening. In the aftermath of the recent firing on a legislator, there was no voluntary shutdown. The fear factor worked.

Shutting down Hyderabad is a mammoth task. Smaller parties do not count at all. Even the ‘big’ parties like the Congress, BJP, MIM, TDP only have pockets of influence. Previous bandh calls were ‘enforced’, marred by clashes, stone pelting and threats. None of the parties could ensure a complete bandh, as seen as twice in Hyderabad, in recent months. It was not just for a day, but continuous two days.

I think this time had more to do with the bandh call given by Telangana Political Joint Action Committee (TPJAC), than by TRS. TPJAC being a political body, without a political party tag, has wider acceptance and credibility. TPJAC has achieved this twice, and that too for 48 -hours. A call by TRS would not have had such a good response. Even in 2009, it could not enforce a bandh in Punjagutta, in the vicinity of NIMS. Hyderabad is a different matter.

Most bandhs would start with stone pelting and damage to public property and public transport. Second stage would be shutting down shops and hotels. Third stage would be stopping any other movement. These would often be accompanied by stone pelting, lathi-wielding and mob threats. Previously, most bandhs were partial, with parts of Hyderabad being open. Usually, street corner hotels, chaiwallahs, pan shops were ‘exempted’ as they supplied essential commodities.

The recent two 48 hours bandhs indicate a broader and deeper support for TPJAC and its fight for separate Telangana. Hyderabad has indicated its choice for separate Telangana, not once, but twice, in a completely democratic method. Bandh is a protest, a democratic tool to convey people’s aspiration to the governing structures. It is a unique Indian way of ‘venting’ of public grievance. Economic losses and all other ‘money’ calculations are hogwash, supported by westernized standards of productivity. Stoppage of ‘normal’ life would be affected. Sections of people would be put to strain. But, protests over ‘bandhs’ are orchestrated by middle and rich class people, who feel cheated out of shopping and entertainment experiences. Patients going to hospitals are always strained to get medical attention, bandh or no bandh, by traffic jams and VIP movements. Real sections who would be affected are daily wage earners.

A peaceful, voluntary and participatory bandh needs to be seen as a democratic expression and communication by the people of their demands. It is not that you can always wait for elections to vote, and send your message through voting. In between elections, such bandhs would help in bringing governments to take notice of people’s demands. Credit goes to TPJAC for resurrecting this mode of public protest back to its credibility.

There are other methods of democratic expressions, not just bandhs. But, with governments becoming thick-skinned, ‘managerial’ and partisan, common people have no other option.

From: The South Reports

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