By Padmaja Shaw
Many youngsters committed suicide during the Telangana agitation under the false assumption that a separate state would somehow make their lives more tolerable, that a political entity will necessarily mean economic liberation. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) encashed on the sacrifices of the youth and came to power in the newly formed Telangana state.
The eloquent speeches that assured the voters that the new state will not resort to repressive tactics and will usher in a fair and just society stand exposed in just under a year and a half.
The jobs, education, health benefits that were promised did not materialise, while the repressive tactics used by the previous governments to silence dissent are manifest in a more intense form.
The only institution that came in for early attention from the TRS government was the police department. With spiffier vehicles, more modern equipment and a brand new logo, they were ready to roll.
It began with the killing of five Muslim under trial prisoners Viqar Ahmed, Syed Amjad, Mohd. Zakir, Dr. Mohd. Haneef and Izhar Khan in April 2015 near Aler. The Civil Liberties Committee which submitted its fact-finding report says that one of the under-trials was a dedicated practicing doctor, another a graduate. They were complaining of torture and intimidation while under trial and were killed on their way to Hyderabad district court. Public outrage demanded pinning responsibility for killing handcuffed under-trials in judicial custody.
Then, less than two months later, in June 2015, the 19-year-old Kodamagundla Vivek, who was an activist in the separate Telangana struggle and a student of the 5-year law programme at Osmania University, was killed on Andhra-Chhattisgarh border in an encounter.
Vivekās killing shocked the Telangana civil society and those who participated in the separate Telangana movement. Demands for accountability of the state for arbitrary killings arose once again.
During the agitation, the leadership of the TRS party often publicly proclaimed as per the demands raised by the Maoists that with the formation of Telangana a new more democratic agenda will be put in place. The Telangana agitation had the support of Maoist activists.
Again two months later in September 2015, Shruthi (a 24 year-old MTech) and Sagar (a 32 year-old graduate) were brutally tortured and killed in an encounter. The bodies bore marks of severe forms of torture, even as the police claim that they were killed in an encounter. The manner in which their post-mortem was conducted in violation of Supreme Court guidelines gave rise to demands for a judicial enquiry.
The TRS government, however, chose to ignore all such demands. The civil society in Telangana, many groups (some 370 of them) that actively supported and participated in the agitation for the separate Telangana state, were outraged at the business as usual attitude of the TRS government. The activists gave a call for a public protest march to the assembly on 30 of September. The TRS government not only denied permission but launched a massive preventive operation to ensure that no public demonstrations anywhere in the state could be staged.
The previous governments in the combined state at least allowed demonstrations at the Dharna Chowk. On 30 September, the TRS government fielded hundreds of policemen and women on the streets, cracked down the previous night on Osmania University hostels and took students into custody. On the day of the march, some 10,000 people were detained in preventive custody filling several jails across the state. Those arrested included parents of the victim, Shruthi.
With the formation of the new 29th state in this federal republic of India, it is clear that even dissent within the constitutionally guaranteed framework is no longer possible. The propaganda of the state machinery led by corporate media has dinned it into public consciousness that if you call someone a Naxalite or a Maoist, it is fine to gun them down.
Can a citizen of India be shot down, even when no crime has been committed, just because they believe in a certain ideology? Then how come the groups that promote communal hatred allowed to operate with impunity and to organize large-scale genocidal pogroms?
The media does not allow a debate on what the left groups of whatever shade are demanding. Even the centrist Congress party is made to appear radical in public discourse. The public discourse has been systematically framed over the years to mock egalitarian, welfare politics and to privilege the machismo of individual enterprise and soulless social Darwinism. Disrespect for human rights is the new normal for this brave new world.
If constitutionally guaranteed right to dissent is not allowed, people will not curl up and hide. Some at least will muster the courage to fight.
Is it so difficult to understand if youngsters like VivekorShruthi sense that insurgency is the only path the state is leaving them to fight for justice in this stiflingly limited, technical democracy where you are expected to vote once in 5 years to bestow the right on different predatory groups to plunder public resources?
History tells us that some of the most highly militarised repressive states have not succeeded in withstanding the force of public opinion when the tide begins to turn.