By Teesta Dasgupta
I. The Political Scenario
Telangana – our 29th state. Somehow, I always felt that chopping off states into smaller and smaller factions would not help in governance. It never helps the nation’s esteem either. But now that the deed is done – there are thousands of new questions cropping up. Is Telangana a veiled attempt to appease the Naxal movements raging in the region since Satyanarayan in 1968? While the TRS (Telangana Rashtriya Samiti) denies any ties with the Naxals – there hasn’t been any dearth of accusations.
Of the most notable are the ones levelled by former Chief Minister Rajashekhar Reddy. It still hasn’t ceased to be a major embarrassment to the Congress led Government at the centre since he accused the TRS of having a nexus with the Naxalites on an official forum at a conference of the CMs of Naxalite affected states. If a party is found to be involved with organisations or guerrilla groups that are outlawed in the particular state the reparations are huge. As such, unfounded claims such as these of a CM if not unexpected (given their history) are highly unprecedented.
Now, the TRS that successfully rallied for a separate state of Telangana and long demanded deliverance from the dominance of Seemandhra – has not denied its friendly ties with the Naxals. TRS MLA K. Eswar has a long history of having worked for and among the Naxals. Calling them Naxalite sympathizers will not be a stretch but going far enough to suggest that they may have aligned with the Naxals to run a semi-military undertaking (trained by an ex RSS) for achieving separate statehood is obviously a sham.
After the TRS decided to take over the movement there has been an obvious fall in the number of encounters and killings of alleged Naxalites. An old and seasoned NDTV correspondent once said that 80% of all encounters are set up. On those grounds and seeing that the police and army function in a similar manner almost all over India – it won’t be wrong to suggest that such also was the case in Andhra Pradesh. Once a group of people are deemed outside the state’s protection the atrocities committed against them may sky-rocket but not a single newspaper or TV channel will emphasize on the sheer monstrosity of the proportions in fear that they might be branded ‘sympathizers’. While in other states such hunting down of Naxals has been allowed to continue with impunity – in Telangana things have taken a turn for the better. TRS leader Chandrasekhar Rao feels no qualms in admitting that he will implement the ‘Naxal Agenda’. “After all”, he has been quoted saying “ all they want is economic, social and land reforms which the TRS has always supported.”
To understand Naxals is to understand land and its importance in the history of Telangana. E.R. Ramamohan (Director General, Border Security Force) in the recent edition of Manorama has written a brilliant article titled – ‘The Maoist Naxalite Insurgency in India’. He effortlessly takes us through the trials and tribulations of the people of Andhra Pradesh from the 1950s to present day India and delivers the shocking truth that not much has been resolved in the course of 60 years of Independence. The Land Ceiling Laws (9th schedule) that prevented ‘zamindars’ from holding over a certain amount of land are as old as the Constitution of India but till date only 3 states have implemented them – Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Kerala. The latter two did so because of the Communist presence in these areas and J&K because most of the Land Owners were Hindus and the supressed bonded labourers Muslims. Hence religious sentiments trumped those of need for equitable distribution. In other places however, since both the perpetrator of injustice and the deprived were Hindus no such speedy implementation took place. The Land Ceiling Act was never implemented.
What the TRS is out to do (if and only if they don’t sell out before) is to resolve these issues and finally find a way to bring the Naxals to the mainstream by way of negotiation and arbitration instead of pushing them further away like the Chandrababu Naidu government and thereby raise more dissatisfaction. Chandrasekhar Rao is vocal in his criticism of the Naidu regime that turned AP into a slaughter house of sorts.
This is a III part project to clearly outline the History, Present and probable Future of the nascent state of Telangana. The effort is to give the layman an idea of the pressing issues at work here. The topic of Land Laws briefly touched upon here will be discussed in detail in the next part with interviews of academicians and politicians – Communist or otherwise. The 3rd and the final part will deal with the future of Telangana as envisioned by its makers and those who rallied against it.
Teesta Dasgupta is an avid blogger, food-buff, incorrigible bibliophile and given to hair-splitting analysis of everything under the sun. She is finishing her degree at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and works part-time as a volunteer for a SWO (Siliguri Welfare organization) in her scenic hometown of Siliguri, Darjeeling. She swears by Oscar Wilde, Ayn Rand, Coldplay, The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) and pizza. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.