The struggle and its context
The Struggle And Its Context.
The people of Telangana are practising non-violence and satyagraha as viable means of struggle, resistance and freedom. It has no parallel in post-independent Indian history. In the 1969 Telangana agitation, many people, especially the youth and the students numbering around 369 lost their lives in police firings
The Telangana movement offers a classic example of the oppressor-oppressed equation as well as a practical demonstration of post-colonial dynamics from a historical standpoint. The exercise of power demarcates the dominant ones from the dispossessed sections. The former occupies a privileged position whereas the latter is deprived of the same.
Satyagraha and non-violence are not only unique to our land but these forms happen to be India’s greatest contribution to the world. When violence, armed rebellions, and its allied forms of bloodshed were the order of the day in freedom struggles of the European colonies in mid-20th century, India had the distinction of waging a different form of struggle that baffled the enemy. In the post-Independence Indian scene, these forms have been used sporadically by political parties, trade unions, social activists, apolitical groups and organizations with much success.
The Telangana movement offers the unique example of following the path of non-violence consistently in letter and spirit for more than four decades. In the post-nationalist phase, Jayaprakash Narayan led a peaceful people’s movement against corruption in the 1970s and wielded considerable influence. But it was short lived because he became instrumental in the formation of the Janata Party government in 1979 to oppose the authoritarian tendencies of a regime. But soon the spirit dissipated with the disintegration of the Janata Party and the death of Jayaprakash Narayan.
The whole world looks up to India for its principle of non-violence as enunciated by the Buddha in ancient times and demonstrated by Gandhi in the last century. The people of Telangana are practising non-violence and satyagraha as viable means of struggle, resistance and freedom. It has no parallel in post-independent Indian history. In the 1969 Telangana agitation, many people, especially the youth and the students numbering around 369 lost their lives in police firings. And since the year 2000, over a thousand people committed suicides for the cause of Telangana formation.
The sheer numbers of self-sacrifice speak volumes of the deeply formulated aspiration, the magnitude and intensity of the issue that were conveniently sidelined or manipulated by the successive ruling parties and vested interests. The suffering is there for everyone to see but ‘the other’ refuses to acknowledge it. The sacrifice and satyagraha-mode suffering does not move the heart of the other. The oppressor, instead of feeling ashamed as in those days, now brazenly camouflages the truth with pervert arguments and find some fictive, baseless reasons for so many suicides attributing these to depression and other psychological diseases.
The foreigner was at least attentive to the aspirations of people expressed through non-violent struggle, but what about the neighbour now? He puts forth veiled arguments to prove that all these suicides are not for the cause of Telangana, something else like depression or financial despondency is the reason. For a symptom of this virus-like disease, one can refer items 70 and 71 in the recently released Parakala Prabhakar’s book, Refuting An Agitation: 101 Lies and Dubious Arguments of Telangana Separatists.
In the least, what we expect from unified state votaries like him is to shed a drop of tear for the loss of so many lives. If the sympathy is not forthcoming, one has to search for words out of a pool to label such an attitude. And these prove to be expressions that are normally used in a war-like situation to refer to cruelties perpetrated by the other, the enemy. Even as the neighbour is exhibiting such an attitude now, the Telangana movement has been following the path of satyagraha and non-violence, aimed at making the neighbour sensitive to the multiple sorrows and needs of the people here, however pitiless and unfeeling he looks at present.
The compatibility between the two parts of the State is missing right from the time of the merger of the former Nizam region and part of Madras Presidency into the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
At least, this cannot be refuted by anyone. The so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement was not followed in spirit, and promises were broken in the first few years of the merger. Besides, Telangana suffered on account of disproportionate allocation of funds and resources.
The region has been the major contributor to the state exchequer and rich in water resources, but when it came to allocation, Telangana was given a raw deal. Jobs, too, were garnered by the migrants. Consequently, within ten years of the merger, fissures surfaced and it took the form of a mass movement of 1968-69 Telangana agitation for the formation of a separate state. The struggle will continue until the formation of a state crystallizes. ‘A State of Mind’ has already been etched out as far as the peoples of the two regions are concerned, what is needed is a physical expression to it.
Post-colonial and post-national societies accommodate multiple identities. Amartya Sen mentions that belonging to “each one of the membership groups can be quite important, depending on the particular context. When they compete for attention and priority over each other…the person has to decide on the relative importance to attach to the respective identities, which will, again, depend on the exact context” (Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. London: Allen Lane, 2006: 19).
He says that in each social context there would be a number of viable and relevant identities which one could assess in terms of their acceptability and importance. Elaborating on his own multiple identities, he says: “There are a great varieties of categories to which we simultaneously belong. I can be, at the same time, an Asian, an Indian citizen, a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry, a dabbler in philosophy, an author, a Sanskritist, a strong believer in secularism and democracy, a man, a feminist…” (Sen 19). Similarly, one could be a proud Indian, a Telugu-speaking person, while being a proud Telanganite.
One need not forsake one particular identity for the sake of the other. A person or a cause identifying with Telangana need not invite epithets such as separatism, passports and visas as our selfish, short-sighted politicians have used in recent times.
(The writer is Associate Professor of English, Kakatiya University, Warangal)