Having failed to arouse ordinary Andhras in places like Vijayawada, anti-Telangana forces appear to be shifting gears. As the major driver behind the agitation is the refusal to let go of Hyderabad, they logically turn attention to the 400+ year old city.
September 7, 2013 is in many ways a red letter day for Telanganites, especially Hyderabadis. Andhra "NGO's" held a meeting in the historically significant Fateh Maidan grounds with the objective of obstructing Telangana formation.
During the long agitation for Telangana, the government created several hurdles to all attempts to hold meetings, rallies etc. Permission was denied even to national party meetings & cultural events. In most cases, the Telangana movement had to seek judicial intervention. The historic Telangana march was accorded conditional permission just before commencement. Preventive arrests, bindovers, road blocks & barbed wire have been the government's favored tools to greet Telangana citizens protesting for their rights. OU campus received "special treatment" at the hands of the khatmals.
In sharp contrast, the anti-Telangana meeting has received kid glove treatment right from the time the idea was floated to its "successful" completion. According to reports police provided escort to around 380 private buses hired by the agitators. The railways added additional cars to trains reaching Hyderabad to accommodate others. Wonderful to see the government turning over a new leaf and respecting the fundamental rights of Indian citizens!
Wait a minute, this friendly reception is limited only to those opposing Telangana. MRPS has been denied permission to hold a meeting on September 6, 2013. OU students were refused the right to hold a meeting in the historic Nizam college. TJAC request to hold a peace rally was negated.
The ground cited for the denial is the possibility of tempers flaring up leading to violence. A good argument but how can MRPS meeting the previous day lead to clashes? How is Manda Krishna Madiga's demand to exempt schools, social welfare hostels & buses from strikes less democratic a right than that of those opposing Telangana formation?
If the proximity of the two venues could lead to trouble, a prudent alternative would be to ask either party (or both) to shift to a different location. The government under an avowedly anti-Telangana chief minister has chosen not to do so.
What about the possibility of violence breaking out at the meeting itself? The police imposed 19 conditions to the permission. These include limiting the attendance to government employees. No assurance was obtained from the organizers on any of these.
What were the intentions of the meeting organizers? Some clues can be found below:
This meeting is being called an NGO meeting by the media. This is a misleading term. The meeting was actually conducted under the aegis of a group styled as Samaikhya (sic!) Rashtra Parirakshana Vedika (SRPV).
SRPV constituted a committee to coordinate the Hyderabad meeting. Only two of the 28 committee members are NGOs. Three are from RTC while another six are teachers or other government employees. The committee is dominated by non-employees.
True Mr. Paruchuri Ashok Babu, the unelected Andhra NGO "leader" is the chairman of the committee. This by itself does not substantiate the claim that the meeting was for employees, much less NGOs.
Ashok Babu was interviewed on Gemini News on August 19, 2013. He explained two problems for Andhra employees due to bifurcation.
· He (yes, he specifically said "I") has been selected to Secretariat at Hyderabad. He therefore believes he is entitled to this location & department throughout his career.
· If the state is bifurcated, whole of residual AP will become one zone. Srikakulam employees can be transferred to Chittoor & vice-versa.
Towards the end of his interview, he admitted the solution might be in a compromise. He frankly said he was jostling to get a better deal and hoped the compromise will be towards "unity" and not bifurcation.
During the run-up to the present meeting, neither of these issues were raised. Rather the avowed purpose changed to "save Andhra Pradesh".
SRPV called for registration from netizens wishing to attend the meeting. The registration form lists only for name, email ID & mobile phone. No employment details like department, location were sought.
If the organizers were not planning to mobilize non-employees, why did they ask all & sundry to register?
Dileep Konatham called up the Andhra NGO office to enquire how he can obtain an ID card to attend the meeting. He was told an ordinary ID card like a ration card is enough. When he specifically mentioned he was not a government employee, they said "మరేం పర్లేదండి. ప్రభుత్వ ఉద్యోగస్తులే కాదు, ఎవరైనా రావచ్చండి. మీదగ్గర రేషన్ కార్డు లాంటి గుర్తింపు పత్రం ఉంటే చాలు మీరు వచ్చేయవచ్చు. పోలీసులు ఏమీ అనరండి. అక్కడ మనాళ్లుంటారు, వాళ్లు మిమ్మల్ని రిసీవ్ చేసుకుంటారు”
Andhra NGO's reportedly issued receipts to those without ID cards. How can a government employee register attendance if he does not have one?
B. Raghavulu of CPM and Majlis's Akbaruddin Owaisi (yes, he of the inflammatory speech fame) were invited to the meeting. The fact that these politicians declined does not detract from the fact the NGOs did not intend to stick to the condition of limiting to employees.
One Mr. Ramarao speaking on NTV pooh pooh'd MRPS's attack threats. While this is commendable, he went on to provocative MRPS by claiming it owes its existence to Andhra government employee support. He called Manda Krishna a "kirayi goonda" forcing the anchor to step in and stop.
Speaking to the press on September 6, Ashok Babu said his organization would not take responsibility for any unwarranted events. He also said they would not be able to conclude the meeting by 5 PM as permitted. He specifically repudiated the conditions placed on the meeting by the police.
The intentions of the organizers appear to two fold: provocation and an assertion that "Hyderabad belongs to all Telugus". They were willing to go to any extent to establish these. The state government and the police did their best to support these intentions.
It has been reported that there was virtually no checking at the meeting. Families were also allowed. Visuals of a young girl standing on the stage were telecast prominently.
Congress politician & singer "Ghazal" Srinivas was personally escorted to the stage by PSR Anjaneyulu, a police officer censured by the courts several times. Srinivas returned the favor by mauling the national anthem. Former Advocate General Mohan Reddy, another non-employee gracing the stage, stood as a mute spectator to this hideous insult.
Dr. Mitra, a former PRP ideologue, was another politician honored at the stage. An elderly woman called Satyavani believed to be a Loksatta activist delivered a pithy speech comparing Telangana to the defeated Kouravas.
Ramakrishna Reddy, an RTC union leader under criminal investigation, was the only government employee to be given a prominent place. All the others hailed from other sections such as journalism, law & student bodies.
The organizers did not honor the other conditions like time of meeting and the permitted attendance. The estimated crowd of around 30,000 was double the permitted 15,000.
An unarmed youth Balraj Yadav was beat up by the agitating Andhras for the "crime" of waving a black flag. The perpetrator is believed to be a "leader" of the YSR party.
The agitators raised slogans & took out a rally in a clear violation of the conditions. Some agitators made gestures threatening to behead Telangana students. The "NGO" responsible is considered to be a TDP activist from Uravakonda.
The khatmals as usual excelled themselves. Police entered the Nizam college hostel and attacked students eating breakfast. They forcibly evicted Kranti Kiran, a lone unarmed journalist covering the beat. Even Srinivas Goud, a fellow constable, was attacked when he raised Jai Telangana slogan.
Andhra politicians who stayed behind the scenes claim the meeting was a grand success. No doubt whoever paid for the shenanigan got more than his money's worth. They not only got to hold a meeting in Hyderabad but received a red carpet treatment from a benign circar. As a bonus, they got to thrash a few lazy drunkard feudal Naxalite jihadi separatist Telaban alaga janam J
More seriously, did the organizers achieve their objectives? By restricting the attendance, speakers & even the media to Andhras they themselves conceded their demand is limited to 13 districts. Despite trying hard, they failed to invite retaliation.
The euphoria over the meeting will not last long. The sight of a young man raising a banner of revolt amidst thousands of hostile individuals will stay etched in memory. Ms. Satyvani, this is Abhimanyu facing the Kouravas in Chakravyuh!
What should we do? Many Telanganites argue we should stay calm because retaliation will only strengthen the propaganda & fear psychosis built assiduously over the years.
I reject this argument. The propaganda machinery does not need a real incident. They will anyway rake up some stray happening trying to stoke fears.
We should stay calm in the face of provocations because of our own values, not out of fear of adverse propaganda. We should remain peaceful because tolerance is the heart of our tahzeeb. In this city named after Imam Ali, the spirit of qurbani will prevail over all forms of antagonism.
Stay calm in the face of provocations and celebrate the advent of the festival season with joy, peace and an indomitable spirit.