Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Time for a Separate State of Telengana

Time to listen the painful cry of Telengana

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K.Rossaih has recently said in an interview that his government can not do much about bifurcation of state as it does not come under his purview and the center has to take action on it. It is interesting that Congress party is says it supports the demand for separate Telengana. State parties like Telugu Desham has already come out in support of it and BJP raised the issue in the parliament. TRS is already there in Telengana spreading the stir, therefore one does not understand as what stops the government to form a separate state of Telengana if its people, do not want to live under the regime dominated by Andhrite. It is shocking that state government does not want to speak on it. Most of the state which has been carved ouf of their previous states have actually been created when resolution have been passed by the respective assemblies. For Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattishgarh, state assemblies of Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh passed resolutions for these states.

Yes, left part as usually are opposed to the creation of Telengana state. For last six decades they claimed to be the champion of Telenagana’s Dalits and Adivasis, informed us in their wonderful narratives, how they snatched land from the ‘powerful’ ‘ landlords’ and handed over to the poor Dalits which is rarely visible. The movement build up them remain no where. One does not know whether it is another educated conspiracy to keep the local populace subjugated under their ‘revolutionary’ leadership.

Telengana’s current upsurge reminds me of Uttarakhand’s mass protest against Uttar-Pradesh government

While, I am not fascinated personally by these arguments of small or big, as every argument has a counter argument. I was born in the hill state of Uttarakhand which was earlier part of Uttar-Pradesh and totally different from it in terms of culture, languages and geography. Irony was that top political leaders of Uttar-Pradesh came from Uttarakhand such Gobind Ballabh Pant, H.N.Bahuguna and N.D.Tiwari (interestingly all Brahmins and Congress party chief ministers). And any demand of Uttarakhand was looked down upon by this class for their own interest. No political party except for Uttarakhand Kranti Dal have been fighting for separate statehood. Whenever the Uttarakhand activists would go there, ND Tiwari would mention ‘ Uttarakhand state would come over my dead body’.

Tragically, the Hindutva’s forces were first to realize it. They jumped on anti Uttar-Pradesh sentiments of the people and came out openly in support of the state. It was 1993. The tumultuous years of Post Babari demolition. Uttar-Pradesh became new hot ground for Dalit Bahujan’s new access to power politics. India’s political map was changing and Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar went totally in control of these political forces, though not socially, economically and educationally, yet losing political control was painful.

The Uttar-Pradesh government was not keen on implementing Mandal commission recommendation in the state. After lot of pressures from different political forces, Mulayam Singh Yadav government actually accepted the report and notified under a separate government order ( GO). This single decision made Mulayam Singh Yadav and Maywati the biggest villain in Uttarakhand state. As a person deeply involved in the Ambedkarite movement, I came out against the mainstream political thought of Uttarakhand that no state could be build on the hate against one particular community. People like me felt that new Uttarakhand state was a desperate effort by these castes who were losing their importance elsewhere. Ofcourse, historical exploitation of Uttarakhand, its resources was definitely true and none can deny that 15 odd MLAs would make no difference in the Uttar-Pradesh’s gigantic Assembly of 400 odd people. So, demand for a separate state there was genuine.

The movement, however, was growing. People were sitting on Dharanas and two local news papers, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagaran became household names, as each report would get published new day. So, most of the protest was symbolic yet it was there widespread. Their circulation jumped in millions. The students were sitting and the retired armed forces men who live in large number joined hand. The teachers decided to boycott classes. Almost all Uttarakhand was non-functional, yet political class in India was not ready to take the issue. Then came the announcement to organize a massive protest rally at the red fort in Delhi on October 2, 1994. All, this was happening at the non political platform. Political parties during the agitation period became defunct, in fact, they were not even allowed to venture in.

Thousands of people started coming in to Delhi from different parts of Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, our democratic leaders do not allow democratic protests. At Rampur ka Tiraha, a small village on the national high way, between Roorkee and Mujaffarnagar, the buses carrying activists was stopped by the Provincial Arms Constabulary ( PAC) of Uttar-Pradesh. In the dark night of October 1st-2, the PAC fired at the peaceful protesters, molested women and did not allow them to proceed. People ran to save their lives, in the sugar cane field. Many lost their ways. (One of my cousins remained untraced for many days and one friend died in police firing).

It was the biggest mishap in the history of Uttarakhand. Suddenly, the patience of the people burst and the entire peaceful state of Uttarakhand, which never ever saw any curfew, never even police check posts, came out in the street. The news of molestation of women had spread like wild fire. People came out in protest. Even those who were sitting on the margin joined the protest. Mulayam Singh Yadav became the most hated figure in the state. Policemen were targeted and life completely paralyzed. There was voluntary protest. Now, people were not just sitting in protest, they were out in streets. In the frenzy police had to open fire to save itself. Many young lives were lost in police firing.

This is a small state and we know each other mostly in our areas. Policing was never part of hills and for the first we saw policemen from the plains of Uttar-Pradesh, who had high disregard and contempt for hill people were brought to control the hill people. That is a irony of the ruling structure that it uses contradictions very well so to contain Telengana, it will bring police from Andhra, to control law and order in Nagaland, it will bring Assam Rifles. And that happened in Uttarakhand, giving wide disenchantment with Uttar-Pradesh administration.

While, the Uttarakhand movement was ignited on a wrong note of anti Mandal sentiments, as a human rights activist and also a native from that region, it pained me more, when I saw, people dying in police firing, women being molested by the policemen. It has been a peaceful region altogether where such cases were rare. The state did not celebrate any festival that year particularly when Dusshera and Diwali are celebrated with high zeal in Uttarakhand, that year, it was completely black out. The demand for Uttarakhand was from very beginning in 1950s. We have seen the utter contempt with which people would speak in Delhi. Like Bihar, Pahadi was a term often described for us. Most of the migrants were working in Dhabas in Delhi yet there was an elite class which always got better everywhere in the name of Uttarakhand.

The formation of Uttarakhand state was inevitable. Mulayam Singh Yadav created all kind of hurdles. Sikh peasantry from Punjab were asked to oppose the merger of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar is this area has large illegal land holdings. Uttarakhand’s hills have small land holdings except for the Tarai and Babar regions.

While Mulayam Singh Yadav and other UP friends were ready to concede the demand of Uttarakhand, they wanted to control the state. So the boundary dispute was biggest. And the main disputed land were Hardwar and Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar. The Samajwadi party and BSP was adamant that Hardwar should not be part of it while Hardwar and SUN were traditionally a hill towns though because of procurement of land through manipulations, the non hill people had dominated the entire regions. The powerful Sikh leadership from Punjab came out against it as every one of them had their interests in big benami land holdings here. Actually, creation of Uttarakhand was a problem for big zamindars as they feared that the state would acquire their land. Compared to Uttar-Pradesh particularly western UP and Punjab the so-called farmers of Uttarakhand would be termed as landless, small and marginal.

After much difficulties the state came into being on November 7, 2000. One dream was filled but the tragedy remain that those parties who were at the margin during the protests became the main decision making parties of the state. N.D.Tiwari was imposed on the state by Congress party against the popular will and BJP now continue to rule the state.
Local movements which developed during creation of state have disappeared. The netas have their vehicles but those who lost their lives are forgotten and can be remembered only when there are some political manipulations.

The BJP made Nityanand Swamy, chief minister of Uttarakhand, who was actually not from the hills resulting in party’s dismal performance in assembly elections. Congress when came to power, made Narain Dutt Tiwari as chief minister, who played his best politics in the state by disturbing red beacon vehicles to his favorites.

Separation is better than suffocation

When you do not want to live with any one then what is the solution. It is like a joint family where the younger one want to live separately. Rather then living in suffocation, better to part peacefully. After that what ever are the concern, let the families face them separately. Of-course, I am not fanciful to the idea of which state is better or worst, as I remain border less. It is also a reality that those who talk of decentralization actually remain highly centralized when they get a chance. Every state has a contradiction. Many time, demand for decentralization comes from one the forces who want to maintain their own hegemony and this continues. So, one hegemony is broken and another is created and this continues for years as our political system is meant to create hegemony and messiahs. The sovereign public become helpless and expect miracles from their leaders who become ring leaders and betray the cause.

My concern in Uttarakhand were based on the conditions of Dalits and marginalized. I can not confirm whether their condition is better off but then definitely they might be as worst as in Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar. Ofcourse, in power structure, hills were always in the hands of upper castes because of their number strength. But that is the reality of democratic process and you can deny them this right to come to power. But protection of the minorities and Dalits is a constitutional obligation and political interest can not play their game with it. The state has really moved ahead in many thing and is really better than its former state. The electricity situation is much better than even Delhi, the schools, the road networks are growing. Ofcourse, the big companies are also there selling their big dreams, selling Ganga water and so on.

Every Life is Precious

The good thing is that at the moment Telengana’s protests are spontaneous mass struggle. Though parties like TRS which often changes track are leading lights of the day, claim to have ignited this yet it is surely going out of their control. Now, the BJP, as usual, has also lent its support. I am witnessing the very same events what happened in Uttarakhand during 1994’s massive protests. It is tragedy that the spontaneous movement builds by people goes in the hands of the desperate politicians and result in nothing but their own power. Except for Assam where the All Assam Student Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad had launched a movement and became the first political movement that came to power yet in the absence of unity and understanding it fell through and virtually disappeared.

It is always painful when young lives are lost. The young must fight their battles. It is the duty of movement leaders in general and student leaders in particular to appeal to youngsters to join the movement, change the politics by joining it and not by ending their lives by committing suicide. It is the tragedy of the mass upsurge when hysteria is created through screaming TV channels, movement leaders that they forget that it is lethal for more sensitive people when they watch and hear these stories resulting in committing suicide. That is the pain of hysteria created by such jingoism. It happened on many occasions. We have seen how the stories of Ayodhya demolition were projected by the Hindutva outfits, how media plays. Now with live TV channels in each city and kasbas, we have the anchors becoming new messiahs of the people and every body happy with their names in the media and channels, hysteria is created and continued to played for their TRPs. Every tragedy is an opportunity of business for them. Living in Delhi during the tumultuous period of anti Mandal agitation in the 1990s and later on whole Ayodhya’s frenzy in UP, Bihar, Maharastra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, we have seen how the newly mushrooming channels hyped the deaths and created frenzy. Andhra itself had seen how media hyped the death of Y.S.Rajshekar Reddy, virtually making him the tallest leaders, ignoring his big faults and his attitude toward Telengana, his anti Telengana statement during Assembly polls.

One thing is clear that Telengana could never really merge with greater Andhra. The government should realize it and act on it. Secondly, the local people will always resent, if the powerful castes and communities from other regions use it their colony. We have seen it in Uttarakhand and others also saw it. It is always better to part ways peacefully and then become friends on equality. The possessiveness of Andhra’s powerful communities over Telengana is uncalled for and similar to what the powerful Sikhs from Punjab had over division of district of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand. Actually, powerful lobbies, political interests all merge together to foil the dreams. Political class is out to create these differences with people so that they can reap rich harvest on hatred. At the end of the day, you have to work together. We all remain interdependent on each other and hatred, jingoism and ultra nationalism leaves us nowhere. It is time that Congress party at the center think of creating a separate Telangana state so that this hysteria is curtailed and people are back to work and innocent lives are not lost in the politics of rhetoric making political space for redundant political leaders and aspiring power brokers.

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