N Nagaraja Rao
SEPTEMBER 30, 2012 was no ordinary day for the citizens of Hyderabad. The State capital reverberated to the ‘Teen Maar’ beat on the eve of Ganesh Procession just a day ago, heaved a sigh of relief after successful annual festival—the centralised Ganesh idol immersion procession with gaiety and religious fervour ending peacefully. Soon the next day they had to witness violence, tear gas shelling and rubber bullets on the eve of Telangana march demanding bifurcation of the state. The state government too was too anxious as it wanted a congenial atmosphere on the eve of hosting the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) from October 1. Environment and Forests Ministers of about 194 countries were to attend the Conference, International organisations like World Bank and ADB are also participating and nearly 8,000 to 10,000 delegates are attending it to discuss issues relating to bio diversity and bio-safety.
But for the organisers of the second million march led by Telangana Joint Action Committe (TJAC), this was the first major show of strength by supporters of the Telangana movement after the general strike to protest that went on for 42 days last year bringing the socio-economic life in most parts of the state to a standstill and proved that people of Telangana will not rest until their demands are conceded. The vexatious Telangana statehood issue has been hanging like a Damocles’ sword over the Congress head ever since the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announced in Parliament on December 9, 2009 that the Government was ready to start the process of formation of the state. However, he changed his position soon following protests from MLAs from other regions in Andhra Pradesh and said that no action would be taken without evolving a political consensus. This many believe was orchestrated by the Congress leaders hailing from the Andhra region with the active connivance of the Congress high command. The major players like Telugu Desam and Congress have been playing truant, which at best be termed as “political hypocrisy”.
To buy time, the Centre appointed Sri Krishna Commission, which submitted its report in January 2011 and came out with half a dozen options for resolution of the problem. Instead of taking a decision on any of these options or seriously trying to evolve a consensus among political stakeholders, the Congress and the UPA government, however, have been playing petty politics over the issue. The Congress must realise that time is running out and the UPA government headed by it must bite the bullet. Further procrastination will only cost the people of the state and the nation dear. BJP has already said that it’s the ‘policy paralysis’ of the UPA Government for its indecision on the separate state issue and accused it of ‘outsourcing’ its job on the decision to a Committee headed by former judge.
A massive Telangana March call was given by the TJAC Chairman M Kodandaram to protest against the inaction of the central government and also delay in carving out a separate state of Telangana. Overriding all barricades erected by the police, water cannon and tear gas, despite all repressive measures employed by the regime and even a torrential downpour, thousands of people from across Telangana swarmed the venue abutting the Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of the capital, and roared that could literally be heard in the Raj Bhavan, the CM’s Office and the Secretariat.
Permission was granted for the meet to be held between 3 PM and 7 PM only but the organisers made mockery and stay put till 11 PM. The state administration barricaded all highways and trains and buses to the capital were cancelled. Police battled with the marchers at several places to prevent them from going to the Venue. On the Osmania University campus, the hotbed of Telangana agitations, police used teargas till late in the evening to stop students from marching to the Venue. There were skirmishes at every point of entry into the city and private buses and vehicles that were contracted were detained by the police. This resulted in people calling on their representatives in the state Assembly and Parliament to come to their rescue. Police tactics to deter marchers, after having given permission for the March, forced Telangana Congress MPs and ministers to respond. Nine Members of Parliament from Telangana region, all belonging to the ruling Congress, staged a sit-in in front of the Chief Minister’s residence. They did not get an audience from Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and instead were arrested and packed off in a police vehicle to the Shamshabad police station, 25 km from the city.
BJP leader Dattatreya demanded the state government to stop harassing the marchers, who reached the venue and demanded release of the illegal detainees across the Telangana region. BJP has already declared and stated its position and shall support the separate statehood Bill if introduced in both the houses of Parliament. Accusing the Government of indecision, he promised to accord ‘first priority’ to creation of Telangana state if voted to power at the Centre.
However Congress cannot afford to procrastinate further and needless to say it will cost the people of the state and the nation dearly.