“Creation Of Telangana Only Seeks To Set Right The Economic And Social Imbalance” —Prof Kodanda Ram, Chairman of Telangana Political Joint Action Committee
The activists spearheading the demand for a separate Telangana state were in Delhi recently to garner support for their goal. Members of the Steering Committee headed by Prof M Kodanda Ram met various opposition party leaders, Rajnath Singh (BJP), AB Bardhan (CPI), Sharad Yadav (JDU), among others. The agitation leaders, which also include Telangana Rashtra Samithi Chief K Chandrasekhara Rao, have already announced intensification of their struggle in all districts of Telangana region.
Hair gone completely grey at 56, Prof Kodanda Ram, who teaches political science at Osmania University and is a former JNU alumni, in a freewheeling interview with senior journalist Bisheshwar Mishra said how they (pro-Telangana activists) planned to expose the “injustice of Justice Srikrishan Committee” on the people of Telangana region, and how they planned to forge ahead despite this setback. Excerpts:
What was the purpose of your visit to Delhi and what have you achieved here?
We fulfilled three objectives of promoting our demand for the creation of a separate Telangana state. First, there was a seminar in JNU where a lot of questions were asked about our movement and we got the opportunity to explain why there was a need for the creation of Telangana. Second, we formed a Joint Action Committee in Delhi to include a large number of people living in Delhi, who hail from Telangana region and were keen to associate themselves with the movement. Third, we met a number of opposition party leaders who had supported our point of view in the Parliament quite vociferously.
There is a lot of apprehension about the creation of Telangana in the minds of those who have come from other parts of the country, and are living and doing good employment and business in Hyderabad and in Telangana region. These include people from Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema, as well. Do they feel they will be deprived of their years of effort and investments?
We have nothing against people hailing from other parts of the country. They can continue with their employment and business as they have been doing. We are only against those few rich capitalist class of people from coastal Andhra who have cornered most of the land, property, resources, mines and business in Telangana region and deprived the local people from any scope of growth and prosperity. It is this handful of propertied-class people who are dead-against the creation of Telangana. But the majority of people who hail from any part of the country need not worry. Creation of Telangana only seeks to set right this social and economic imbalance, and provide opportunity for growth to the local people, who have remained backward all these years.
Which political leaders did you meet?
We met BJP leader Rajnath Singh and Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav. We also wanted to meet BJP’s LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj but we could not because they were out of town. We had a lengthy interaction with a large number of students, researchers and teachers at JNU and professionals living in the capital.
What was the purpose of your interaction with them?
We wanted to apprise them about the present situation in Telangana with reference to Chapter 8 of Justice Srikrishna Committee report, which has been kept a secret. While all other parts of the report have been made public, Chapter 8 has not been made public because it contains some sensitive observations, which the Committee and the government did not want the general public to know. We also wanted to seek their support to bring pressure on Congress government in the state, to scrap the controversial GO-77 (Government of India Order 77) passed by the state government on April 13 this year, which aims to suppress the interests and rights of the employees and people of Telangana region. The GO is in violation of basic democratic rights, as it prevents people of the region from participating in pro-Telangana demonstrations, and agitations.
What is there in this secret chapter 8 of the Justice Srikrishna Committee report?
A writ petition was filed in Hyderabad High Court seeking public disclosure of this sinister chapter, and justice LN Reddy on March 23, 2011, allowed the petition. The court castigated the government for withholding this note from the public and called it “arbitrary, unreasonable and unconstitutional”. Noting that “a meaningful discussion with reference to the report submitted by the committee, cannot take place, unless it is made public,” the court directed the government to make the note on Chapter 8, public, “within two weeks”.
What had the Committee (Justice Srikrishna Committee), said in the chapter 8 of its report, that it did not want the public to know about it?
In this chapter the Committee had suggested the government to avoid creating a Telangana state as it would lead to flight of capital from the state and there could be an escalation in Maoist violence and communal violence. The Committee did not just stop here, it recommended the government ways to go about preventing the pro-Telangana movement, by suppressing the agitation and its activists.
You mean to say that the Committee suggested ways on how to suppress the pro-Telangana agitation?
Yes. The Committee transcended its mandate. Its mandate was to examine the two options of creating separate Telangana or keeping the state united. But the Committee—which other than Justice BN Srikrishna comprised of Prof Ranbir Singh, economist Dr Abusalah Shariff, Prof Ravinder Kumar, and former home secretary Vinod K Duggal—overstepped the mandate and raised several unnecessary options and issues creating more confusion. What is worse, they suggested to the government to not only reject Telangana demand but suggested how to manage the politicians, the media and use the police to suppress the agitation.
Even the Andhra Pradesh High Court noted that the “Committee travelled beyond the terms of reference in its endeavour to persuade the Union of India (central government) not to accede to the demand for Telangana, is demonstrated in a three-page Supplementary Note, appended to the note, representing Chapter 8.” The Supplementary Note has three parts, in which it suggests to the government about: (a) Political Management, (b) Media Management and (c) Full Preparedness. The objective clearly is to suggest ways to control the situation.
So you are saying the Committee had transcended the purview of task allotted to it?
Instead of addressing the issue of examining the demand for state of Telangana, impartially, the Srikrishna Committee goes into analysing the security aspects, a task which was not assigned to it. It then told the government to reject the demand for Telangana, as it would give rise to communal violence and Maoist violence. It suggests putting down any further agitation by deftly managing the political leaders of the agitation, the ruling party as well as politicians belonging to the opposition parties. The Committee then suggests methods of managing the media, ensuring that all news pertaining to the demand for Telangana are ignored. It analyses how the print media is “hugely dependent on the government for advertisement revenue and if carefully handled can be an effective tool to achieve this goal”. In this chapter, the Committee analyses how Andhra Pradesh has got about 13 TV channels and 5 major local newspapers, which are in the forefront of moulding public opinion. It expressed satisfaction that equity holders of the entire print media were against the creation of Telangana and that only two of the 13 electronic channels favoured creation of a new state. It suggested that those who insisted on highlighting the news to fan passions for creation of a new state can be prevailed upon to take a neutral stand.
What about Committee’s advice to government on “full preparedness”?
Since the Committee was aware that there would be a backlash if the government went by their advice, so they went a step ahead and advised ways to handle the situation and the manner in which the agitators were to be dealt with. Not only the manner of deployment of police force but in this chapter the Committee even suggested the type of ammunition and arsenal that was to be used, it was none of their business to do so. It talked about an appropriate plan of deployment grid of police force, both central and state with full technical support to be drawn up. It even identified the troubled spots such as the three universities—Osmania, Kakatiya and Krishna Devraya in the three regions, and recommended ways to suppress the students participating in the agitation.
Don’t you think the pro-Telangana agitation has fizzled out after the Srikrishna Committee report?
No. We know it is a long-drawn struggle. But the people of Telangana region will not rest until they have fulfilled their mission. So we intend to intensify our struggle in the month of May.