[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, Telangana IX: Riots turn ugly]
Last night, P Chidambaram, Home Minister of India, has announced that the Central government will take steps towards creation of a new state called Telangana. With that announcement, there was lot of rejoicing last night on the streets of Telangana. KCR, the head of TRS political party, has decided to end his fast. The ball is now set rolling; and looks like there will be a Telangana state this time around.
A word of caution
India has been ambivalent when it comes to any division. It is because they fear the unknown – they don’t know what will happen. With each division, they get nightmares of country getting divided and broken up into pieces. Back in 1969, there was a major Telangana agitation in which more than 350 people got killed, but the movement was forcefully suppressed. That was exactly 40 years ago. In 2004, TRS-Congress alliance swept the polls in Telangana wherein TRS had a single point agenda – of creating Telangana while Congress agreed to such a demand. And yet, there was no Telangana. Congress Party blatantly betrayed people of Telangana by going against their promises.
Now, we have seen for the first time New Delhi conceding to entertain the creation of new state of Telangana. Does that mean Telangana is guaranteed? Not really. There are many hurdles and obstacles to cross - and anything can happen. Hopefully, the momentum and the prevalent moods are such that all obstacles will be cleared.
Unlike in 1969, which was a movement that was confined to educational institutes and few government employees, now the movement has reached the common people and has become a mass movement. There is a greater awareness of the this movement amongst all sections of society in Telangana- students, housewives, administrators, educationists, government employees, bank officials, and so on. Even remote villages of interior districts of Telangana have joined this movement by calling for a bandh in the last 10 days. As someone said on TV yesterday, it reached a ‘critical mass’ where there is no turning back.
In the last few days, there were waves of protest in Hyderabad city and other parts of Telangana. More than 15,000 students from Osmania University and Kakatiya University and other colleges participated in the current agitation. The police had to resort to arrests and lathicharge to quell the uprising. Section 144 that bans assembly of five or more people was imposed in 9 districts of Telangana including Hyderabad. For 10th December, Telangana people had organized a major rally converging into Hyderabad, and it was seen as a major threat to law and order. More than 12,500 armed policemen and paramilitary forces, some of them coming from other states, have been deployed. The government has started to realize that this movement will not be curtailed like before.
Added to this problem was the fast of KCR. What if something happened to KCR? The fear was that there would be an even bigger uprising in the region. The government had to act quickly to avert this. It was the fear that drove the lawmakers to sit around and discuss the plight of Telangana – not genuine concern to address their political aspirations within legal confines of Indian Constitution.
Indian democracy has flaws
Why does it always come to this in India? Why should people get onto streets, protest, pillage, vandalize, beat up, destroy, before the government concedes to their demands? Why should the people hold government at ransom before the government starts making sense? Why can’t it be proactive and take necessary measures to alleviate concerns of various groups and identities? In some cases, where the people did not even make loud demands, the Center swooped down and created new states – such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarkhand. So, how come a 60 year old movement in Telangana was continuously suppressed?
Though I am happy with the current announcement from P Chidambaram, I am not very happy that such big decisions of creating new states should be an outcome of a knee-jerk reaction to popular uprisings on the streets. Though we are all happy that we got what we wanted, we should ask ourselves if this is the only way to set things right in India. What about those who are not able to rally people to their causes and still are facing injustices? What about those who are not in a position to create such mass movements, and do not have leaders who go on fasts, what about their rights? Shall we continue to be reactive in our doling out of justices? There are serious questions that India has to answer.
Telangana Movement is one of the oldest movements in the history of Independent India that sought a separate state and yet it took sixty years to realize it. How are we protecting certain people’s rights and political aspirations against the onslaught of other people’s ambitions? How are we taking care of group identities, their aspirations, their representations in politics, education and employment? How are we addressing the plights of certain sections which are getting marginalized because of their identities? Shall we always wait for another uprising? Or shall we address these issues proactively?