I believe that a people’s movement should have three set of activities- those that appeal to Insiders, those that appeal to Outsiders, and those that compel the authorities.
Appeal to Insiders:
Every people’s movement has a set of ideologues, a set of leaders, a set of organizers, a set of agitators (foot soldiers) and a huge set of sympathizers. To create a large support base of new leaders, organizers and supporters, the movement should involve educating the people, winning over them, telling them why they need to come out and fight. Most Indians naively think that if a movement is really genuine then there should be no need for such education.
Even the great Indian Independence Movement did not come about in a day. It had to win many sections of its people to come and fight. To start with, most Indians did not know what freedom meant. To change their attitude from being a ‘subject of a king’ to a ‘citizen with rights’ took lot of education and time. That movement involved books, pamphlets, speeches, and many participatory activities that rallied people into its fold. Gandhi’s Dandi March, Khilafat Movement et al were all those activities that were launched to win the local support for the people’s cause. It involved embracing all sections of society, lower castes, Muslims, Sikhs, women, North Indians, South Indians, etc. Even the French Revolution and Russian Revolution had to appeal to the local people for their support. Martin Luther King Jr. and his predecessors had to go educate their people on why they should not live like slaves or second-class citizens anymore.
Right now, Telangana Movement is doing a great job on appealing towards insiders. Most of their current activities are geared towards this. It has been educating its masses for a very long time now, with books, pamphlets, CDs, MP3s, etc. It is educating them on the various issues like the discrimination and marginalization in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It has been conducting various programs like Dhoom-Dham, Vanta-Varpu, songs and dances, and many other innovative activities to win the support of the local people. The speeches by leaders, students, organizers have rallied people into the cause.
Through these activities Telanganas going through mode of cultural revivalism, a renaissance, where the culture of Telangana is celebrated, no longer curbed or suppressed. They are no longer ashamed or embarrassed of being Telangana.
Their peaceful agitations appeal to Telangana people to come out and support in large numbers. Telangana Movement stands as a people’s movements because we have succeeded in rallying our own people to the cause. The movement has recently embraced Muslims into the fold as well. However, there are still some pending items- like embracing some of the leaders of lower castes which it alienated recently.
Appeal to Outsiders:
A people’s movement should also appeal to the outsiders to win their support and sympathy. Even the greatest of the people’s movement do not easily win support from all observers. Even at the heyday of Gandhi’s nonviolent movement, observers across the world dismissed him as a crafty Hindu politician who was bent on usurping power. In retrospect, it is easy for us to remember only the plaudits while conveniently forgetting the derisions. It took lot of time before Gandhi’s methods were universally acclaimed.
Some of Gandhi’s actions were so innovative and so bold that the world had to stop to wonder what this tiny man was doing. How could he take on the mighty British Empire by avoiding paltry tax on salt? How could he overcome their powerful armies with his nonviolent foot soldiers? Each of his actions caused awe and wonder amongst the outsiders and their media started to write about his exploits. That was how he sold himself off to the West. He appealed to their nicer side. The Christian women and gentile could not help but sympathize with his Christ-like methods.
Unfortunately for Telangana, all their peaceful agitations earn respect from Telangana people only. The outsiders are completely dismissive or ignorant about them. We are not doing a great job in selling our story to the outside world. The world continues to see this as KCR/TRS manufactured issue. The world continues to think of it as an idea of few petty politicians, out to grab Hyderabad, and nothing else.
We are using our activities to make a point. For example, between February 1 and 7 there were seven big events planned, none of which got reported in national media, forget international media. Instead of having so many events, we could have focused all our energies to organize one single but a mega event so that the world reckons our movement. A Telangana leader said in one of his speeches: Manaku Tondara Ekkuva (We do things in haste).
Going forward, an organizing body should be formed under JAC which plans and schedules all events in Telangana, which come once in a month or so, but which come with great preparation, not only in mobilizing people but also in educating the world about the event. Envoys and emissaries have to be sent to all concerned sections outside Telangana to educate them of our movement. The media needs to be educated so that they sympathize with our cause. Without this, the world will continue to dismiss our movement.
Compelling the Authority:
No peaceful or nonviolent people’s movement will bring in desired change unless it is equipped with teeth that can bite. No matter how much your appeal to insiders or outsiders, unless you can actually force the authority to decide on your cause you are not making any progress. Activities have to be planned in such a way that the authority actually feels the pain – however insignificant or small it is. Gandhi’s boycott of British clothes actually made a dent in the mills of England. Even the most peaceful and nonviolent movements have to carry an element of civil disobedience to compel the authority into bringing the desired change.
Right now, our detractors pooh-pooh our peaceful movement, rightly so. It does not have an element of ‘compelling the authority’ in it. None of Telangana agitation activities were geared towards that direction. Rioting on the streets is only going to bring in more derision and appropriation against our movement. Instead, an activity has to be carefully planned in such a way that it looks respectable and yet pinches.
We have one of the greatest people’s movements headed by the most spineless leaders. That’s unfortunate. Our leaders are still thinking petty, trying to be on the wall, taking a neutral stand. They are thinking of their positions in front of their Babu or in front of their Madam. They are not thinking like real people’s leaders. They are not even ready to resign which is one of the best ways to compel the authority in the current context.
There is a need to create an organ under JAC which plans the civil disobedience activities in a phased manner, carefully orchestrated so that it does not go violent, which actually forces the authorities to take heed, pay attention and thereby accede to our demands.