The student was quite agitated. She was accusing Nizamabad MP Madhu Yaskhi Goud, and members of his ilk, of playing with the lives of students by organising frequent bandhs, hartals, rail roko for the cause of Telangana.
“We lost precious sessions last academic year. You want to agitate. Please do it. But not at the cost of our careers please. Why should schools and colleges be closed for that,” she asked.
We were at a college in Hyderabad (affiliated to Osmania University) at a panel discussion on `Whether the youth of today need role models?’ Not too much of a surprise that Goud’s tribe was not top of the pops and he was getting it left and right. But what surprised me more were his more than candid answers. Perhaps when you are playing on the backfoot, your foot sometimes tends to caress the wicket and you are declared hit wicket. I suspected something similar happened with Goud.
“I in fact called up the Telangana Joint Action Committee chairman to request him to cancel the rail roko on July 14 in the wake of the Mumbai blasts the previous night. His reply shocked me. He refused saying if he cancels it, the next time he will give a call for rail roko, no one will respond,” said the MP.
I don’t know if the audience was stunned into silence. Or they were mulling the import of what Goud had implied. Was he trying to suggest that the TJAC chairman was being politically savvy, practical and far-sighted or simply the opposite. That when you are in politics, you develop a narrow vision and decide that what subserves your interest should be acceptable to the rest of the people and, if it is not, well, we will force it on you anyways.
The rail roko did happen. It was very effective as well. South Central Railways had already cancelled upto 116 passenger trains and 23 Express and Mail trains. Several others were diverted, rescheduled or partially cancelled. The rest was taken care of by leaders and agitationists who ensured no trains rolled into Hyderabad and Secunderabad that morning.
Passengers were offloaded at railway stations like Bibinagar and Cherlapally, a good 20-30 km from the city and had to board buses and autos (out to make a killing) to get to the city. Am quite sure those who had to suffer this were not feeling particularly sympathetic towards those who had forced this form of protest.
In this case, unfortunately, stopping trains between 6 am and 6 pm inconvenienced more than anyone else the people of Telangana. At a time when the country’s attention was rivetted to happenings in Mumbai, the protest lost its intended impact.
Even otherwise, in the last one year and more, what we have seen is that the battles waged by students on the Osmania University campus, taking on security forces, has virtually been in vain. Emotional outpourings and its tragic consequences in the form of youngsters virtually embracing death in the hinterland of Hyderabad, far from shaking the conscience of a nation, hardly seem to cause a twitch in Delhi.
Even an en masse resignation caused a storm whose wind was punctured with political double-talk. May be they will pay a price for it electorally. But how are they going to deal with the heightened frenzy and urgency that has been built up in the public domain, among various civil society groups, students and even the ordinary people?
How will they satisfy the aspirations and address the fears and concerns of a people who feel historically wronged, and who have come to believe that the blame for all the ills that afflict them arise from being part of an Andhra Pradesh. The lines of divide between the people of Telangana and the rest of Andhra Pradesh have developed into deep wedges that have created distances and distrust.
The Centre is virtually abdicating responsibility by saying the two groups in Andhra Pradesh must sort out their differences and come to them with a consensus. That is not going to happen. Right or wrong, many would say the Centre blinked and opened a Pandora’s Box on the ninth of December, 2009. It is perhaps time for Battlefield Telangana to physically shift its venue to Delhi. So that a government that has preferred to look the other way has no option but to look at it in the eye.