In a landmark judgment that reveals the dangerous trends that Indian democracy is currently taking, a High Court Judge has asked the Home Ministry to disclose the contents of the ‘secret’ chapter of the Report from Srikrishna Committee which was commissioned to prescribe solutions to the Telangana Movement in Andhra Pradesh. This judgment by L Narasimha Reddy is peppered with the contents from the infamous Chapter 8 -which formed the underlying basis for recommending Option 6 of ‘keeping the state united’ against the wishes of Telangana people.
The esteemed Judge after reading the contents of Chapter 8 writes “that the Committee travelled beyond the terms of reference in its endeavour to persuade the Union of India, not to accede to the demand for Telangana...”
The Judge observed: “if one has any doubt about the hidden opposition of the Committee for formation of Telangana, that stands removed with this note”.
The secret note blatantly recommends ‘managing’ the media by influencing it through government sponsored advertisements, ‘softening’ the political parties by giving its members positions in the government, disciplining the ruling party members to toe the line against the wishes of the people, and making pre-emptive arrests of innocent people in the region to curb the movement. Any sane reader would conclude that this note attempts to subvert democracy and all its cherished institutions in this country.
Under the title, ‘media management’, the secret note starts off observing that the electronic channels and newspapers could be used for “molding the public opinion”. It writes: “The equity holders of the channels and the entire Print Media are with the Seemandhra people. The main editors/resident and sub-editors, the Film world etc. are dominated by Seemandhra people. A coordinated action on their part has the potential of shaping the perception of the common man.” It recommends ‘managing’ the editorial opinions, the headlines, and the content.
Such a recommendation by a committee nominated by a democratic government is unheard of in the histories of modern nations. Srikrishna Committee members become the modern-day Goebbels prescribing the methods and formulae to control the media to influence public opinion. Instead of meting out justice to people of Telanganas who complain they are dominated by Seemandhra elite, the committee makes a recommendation to use the dominant position of the Seemandhras to continue the suppression of Telanganas.
The Judge in his verdict appropriately says that it is “a matter of deep concern as to how a sacrosanct fundamental right was reduced into a business activity and converted as tool to distort public opinion...”
The secret note becomes even more bewildering when it recommends steps on ‘political management’. The Committee recommends “placement of representatives of Telangana in key positions” such as CM or Dy.CM. Alas! The Committee becomes a strategy arm for the ruling party giving guidance on political decisions related to party affairs.
Justice L Narasimha Reddy stresses on the apolitical nature required of such committees. The Government of India “has constituted a committee comprising of two jurists, two social scientists, and an ex-bureaucrat, to study the situation and submit report covering legal and social dimensions of the issue. None of them were supposed to have any political leanings, or for that matter, political tendencies.”
The Judge rejects the opinion of the Home Ministry that this note pertains to either ‘Security of State’ or ‘Sensitivity’. He believes that this note is kept ‘secret’ only because “such ideas do not occur to jurists and social scientists and they are not said in public”.
The Committee in its secret report writes: “Action also needs to be initiated for softening the TRS to the extent possible…” Such a move by a democratic nation to ‘soften’ the elected leaders to abandon the mandate and wishes of the people is unthinkable and downright despicable.
The secret note believes that the agitation can be tackled “if Congress Leaders do not give an impression indicating any covert / overt support to it.” It recommends that “the Congress MPs / MLAs need to be taken into confidence and asked not to lend any form of support to the agitation. The Congress High Command must sensitize its own MPs and MLAs and educate them about the wisdom for arriving at an acceptable and workable solution.”
The AP High Court Judge in his observation writes: “The above analysis would find even political scientists and sociologists in wilderness, and persuade them to add new chapters to political sciences and public administration… It does not even reflect political expediency. At the most it manifests political despondency.”
In another section, the Committee writes: “Since the BJP has a strong presence, it may try to consolidate in Telangana area and further extend its base. AIMIM may try to expand in Rayalaseema regions resulting in birth of militant communalism in certain pockets”. One can ask, since when did the committees formed by the Government of India become political tools of the ruling parties?
The Committee uses the bogey of Maoist violence in the publicized report to deny Telangana people a separate statehood, and at the same time it predicts Maoist violence if a separate Telangana is not formed. It writes in the secret note: “In the event of the demand of a separate Telangana state not being realized, some of the militant elements which have been in the forefront of the agitations may go underground to revive the Maoist movement in certain pockets of Telangana which, however, could possibly be tackled within a small timeframe with firm political will and strong administrative action”. The Committee feels that a surge in Maoist violence can be controlled in the case of Telangana not being formed, but for some inexplicable reason the same surge is used as a reason against formation of Telangana. Such duplicitous stand on a contentious issue clearly spells out the actual intention of the Committee – to deny Telangana people their statehood no matter what, even if it means one has to resort to sophistry and clever talk.
While admitting that “most of the major educational infrastructure in the Telangana region has historically been owned by the Seemandhra people”, the report does not suggest measures to combat or counter such monopoly. Instead it tries to protect that monopoly of Seemandhras by negating the formation of Telangana.
In their eagerness to prove that Telangana was not backward the Committee wrote in the publicized report, that in 2007, “Telangana is ahead of the other two regions in terms of the youth literacy rates, showing the highest percentage increase over the period.” And that the educated workforce in Telangana is “slightly more than in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema”. But the secret note exposes their duplicitous stand when they cite lack of “availability of local persons who can be productively engaged by the industry/business-houses.” The committee comes out in the open saying that “the dominant industries [in Telangana] are thermal power stations, pharmaceuticals etc., which are mostly managed by Seemandhra people”. The Committee believes that Seemandhras completely dominate and monopolize the educational and industry infrastructure in Telangana. Isn’t this one of one of the strongest grievances of Telangana people in their fight for statehood?
The committee knew how dangerous, vicious and malignant their report is. Therefore they take care to once again ‘manage’ the outfall by prescribing repressive steps. In the section titled ‘full preparedness’, the committee recommends pre-emptive arrests of innocent people based on suspicion and assumptions. It writes “the trouble creators in the three regions must be identified in advance and suitable action plan prepared.” It also prescribes Machiavellian tactics of delay, confusion and obfuscation. It suggests that “on receipt of the Committee’s Report by the Government, a general message should be conveyed amongst the people of the State that Centre will be open for detailed discussions on the recommendations / options of the Report with the concerned leaders / stakeholders.”
The Committee also prescribes methods to curb and suppress the people’s movement in Telangana. It writes in the secret note: “there is a high possibility of agitational backlash… an appropriate plan of deployment grid of police force (both Central and State) with full technical support needs to be immediately drawn up.” The note recommends to ‘preempt’ the agitations by ‘monitoring’ activities using ‘real time intelligence’. The author of the secret note writes that they discussed with DGP the “kind of equipment and weaponry to be used” against the Telangana protestors such as “not to cause fatal injuries, while at the same time effective enough to bring the agitationists quickly under control.”
To this the Judge L Narasimha Reddy writes: “If the committee has suggested use of arsenal of lesser degree, it is not because there is any pity or sympathy towards the agitators. Obviously, it is to avoid the wrath of the human rights agencies.”
The secret note of Chapter 8 reveals that the Committee was already in touch with the Home Ministry as early as September 2010 to make its recommendations on how to control and suppress Telangana Movement. The actions of the central and state governments of the recent past clearly indicate that the steps recommended in the secret note are already being implemented. Immediately after the report was released to the public the Home Ministry called upon the legislators of the state repeatedly to casually discuss and delay the process. Already, the political party bosses have come out strongly against the agitating Telangana legislators. During one of the recent peaceful marches organized by Telangana people, the police swooped down to pre-emptively arrest 100,000 innocent people in the region. And it is now a common knowledge that security officials are tapping phone and communication lines of many Telangana activists.
The Judge notes: “The police, which is not inclined or able to nab persons who committed day-light murder in the middle of the city has proved its efficiency in booking cases against hundreds of students even with smallest provocation.” Based on recommendations from the report, Telangana is now being ruthlessly suppressed by the rich and elite of Seemandhra in cahoots with the Home Ministry of India.
Nowhere in the report or the secret note do we see a reference to people’s movements, their grievances or their desires. Srikrishna Committee does not think that the aspiration of the people is a legitimate reason for carving out States in this country. Instead the report promotes aristocracy. The carving of States is decided by the economic benefits of the privileged and the majority even if it means the unprivileged and the minority continues to suffer thereby legitimizing the tyranny of the majority. It becomes evident that the actual purpose of the secret note is to suppress the aspirations of 35 million Telangana people so as to protect the financial interests of Seemandhra’s rich and elite.
Will India be guided by the principles of protecting the immigrant elite and their privileges against the cost of deprivation and suppression of masses that are native to that region? If it does not make economic sense to the ruling elite then will those movements be suppressed? Will we commission committees to formulate methods on how to suppress and control such people’s movements?
Srikrishna Committee Report prescribes undemocratic and autocratic methods to curb a genuine people’s movements through manipulation of media, by coercing and coaxing elected representatives to abandon people’s wishes, encourages the police to tap the communication lines of citizens of India, and recommends making pre-emptive arrests to curb a democratic aspiration. It is time for India to restore its democratic credentials by rejecting this report, not in parts, but completely, categorically and overwhelmingly so that such unconstitutional guidelines do not become a yardstick in addressing people’s aspirations in India ever again.
Link to the full text version of the verdict:
Link to the full text version of the verdict: