Million March – A glorious nostalgia

March 10, 2011 was a glorious day for Telangana. The ‘Million March’ of Telangana people to ‘Tank bund’ demanding separate state was a thundering success on that day. The sinister plot of the evil trio of Governor, CM and DGP was stopped in its tracks. The Telangana people romped home to Tank bund hoodwinking the unprecedented Police dragnet and roared like lions, taking the promised oath. The beaten Police were gawking at them while they made merry. It was a resounding slap on the face of ‘All Andhra’ administration in A.P. The DGP with all his conceited swagger had to bite the dust.

The administration resorted to ruthless police action at village, mandal, district and state level to prevent people coming to Hyderabad for the ‘March’. They wanted to make it a dismal failure, to stymie the state struggle. They have ‘binded over’, taken in to custody and arrested about a lakh of people through out the region. They made a wide search on the leadership and detained key people at all levels. They even had to resort to the most shameful act of binding over university girl students. They erected road blocks at every conceivable point through out Telangana region and in the city. And savagely prevented the people to go to the March.

That was the most despotic police action in the history of the state. Yet, the rank and file of Telangana people, depleted of their leadership by the draconian detention of the police, rose to the occasion, improvised the means to circumvent the barricades and miraculously descended on Tank bund at the appointed time. Later much of their leadership also found the way to the venue. It was the triumph of the will of the Telangana people over the tyranny of the state government.

The politicians were trying to distance themselves from the Million March in the beginning. They tried to even ‘postpone’ it. But the pressure of the non-political civil society groups within the TJAC made this March inevitable. That day’s turnout at Tank bund was an eye-opener for all political parties. Without any mobilization from the parties, more than 1 lakh gathered at Tank bund. For anyone who had doubts about the depth of the movement, the turnout and the uncompromising will behind it had provided the answer. Later, the unwilling politicians too attended, to save their face. There were some discordant notes also in that tumultuous event.

The angry protest against the congress MPs was not surprising. If the JAC leadership was present adequately at the time, the incident would not have blown up so much. But, it was a natural reaction of a beleaguered Telangnites for the earlier dramas of the congress honchos and their party. There was no need to blow it out of proportion, as our Andhra brothers wanted it. This was acknowledged by the chastened MPs themselves. It looked like the T- Congress elements learnt some lessons out of the incident.

The matter of the breaking of the statues and destroying the cameras of journalists in the process was a serious matter. But was not a sacrilegious act as some purists have said. The composition of the statues on Tank bund was an exhibition of Andhra chauvinism, installed by that Andhra ‘demi-god’, NTR. It was a heart burn for Telanganites and was a dent on their self respect in the united AP. Though many Telanganites do not support the vandalism, they will like in their hearts of hearts to remove some of the undeserving Andhra statues and replace them with more deserving legendary figures of Telangana. The unanswered question there was, whether it was done by Telangana people.

The JAC was too strait-laced to allow such kind of activity. At that time, all the Telangana groups were harassed by police to no end and were struggling very hard to find their way in to to Tank bund, guarded by about 12,000 police and para military forces. They were also not sure whether the March would take place. It was also doubtful if they had the wherewithal to carry out such a daring act at that time. This act might have taken place in more than an hour’s time. How come that police had withdrawn and had allowed it to happen in all that time.

In the first place, when so much herculean effort was made by police to prevent people to come there, why they had so easily let people on to the Tank bund at the time of this happening? The circumstantial evidence does not rule out that , it could have been planned and executed by the Police to discredit Telangana struggle and subject it to more draconian treatment to suppress it. The utterances of DGP, that Maoists had had an hand in it gives credence to such possibility. If Telanganites did it they would have targeted the statue of K B Reddy the butcher of Telangana martyrs in 1969, first. Telanganites have nothing against Krishnadevaraya,Annamayya etc. They definitely would not attack S. Pratap Reddy. The vandalism is despicable but it does not look like the handiwork of Telanganites. The responsibility for the incident entirely rests with DGP.

The incident of destruction of vans of TV9 and NTV is another serious matter. These two channels were not behaving objectively towards Telangana and its struggle. They were callously trying to scuttle the struggle with their Andhra bias for a long time with the tacit support of All Andhra government. They were inviting this kind of trouble and they got it for their unprofessional work. In that uproarious circumstance, it was difficult to stop. There was no need for Telangana people to regret much on that incident.

As the Telangana movement has time and again shown, there was no dearth of creativity in expressing the ideas and aspirations of the movement. Firstly, there were the masks. Scores of people turned out in Masks of Gandhi, Ambedkar and even Professor Kodandram. When news flew that the professor may be arrested in the morning, the masks of his face were prepared and worn to mock at the police about the impending arrest. Of course, when the real arrest happened,they threw them into Hussain Sagar. Secondly, the dhoom-dhaam and the songs raised the pitch as they usually do. Accompanied by a stereo in a four wheeler which managed to squeeze in, the songs, especially Gaddar’s raised the tempo. The youth danced to the beats and a festive atmosphere ensued.

Women played Bathukamma and sang. Some carried Bonalu. Kids came in with attires of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel etc and played short skits encouraging the movement. Youth rallied around, some with their hands chained, some with their mouths covered symbolically. Some one carried a huge Indian flag around. All organizations and groups which came with their banners rallied to and fro, demanding Telangana, between the two ends of lower Tank bund. The two ends and Telugu Thalli flyover were guarded by police and paramilitary forces.

In the end,the DGP had utterly failed in his giant attempt to prevent the Million March . Now in the hindsight it appears that All Andhra administration had hatched a plan to make use of this March and created the incidents on Tankbund to bring in a measure like ‘President Rule’ to suppress Telangana state campaign or some thing of that sort. The great success of the Million March, was a big milestone in Telangana State struggle. It certainly influenced the formation of the state. Khudos to all who participated in it and made it possible !

– J R Janumpalli, Independent Journalist