Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Telangana 41: ‘Rowdy’ Movement
How does the world look at Telangana Movement?
When my well-wishing neighbors in Bangalore saw ‘Jai Telangana’ sticker on my car they were curious and assumed that someone had put it on my car by force. And when I mentioned that I was going to Hyderabad to participate in the human chain, they were quite shocked. Their concern was genuine. They couldn’t understand why a person working in ‘IT’ profession, who according to them is ‘elite’, would participate in a movement of rowdies, hooligans and Naxals.
Such a reaction is the most common reaction of anyone outside Telangana towards this movement. Unfortunately for us, this movement got a character of Bodos fighting for a new country, or Kashmiri Muslims fighting against India. They look at it as a movement of the rowdies, uneducated, unemployed - the movement of the worst and waste of our society. A good friend from Telangana also expressed his surprise that even ‘educated’ people are supporting Telangana, and asked what use is one’s education? Some people ask, ‘how come the agitators are always the students of arts, and never science or engineering?’ Implicit in their question is their prejudice against students of arts who, according to them, are unemployable and therefore have lot of time on their hands to fight any useless fight.
Recently, when supporters of Telangana formed the human chain on Tank Bund in Hyderabad my whole family came to participate. It included my aunts, uncles, cousins, including our tiny daughters. The press took pictures of our daughters and posted them in the next day newspaper holding ‘Jai Telangana’ placards. When my wife showed those pictures to her coworkers in Bangalore, one of them jestingly called my 2-year old daughter a ‘Telangana rowdy’ – not very uncharacteristic of how people outside Telangana perceive of Telangana people.
While we were quite proud of the event, the way it was done so peacefully, where lakhs of people stood in line without a single untoward incident, most others outside Telangana did not look at us that way. While my whole family was celebrating the pictures of our daughters, proudly showing them to everyone, many others did not think it could be a family event.
Most people outside Telangana refuse to discuss Telangana issue as if it is some kind of Taliban movement. They think it is a bigoted, blind, irrational, militant and anti-India movement. The mere association with Telangana supporters could put them in jeopardy.
Such behavior goes aptly with the natural attitude of Indians who do not dwell or discuss upon the most serious issues facing our nation, the way our schools don’t discuss caste-based or religion-based discrimination. Everyone knows such problems exist, but nobody wants to talk about them. Telangana issue is one such forbidden topic now.
When asked why I support Telangana movement, I try to explain. But most observers just close their ears, eyes and brains. They don’t want to listen or reason. They want us to concede that it is a shameful act, an act of treason, something to be embarrassed of. Terming me a bigot seems to be the convenient answer to all their questions.
Indians dismiss non-violent movements
People say that we are fighting a 20th century fight in 21st century. They are right in one way. Since India refused to solve a 20th century problem in 20th century itself, we are forced to fight it in 21st century.
Telangana Movement has been one of the most peaceful movements in the contemporary history, and yet it does not get the due credit. The only reason this movement is ignored by the national media is because it is happening in an India that has changed quite considerably since its own Independence Movement.
India is turning apathetic and elite. It does not wake up to a genuine people’s movement anymore. That’s because they are not interested in such issues anymore. They have naturally assumed that all people’s aspirations were already satisfied when we became independent. Any new movement along the similar lines has to be ruthlessly suppressed.
Many Indians forgot their histories. They have become the masters they toppled. They don’t realize that the very same reasons Indians cited against British are the reasons Telanganas cite against Andhras. Telanganas fight for self-expression, dignity, self-rule; we fight against discrimination, marginalization and domination; the very same things Indians fought against British.
Right now, Telanganas are using non-violent methods to express their aspirations the way Indians expressed themselves in their fight against British. So, how come Telanganas don’t get the respect that Indians got? That’s because Indians no longer respect a non-violent movement.
According to many Indians, the era of peaceful and non-violent agitations is over and done with. While Indians rejoice when outsiders compliment them on their non-violent movement, they completely dismiss it when such a movement actually occurs inside India. They think that only the weak, only those who lack spine resort to non-violent movements. If you really want something, you become violent – that’s the message. If you are not violent, it means you are not serious enough. That’s why so many people in India dismiss Telangana movement and keep repeating that it has waned down, that it doesn’t have support of the masses, that it is movement of a tiny few, when in reality it has only intensified like no other movement, when in fact it is the largest and greatest people’s movement in the recent history of India.
Non-violent movement like no other
In fact, the strong reason why Telangana is not formed sooner is because people of Telangana have been non-violent. Their non-violence and peaceful demonstrations, innovative and original ways of expressions involving cultural celebrations, their restraint from becoming a Shiv Sena or MNS, are all seen as signs of weakness, a movement worthy of being suppressed more. When an Andhra movie, Adhurs was allowed to screen in Telangana, its producer questioned Telangana people’s ‘capability to achieve statehood for the region when they could not even obstruct his film’, thereby provoking Telangana people to become violent.
In the last sixty days, there have been only few times when the movement turned riotous upon provocation, but the media likes to showcase only those incidents again and again while all the peaceful agitations are completely ignored further endorsing the hypothesis that this is rowdy movement.
In the last two months, tens of lakhs of people have taken part in this agitation on a daily basis. At any point of time in a day, there are at least hundred events and agitations happening in the region. There are marathons, there are hunger strikes, there are dhoom-dhams, there are cultural celebrations, there are dharnas, and there are blood donation camps- all of them non-violent. It has touched every village, every mandal, every district.
Even Indian Independence Movement never had such wider and deeper participation in its entire 90 year struggle.
This is our Independence movement
Telanganas never had to fight the British, and hence our independence movement never took place. After Nizam, we were immediately colonized by Andhras. Our share of the movement got delayed and suppressed. The frustrations of suppressed 1969 agitations led to Naxal movements. For nearly three decades, we had to fight our own people to curb Naxalism, and in the whole process, our genuine people’s movement got sidelined and kept on hold. Now, we are back to bring our share of Independence movement to a grand finale. Telangana will get its independence like rest of India and join the ranks as a distinct entity and a respected state in India.
Now is our time to send across our message.
They cannot take whatever they want. This is our land!