The last person we spoke to talked about touring all the districts and speaking with all kinds of people. I asked whether landlords, tenant-farmers, labourers and the landless in Telangana were united in their demand for a separate state and whether there really was no conflict of interest apparent to them. I was told in reply, that the people said, ‘Just let’s get these Andhra landlords out of here and we’ll take care of the Telangana ones afterwards.’
I don’t even know where to begin: is this a unified perspective? How many people would one need to speak to before a different opinion emerged? And if they did, would it be reported faithfully? Is there a qualitative difference between exploitation by Andhra landlords and Telangana landlords? (Our exploiters are better than yours.) Were people really willing to gloss over internal differences in the belief that a new state would somehow successfully address all these questions later?
One question that no one in favour of statehood for Telangana has managed to answer is, if it does happen, then what? By what methods will injustices be redressed, and will they only become possible after statehood? And specifically, on whose behalf are people speaking and why do they all appear to be long-time buddies if they really speak for many, many different kinds of views and people? (Which is to say, for a movement that claims to be diverse, why does its vocal component seem so uniform?)
I am suspicious of this tendency to say, ‘let’s get statehood first, and then let’s deal with other things later.’ What happens when that later comes? Whose opinions do you suppose will really be taken on board?
I am also suspicious of anything that causes people to feel fervour. All this fighting for a cause, all this shivery sense of being caught up in making history.
One of the people we spoke to said, protest is performance.
Apropos of which, one person reacting to my column said I had trivialised the whole issue, talking about the Complaints Choir. I don’t see that at all.
On the same day that my column on Telangana appeared, The Hindu carried a news report of a three hour long play that was in the form of a court hearing, where Telangana was filing for divorce from Andhra. At the end of the play, Telangana is granted divorce it seeks.
I don’t see why a complaints choir can’t be as political a piece of art as that play. It might not be as palatable to the pro-Telangana section, but I’ve been told there aren’t nearly enough voices being heard (in journals and opinion-making circles, I mean) on keeping status quo.
(Not that a complaints choir would automatically be anti-Telangana; in fact I’m a little surprised that it was read that way.)
I grew up in Hyderabad. If anything, I should consider myself a Telangani, because if I belong anywhere, it is here. I have felt the change in the composition of the city, mourned the loss of its Deccani speech more commonly heard in my childhood than it is now; the more leisurely pace of life; what I think nostalgically of as its cosmopolitanism.
I am also aware that such a nostalgia-driven view amounts to less than nothing as a political argument for statehood. Cultural identity is a problematic thing. In the last few weeks, I have wondered whether Telangana, with its cultural uniqueness argument, is most like Mumbai or Tibet: does it want to expel those it sees as not belonging to it, so that its unique identity (whatever that is) is preserved; or is it like Tibet, being flooded with outsiders and being homogenised in an demonstration of cultural hegemony?
It’s a flawed comparison, I see that. But I’m just trying to use it as a frame within which to try and articulate this bugbear of cultural identity. I think I’ll stick with aphorisms.
One really disturbing development is the presence of police and militia in the city. Most of it is around the Osmania University, but even on the roads, outside the houses of ministers and near the offices of political parties, I can't remember when there were so many men with guns and so much barbed wire.
I find the argument made by the state, that their presence is necessary on campus because the Maoists have 'infiltrated' the student body, specious and self-serving.
What I find even more disturbing is that civil society doesn't seem to care about what happens on campus or on the roads, so long as it doesn't disturb their daily lives.
This is not all but this is as much as I’m going to say on the subject.