[The previous articles in this series are: Telangana - A New State, Telangana II, Telangana III, Telangana IV, Telangana V: Political angle, Telangana VI: Hyderabad State?, Telangana VII: Political Drama, Telangana VIII: You need to make a case, History of Telangana I]
I am not in Telangana right now – therefore I don’t know what’s happening on the ground. But from what I hear, there was rioting in the streets where petrol stations, offices and hotels were vandalized, that people were stopped right in the middle of the streets and forced to chant ‘Jai Telangana’, and that some ‘Andhra’ restaurants were targeted.
From what I hear, it is clear that this people’s movement has gone out of control. I don’t think KCR is in charge of the events except that he has acted as a catalyst. KCR has always been a catalyst, not the initiator of the movement. The Telangana Movement is nearly sixty year old movement. There was uprising against Nizam even before Independence. And after Independence, Hyderabad State existed independent of Andhra and Rayalaseema – where elections were held and Chief Minister chosen. Potti Sriramulu’s death after his hunger strike led to First Reorganization Committee to divide India along linguist lines and that’s when Telangana was forced into joining another state along with Andhra and Rayalaseema. It was clear even then that Telangana people would lose out on many opportunities that will be created in the independent India.
Telangana people under Nizam had no or little education till then. Those who had were educated in Urdu. Meanwhile the people of Andhra were educated under British – learning Telugu and English. So, when the new state of Andhra Pradesh was formed, the prerequisite languages were Telugu and English, and since people of Telangana lacked education in both these languages all the initial jobs were filled up by people of Andhra causing anticipated anguish to people of Telangana.
In 1969 there was a popular student movement in Telangana and many people were killed and jailed. Following that TPS (Telangana Praja Samiti) won 11 out of 12 Lok Sabha seats on a single plank – of creating new Telangana State. Indira Gandhi snubbed that movement while the leaders of Telangana betrayed their own people by joining the Congress and Chenna Reddy became Chief Minister of the entire state.
Our democracy is flawed
Time and again aspirations of Telangana people were snubbed by the politicians of this country. In 2004 elections, TRS and its partner Congress won most of the Lok Sabha seats. TRS had only one stance for the election – creation of Telangana State. In a country where there are no referendums and where democracy touches people only once in five years through elections – it was a clear indication of the mood of the people – that people of Telangana demanded a separate Telangana. The people did not vote for TRS or KCR for their merits – they voted for them to express their desire for separate Telangana.
And yet, this was completely snubbed by Congress to accommodate Rajshekar Reddy’s government at the center. By 2009, TRS lost most of the confidence in their leaders while other political parties also endorsed Telangana. In these elections, other parties which endorsed Telangana also won.
The people of Telangana are confused – they have no way to expressing their desire in the current extremely flawed democratic setup. Each time they vote a party into power, those parties let them down eventually. There is no way of calling back the leaders after they go back on their word. They can only switch to another wily politician. This democracy does not address the actual opinion of its people.
People of Telangana should have been allowed to vote in a referendum seeking separate state. These elections every 5 years are just not working out. The current tools of Indian democracy that include its electoral process do not allow people to express their demands and aspirations.
Rioting is not the way to do it
Even though I can understand why scores of students have spilled out onto the streets, I do not believe that this is the only way to express one’s anger and frustration with India’s democratic institutions that have failed the people of Telangana again and again.
KCR has used the tools of Gandhi – fasting to create another stir. Let the people of Telangana also use other tools of Gandhi – civil disobedience comes to mind. Instead of beating up and breaking things, the protestors should bring Telangana to come to a standstill – using the tools of non-cooperation with the all the institutes of Central Government. Coercing them to understand the aspirations of Telangana Movement is the way to go – not rioting in streets.