Conversations and conflicts

By: Soonya

Conversation is an art and an enabler for human progress.

Without conversation the world would be a dangerous place. It is especially true for democracies.

Unfortunately we do see less conversations and more rhetoric, especially in our polity.

However, a welcome change is the way the Telangana Assembly was conducted creating meaningful space and time for the legislators to debate and discuss. Though for most of the time there was debate and discussion, it was marred by some posturing and attempts to filibuster by some ill-motivated legislators.

We must give the devil its due, the TRS government chose to allow for discussion and debate and showed a tough stance against obstructionist politics by a handful of legislators.

Obviously those who do not believe in the decorum of a legislative assembly nor responsibility to those who elected them to represent their issues had taken recourse to obstructionist politics.

Telangana is a nascent state. First time ever in so many decades have Telangana people got a chance to breathe free. But Telangana has many aspirations, is impatient to catch up with what was lost for decades if not centuries.

However, to think that we can transform as if one has a magic wand in a very short time is fooling ourselves. No one, not even KCR can do magic.

But magic is possible.

If we collectively decide that for a decade we will only keep Telangana’s development, and the aspirations of the millions who fought and dreamt of a better future in a new state, and subordinate everything else, – party loyalties, our ideologies and our petty politics, can we make magic happen.

I believe that working together collectively need not submerge our own identities nor our thoughts. We can bring in a rainbow of ideas, even if they are conflicting but in a way that we can build meaningful conversations. Like I earlier said in some posts, Andhra who came to merge with Telangana did not understand it. Merger is not SUBMERGER. Need not be.

That would mean we need to collectively create a new and a higher platform on which we can engage with each other, meaningfully, productively and constructively.

For that we need to have true conversations.

A true conversation can happen only when we suspend judgment, at least temporarily.

Often times we are preparing answers as the other is speaking, for all practical purposes hearing but not listening!

Unfortunately, we, the argumentative Indians, and Telenganaites have learnt not only to be argumentative but also judgmental.

Once a senior IAS officer told me that we Indians are a set of auditors! I differed with him, but he shared his perspective with examples, and I had to grudgingly accept.

We oscillate between ‘Anni Vedallo vunnayacha’ to ‘Tellodi maya’! We are neither pigs nor princes; we are somewhere in between.

It is important for us to be working with ‘Kaala dharma’ or what is appropriate for a time than being caught in empty idealism.

History does not leave any space for those who are idealists for idealism sake.

At the same time I am not decrying the need for idealism. Idealism needs to drive us. But we also have to figure out ways and means of getting things done.

Let me share a few events that occurred in the recent times.

Some student organizations have given a bandh call for legitimate reasons – reasons such as filling the posts of VCs, increasing mess-charges etc.

Some student organizations recently also called for a bandh and an agitation against regularizing ‘contract’ employees.

Some student organizations feel that regularizing ‘contract’ employees will diminish their chances.

We have seen the Junior Doctors or JuDas (as the vernacular press calls them) go on strike for more than 2 months.

Some questions that we need to ask ourselves. Are regular employees are not from Telangana? Were they not students at a point of time? Should they not have an aspiration for getting permanent employment for they spent anywhere from 5 years to 10 years as contract employees? Should they not be getting benefits of secure employment and other benefits?

Are the students not justified in expecting employment in government and other jobs? Of course they are.

How does one resolve the apparent contradiction?

The Junior Doctors went on strike against the rule that they have to serve in rural areas for 2 years before they get their degree.

Now can the government absorb all the students who graduate from medical colleges every year?

Who is going to serve the people in Telangana in rural areas? Probably some of their demands are justified. But should they be going for strike as a means of protest against something that they think is justified before they dialogue and engage?

Do the students of Osmania and other universities go on strike before having a dialogue with the government?

We had to go for strikes and civil disobedience because the then governments were not caring about the discrimination meted out to Telangana people even after representations being made, GO’s passed, committee reports suggesting that justice be done. It was legitimate.

Should we be giving some breathing time for the nascent government of a nascent state to establish itself before it finds it feet?

I am not saying and nor do I believe that we ought to sell our rights to protest which is fundamental nor am I saying that we have to kow-tow to everything the government proposes.

But before we go for the ultimate weapon of protest, dharna or a strike should we explore other means? Should we be giving some reasonable time for the government to find its feet and then demand?

Should we be in agitational mode always? Or are there other means of engagement?

These are some questions that bother me.

Personally I am an impatient person where good things need to be done. But I also realize everything takes time.

What is a reasonable time before we use our ultimate weapons of protest?

What mechanisms and methods we ought to employ before we decide to precipitate protest?

These are some questions that we need to engage with.

If we are all committed to the development of Telangana and have a vision and commitment for a prosperous and developed Telangana, what ought to be our modes of engagement? What are our responsibilities before we demand our rights?

I some how believe that 24 hours will not be enough if we were to rebuild Telangana to achieve its potential. Therefore one needs to impatient. But impatient with what and whom?

When dialogues and conversations break-down, we have the right to confrontation.

Confrontation for confrontation sake may not be very productive IMHO.

We need to learn to build conversations among multiple stakeholders, and manage the apparent contradictions of the interests of various sections. We cannot pit one against the other. We have to figure out ways of finding the beauty of AND over the tyranny of OR.

With me or against me, is passé. This OR that is passé. It’s time we figure out together and built a higher plane of engagement. Through genuine conversations.

I do hope, KCR leading TRS government as he by and large showed equanimity and grace of taking all parties together in the recent Assembly deliberations, will continue to strive to find common ground, and will find the plane and a platform for every one, irrespective of the colour of our party flag, will rally around one slogan – Let’s work for the next 10 years towards achieving what Telangana lost in the last so many decades. And let’s us build true conversations.

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