Guest post by SRIDHAR MODUGU
It is no exaggeration to say today that Telangana is burning. Nor will we be far off the mark if we suspect that a paralyzing fear has encased its ‘intellectuals”. Everyone is lost in providing testimonies to prove themselves to be pro-Telangana and everybody is a self-accomplished activist. In fact, the intellectuals have lost themselves as spectators. They have become immune to understand what is happening before them.
The demand for statehood for Telangana is undoubtedly a democratic and judicious demand. It has been held back since 1950s and suppressed time and again. No doubt Mr. Kalvakuntla Chandra Sekhar Rao (KCR), the President of Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS) did maintain the public talk with occasional tactical moves and has been considered an icon of “Telangana vaadam” as last ten years of Telangana politics are referred to. Since 2009 November the movement could attract large mass of diversified sections of people from all walks of life and engage the attention of the people with hopes of achieving the state any day thanks to the enthusiastic role play of the media and political parties – in power or opposition. It is indeed noteworthy that since November 2009 the movement has been able to attract a large number of diverse sections of people from all walks of life in thousands. They have mobilized voluntarily and have conducted meetings in the most democratic way. That there has been considerable restraint among the people who have been dishonored, alienated and humiliated under the Andhra Pradesh rulers is without dispute. These people have mobilized democratically despite the war-like surveillance and suppression of both the para-military and the state police force. Historical injustice – political, economic and cultural of the people of this region is well highlighted.
There are many more people who addressed aspects of the ongoing Telangana movement – both positive and sensational issues lined with it. However, in all this there are certain undemocratic tendencies in the movement that are being valorized by both the media and political society. These should in fact be condemned in no uncertain terms. Let us for instance, examine the alarming damage that is been done in the name of suicides and illegal arrests in the recent past. It might well be that certain leaders have lost their control and have are upset with several atrocities that are taking place. But unfortunately, the media and political society is valorizing these acts of omission and commission as heroic and expressions of commitment. Certain leaders of Telangana region seem to have found value in the suicides in highlighting Telangana vaadam and portraying suicides as sacrifice of the someone who dreamt of Telangana and was incapable of reconciling with the reality but it does not square with what the leaders and intellectuals in the region say and do. This will have long lasting damage to the ongoing democratic process and will end up further widening the gap not only between two regions, but also its people. To build healthy democratic culture for the future struggles for justice there is urgent need for a similar restraint among the politicians and their supporting intellectual groups that the people of Telangana have been so far demonstrating.
Since the announcement of indefinite fast unto death by KCR, the President of TRS [(telangaaNa voccudo, KCR saccudo) supposed to be the final agitation and mother of all wars], suicides for Telangana demand have become a regular feature. There are certain worrisome things that are happening in the region of Telangana. There is news that says there are more than 650 suicides (by self immolation, hanging, consuming poison etc) and both print and electronic media has exhibited great interest to make best publicity for these suicides through a variety of experiments to catch attention of the audience. Perhaps the “Pipli Live” cinema on farmers’ suicides would be pale. Dailies and the electronic channels competed with other papers and TV channels in making exclusive stories and investigative reports of the cause of suicide or the suicide note etc.
What happened in the aftermath of each and every suicide is that – there are protests, processions till Telangana Amaraveerula Stupam (Telangana Martyrs Statue, a memorial built to recall the people killed during the 1969 Telangana Movement by the then Government) by the various Joint Action Committees (JACs), civil society groups that have come together to GunPark, Hyderabad. The political parties are seen finding new reasons to blame the Central Government and Congress party for their indifference. Meanwhile, social activists, whole host of JACs, Telangana writers and singers have praised those who have committed suicide as Martyrs and have written articles and sung songs praising them. What bothers one after observing a spate of such incidents is that perhaps it is even worse than if two countries had been at war with each other.
The incident that prompted most of the suicide attempts was when Mr. T. Harish Rao, a TRS MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), Andhra Pradesh, threatened to immolate himself on a public stage by pouring petrol over himself for the cause of statehood of Telangana and in order to stop the State government from arresting and disrupting KCR’s indefinite hunger strike.
The next event was the suicide of Mr. Srikanthachary, who immolated himself and after four days of hospitalization, Srikanth died on 3rd December 2010. These events ignited a whole host of suicides. These were covered in all the media, both print and electronic, and also through MMS (Multimedia Message Service) in cell phones. We were shown the live documentation of self immolation of Mr. Srikanthachary. Mr. Bhuke Pravin, also committed suicide on the same day. The electronic media gave wide coverage to it by broadcasting over and over again for next few days or weeks and the print media with a life size immolation picture on its cover page. What the media did during this case was utter romanticisation (may be they have achieved the ‘sensation’ or required swell in TRP rates) and in turn led to multiple suicides.
The media and political parties claim that there are more than 650 suicides that have taken place so far, and that they are still going on. However, the JAC leaders and teachers in Warangal District (both District JAC and Kakatiya University JAC) opine that this number is an underestimation because, only the politically aware villages and families declared the suicides, but it is not the complete number. (In fact, Warangal District, until recently known for revolutionary politics and for its political awareness, has sadly recorded the highest number of suicides and also illegal arrests in the present fight of Telangana). Most of the suicides took place in villages and nearby small towns; 90 percent belong to oppressed castes like SCs, STs, and OBCs. Except 8 or 9 people, all the suicide victims are non-educated. Age group of suicide victims is ranging from 12 years to mid-40s. Most of the victims are from single child families; and there may be personalized/individual reasons also for the suicides; since everyone is leaving a letter of suicide emphasizing that these suicides to be treated appeals or sacrifices for Telangana. One of the human rights activists observed that it may not be possible to ascertain the correct number of suicides or the reasons for these painful acts. With the December 23 announcement, the cases of suicide increased in steep rise, because political parties and leaders could not give confidence to achieve Telangana Statehood. That led to several protests and JACs that tried to provide militant type of movements to the agitation for maintaining December 9th announcement.
Further the TRS party cadre, consoling the victims’ families by covering the TRS flag over the dead; and announcing that the suicide is took place for Telangana’s Statehood.
Though it is well publicized that all the movement arrested people were released, it is a myth; no one knows how many people are arrested and when were they arrested and on what charges they are arrested. Some activists affiliated to certain political party were released. There are large number of youth and activists who are arrested by police without any information about their crime. As and when some agitation and event is declared to take place, police sent summons through the court to the people who are not aware of the cases that they have been arrested; and there are several families who did not get permission to meet their arrested family member, this shows highest form of police high-handedness.
When suicides of farmers and weavers’ took place, somewhat on the same lines, the rights organizations and similar groups raised pertinent question demanding the State to take responsibility for the suicides as they are failures of institutional supporting systems of the State. In these cases the media played a positive role by sensitizing the State, but somehow the same is lost while reporting suicides in the context of Telangana. In due course we have had certain alleviative measures and packages from the Government, that itself may not change the scene as we are evidencing suicides of farmers and weavers day to day till now.
Who is accountable for the spate of suicides that are taking place and for the illegal arrests that took place in the name of Telangana agitation? … Can we enquire about what these suicides are and who are accountable for these. Distressingly, what is in circulation are stories that lets the State escape, by saying that the Telangana agitators, activists, or sympathizers have been committing suicide for the sake of Telangana (as if it itself is an answer); our media knows everything; no one wants to go against the movement; formation of Telangana State is the only way to curb the suicides; these suicides are encounter killings by the state etc, In fact our mode is of self flagellation. Instead we should question of the responsibility of the State and Justice of the land for being pushing state of affairs to this end because it is not that only people of Telangana who are dying. Unfortunately, suicides in stereotypical way are treated by self-styled leftists that they are timid activity.
In the name of balance of opinions (where injustice should become a parameter for measuring what is balanced and what is not, unfortunately, number of news became criteria for the media) certain people, who never get a chance even in any corner of the newspaper or electronic media so far, have become main page central news with their insensitive statements that do not have minimum democratic spirit. These, in fact should expose the true face of these politicians and the “intellectuals”, who with their repeated propaganda, newspapers and electronic media tried to project these opinions are the only voices available and created confusion and havoc across by demonizing the other parts of the State. More sickening fact is that, its not only political parties (Congress, Telugu Desam Party, CPM) but also main Telugu newspapers (Eenadu, Andhrajyothy, Sakshi) are divided by region (Andhra and Telangana) and had ‘separate’ newspapers for both the regions (because news are completely different) and spread divisive information among the people. Now, all these media are pleading the individuals who vanished by leaving a note that they are going to commit suicide, to not to commit suicide and terming it as timid activity. With months of divisive propaganda, these are now acting as Sadhujeevulu, pavithrulu. The popular and democratic organizations professed through their pamphlets, songs, poems, speeches and cultural programs that all these suicides are martyrs for the cause of Telangana and we will stand by their aspiration and promised the same on the corpse of the suicide victims. Being silent about the happenings is also a crime, but all these organizations rather romanticized suicides (may be this will serve as a morale booster for their fellow activists in radical movements, where a person/ volunteer/ comrade or group of persons were killed, but one cannot apply the same logic for everything, we should be careful about our acts, if one do it so it’s either quite unmindful act or a selfish one)
One more anguish and cause of concern reported in news, that Hyderabad should be made Union Territory (may be Andhra Empire, in fact in Telugu Union Territory is Kendrapalita Prantam, now they want to turn it into Andhrapalita Prantham). Of course, Hyderabad has grown out of globalization capital and at the cost of blood and muscles and corpses of Telangana people by turning scores of neighboring farmers into paupers and beggars (whither Hyderabad). Those who make claims on Hyderabad appear like thousands and lakhs of YSR’s, who ran with TRS party with a promise that they will fight together for Telangana Statehood, but cheated cold-bloodedly, and during the 2009 elections once Telangana phase of elections were over, has shown his real face by shamelessly propagating if Telangana is formed all the costal Andhra people should require visas to visit Hyderabad. These undemocratic, feudal, separatist views became naturalized in the present campaigns against Telangana. These are not just apprehensions, but with their hate campaign, killed 650+ people of Telangana so far (and still going on)
There is an important intervention by the most renowned research institute (national research institute) in Hyderabad called Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) Andhra Pradesh’s only research centered institute for the last 3 decades (started in 1980) and produced several authentic reports on Andhra Pradesh’s economy and society. It came up with Andhra Pradesh Human Development Report, 2007 (published May, 2008), and reviewed state of economy and aspects of human and social development since the formation of Andhra Pradesh State to till date; but what amazes one is: why it did not respond or react to SriKrishna Committee report on the state of affairs in Andhra Pradesh, titled ‘Committee for consultations On The situation in Andhra Pradesh Report’ and published December, 2010 where it is an upside down exercise to what CESS has done over the years and to its Human Development Report. One should wonder and put the question, whose work is authentic?
Studies that have investigated the reasons for suicides, though listed many a reason for committing suicides, emphasised that the human reason – damage of self or humiliation as the main reason for the act. The suicides in the Telangana region seems to be from relatively younger, poor, and uneducated sections, who felt dishonor, alienation and humiliation, and end up in loss of hope and future (Telangana statehood may not be achieved) is actually instigated with political mediocrity, failure of intellectuals and sensational media reportage. Most of the suicides and its trends show that to further their cause for Telangana Statehood both locally and nationally, it was considered as the only weapon in the present asymmetrical struggle to achieve Telangana Statehood. Moreover, the mass suicides as phenomena started with the post liberalization and globalization of the economy and after people failed diagnosing the real enemy and forced them to choose suicide as a form of protest. Whether it is during the fight for reservations in education and employment by the Dalits of India, whatever is the issue; it only started after 1990s and after the State started disowning its welfare role. Telangana suicides also follow up of the spate of suicides that occurred during last decade and half period.
One thing should be told most authentically is, till to day since the inception of present struggle there is no single incident of hurting or damaging of Costalandhra region people or their property. Of course only one incident that led to lots of hue and cry is that when the Million March agitators damaged statues built by N.T. Rama Rao (former chief minister of AP), but the same hardly bothered about the provocation and drama by the Government by arresting the leaders of Telangana movement. The same self-claimed leftist (who is naming suicide as timid activity), Mr. Telakapalli Ravi, propagated irresponsibly that the Telangana people destroyed statues by address of the Teluluvelugulu, they even don’t care to cut the heads of the people.
More alarming now is that again KCR made a pronouncement saying that he is feeling like consuming poison by the way things are happening; Will cut his throat for Telangana; and there are spree of provocations like, die like Bhagat Singh; the Andhra region leaders are claiming, we will become suicide bombers if Telangana state is formed; there will be thousands of suicides if Telangana State is formed etc etc. We cannot give any guarantee that it is that simple to stop the spate of suicides in the context of spree of statements by ‘people’s representatives’ from both the regions who are spilling more and more vengeance.
If this modus vivendi continues, now, we are afraid, even if we think that it is only Telangana people whose lives have no value are dying, its going to turn into a civil war in no-time with the provocative politicians from both the regions, the sensational media and the political society who are playing a silent supporter role to these tendencies. Then who will be made responsible?
Central and State governments are acting as if they are watching a puppet show; who put the issue and thrown views by stating Telangana State process is started, it is going to be formed in a week, month or months; “we are trying to achieve consensus among political parties” etc etc. We should condemn and fight against these kinds of undemocratic tendencies from the Central and State governments who with their acts are provoking people and causing for the present state of affairs and should made these as responsible for this spate of suicides and illegal arrests.