The Telangana movement is driven by a solid student fervour. The United Andhra agitation has none.
JANA BAI, a tribal girl from Nizamabad district, is said to have set herself on fire during a TRS rally for the sake of Telangana, and suffered 80 percent burns in the process. Similarly, a 19-year-old from Mehdipatnam, Arige Saritha blamed Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah and Chandrababu Naidu for obstructing the carving out of a separate state in her suicide note. There is no doubt that the real drivers of the Telangana movement are the students, especially of Osmania University.
The United Andhra Movement, on the other hand, has no comparable student fervour. At Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam, the response to the anti-Telangana stir is lukewarm. With the protests in Osmania University and across Telangana gaining unprecedented momentum, proponents of United Andhra are trying hard to create new voices of dissent — but invariably proving unsuccessful in thwarting the Telangana agitation.
If further proof was needed that Andhra’s students are shying away from politics, it was again available, same time, same place. A bus-load of teachers led by a retired Andhra University professor Jacob Sastry were shouting ‘Jai Andhra’ on top of their voices. Sastry is the founder of the Samaikya Andhra Forum that he founded with like-minded teachers in a bid to “fill the total absence of voices, except a couple of students, for a United Andhra”. That day, his cause did not attract even a couple of students.
All attempts at enforcing bandhs in support of Samaikya Andhra (United Andhra), in fact, have met with a tepid response across the Seemandhra and Coastal region. On 8 July, calls for bandhs in Ongole, near Guntur just saw a handful of students taking out processions. On the same day in Guntur, a bandh call by the Samaikya Andhra Parirakshana Samithi went unheeded, with schools and shops remaining open. This is the city which many term as “Andhra’s alternative to Hyderabad” in the event of a bifurcation.
The United Andhra movement, therefore, seems to have become a playground for vested political interests that are putting up intellectuals and gullible students as fronts in a bid to protect business interests in the Telangana region. It stands little chance against the more focussed and grassroots-oriented Telangana movement. “Everybody knows that politicians Lagadapati Rajagopal, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao and JC Diwakar Reddy are the ones instigating a counter to the TRS-led Telangana movement
Similarly, Jayprakash Ankam, a journalism graduate from Osmania University, was shown the door when he went for a job to a media house owned by a wellknown media baron and politician. A triple gold medalist, Ankam says, “They told me they could not expect someone from Adilabad to do unbiased reporting for an audience that primarily constituted people from Andhra.” Feeling the odds were against him in the job market, he went back to university and enrolled for a PhD, where he gets a stipend. “All I can hope is that the new state is created and we will live without fear or favour in Telangana. I will do whatever it takes to achieve that,” he now says
PRO TELANGANA students are not just raising an anguished cry against a flawed system, but a systemic bias against an entire community from a particular region. Violence, like burning vehicles, becomes a song of redemption. Many young people have died under mysterious circumstances, their bodies cremated or without any post-mortem, branded suicides by Telangana protagonists. Suicide notes have been recovered but their veracity never checked.
On the other hand, there is the indifference of students from the Andhra region, which stems from the comfort that history is on their side and that the benefits of the present will translate into a future that is yet inconceivable to their counterpart in Telangana. The Telangana student is distraught because the upper echelons in private companies take a jaundiced view of his credentials. Yet curiously, the Srikrishna Committee Report’s pitch for a United Andhra is based on the waning influence of public employment in the state.
The United Andhra movement is like an exhumed body being administered electric shocks in the hope of a miraculous resuscitation. While there are more pressing issues at hand for students of Andhra University to protest about, their counterparts at Osmania, spearheading the Telangana movement, have relegated everything else to the background for a separate state. But sadly, despite having started off the Telangana agitation in 1969, students now risk being used as gasoline in the fire when four decades down the line, they should have been the torchbearers.