A former scribe’s unseen agony
A committed journalist who was once victimised by the State terror tools for his pro-proletariat outlook, is now wandering on the streets as a mentally deranged person, with none to care for and no possible help in sight.
Medak: A committed journalist who was once victimised by the State terror tools for his pro-proletariat outlook, is now wandering on the streets as a mentally deranged person, with none to care for and no possible help in sight.
Bonala Ramesh (48), who once was a rebellious reporter, is now facing a midlife crisis, fighting his own mind which is caught in the time warp of the 80s and 90s when the Naxal movement was active and the State repression was at its peak in rural Telangana.
Today, Ramesh, a resident of Medak town, roams around the streets every morning, not to buy food, cheap liquor or a pack of beedies, but to get his everyday dose of news from the paper store. Though mentally ill, he still enjoys reading newspaper that he used for over a decade to fight injustice.
Ramesh was influenced by Communist ideology. He claims that his political views had resulted in his lecturers deliberately failing him during his degree course in Political Science which he was forced to discontinue.
He joined Udayam, a Telugu newspaper, as Medak correspondent in 1984 when he was just in his early 20s. During his 12 years of journalistic experience, he also worked for Vaartha and Manjeera Teeram newspapers. Before joining journalism, he received an offer to work in Visakha Steel Plant as a technician, but he chose to stay in Medak and serve the people of his region.
Due to his ideology, he was perceived to be a supporter of the banned People’s War Group. He was not the only one to have been targeted for his pro-people stance. Senior Journalists Devayya of Andhra Bhoomi, Baleshwar Rao of Vaartha and Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy (now MLA of Dubbaka), were all targeted by the then DGP for writing in support of the movements led by Naxals. In fact, Devayya was arrested, Baleshwar was sent to Nizamabad Jail and Ramalinga Reddy was lodged in Sangareddy Jail under the TADA Act.
Along with the journalists of Medak, Ramesh had participated in dharnas and helped in all his capacity to get his comrades out of legal troubles.
It was during 1996/97, when the bad luck struck him down. He became mentally-ill.
For two decades, he and his entire family suffered. He now lives with his mother, his younger brother and his younger sister who is a single woman. If not for his elder sister being a government teacher, his family would have been on the roads by now. Bonala Raju, his younger brother, a graduate in library sciences, who once ran a school in Medak, has been unemployed since his school was shut down a few years ago.
Ramesh was sent to Erragadda mental hospital for treatment, but situation had only worsened. He was brought back home by Raju and he has been living with his siblings ever since. Ramesh is a bachelor.
After the formation of Telangana, the State government has been kind enough to grant him Rs 50,000 from the CM’s Relief Fund for his medical treatment. Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao also gave Ramesh Rs 25,000 a couple of years ago.
Thanks to the financial assistance, Ramesh is currently getting treated at a Hyderabad hospital. His mental condition has improved and he is able to talk like he is normal when he is under medication. His family is also taking good care of him. However, this is just a temporary relief which can’t sustain him.
It is interesting to know that Ramesh was a contemporary of big names like former MP Rapolu Anand Bhaskar, former MLC R Satyanarayana and MLA S Ramalinga Reddy, who were senior journalists and now occupying good political positions.
They all joined journalism at the same time and worked together. Ramesh admits that he got no support from any of these old pals, though he respects them and their integrity towards the profession.
This is not an isolated problem affecting a single journalist like Ramesh. There are thousands of local reporters known as ‘stringers,’ who still do not get paid, as there is no minimum-wage policy for journalists working in rural areas.
A conversation with Ramesh would certainly amaze even the most rigorous of the intellectual kind, when he talks about the social and political situation in the 80s and 90s.
“Capitalists are good because we collect money from them. Feudal landlords are good because we eat in their houses. Naxals are also good because they serve the poor, as well as the wealthy.
But policemen are bad because they keep violating the rights of common people every single day,” he opines. He is unable to write after falling ill, but it is up to the society to support him, so that his thoughts and his pen can flow seamlessly once again.
By Vivek Bhoomi