Background reading for this Column
The reactions from Muslim groups and MIM linking Sangareddy violence to Mahububnagar can be found here and here. Business Standard has a good summary of political turmoil within AP Congress. and the India Today on the Reddy Hindu Identity rhetoric from Congress. The BJP’s booklet on case for Telangana to Seemandhra residents can be found here.
(Also see bottom of the blog for tailpiece on Beef controversy at Osmania University)
One of film actresses, Urmila Matondkar’s early breaks in the Telugu movie industry was a Ram Gopal Verma movie called Gaayam made in 1993. The movie also featured Revathi and a less nationally known male lead actor,Jagapathi Babu. While much of the storyline is said to have been inspired by The Godfather and other Western sources, there was an element of factual reality closer home on how communal riots were engineered in Hyderabad to force a Chief Minister out.
Hyderabad was witness to a series of incidents of communal rioting between 1990 and 1992 even as dissidence within the Congress saw three different Congress Chief Ministers within that span of three years. The strong correlation between weak Congress Chief Ministers in Andhra Pradesh and communal violence in Hyderabad is not limited to the early 1990s. Between 1980 and 1983, Andhra Pradesh saw a similar parade of weak Congress Chief Ministers being swapped from New Delhi and a highly controversial Congress-engineered coup against NT Rama Rao in 1984, with some of the worst incidents of communal rioting in Hyderabad.
Growing up as a child in Hyderabad, watching news of curfew being imposed onDoordarshan, was a favourite pastime, for one of our Mathematics teachers would invariably have to skip showing up to work. Curfew in Hyderabad those days meant there was always the outside chance of either school being closed or a free period. The incidents of communal rioting in Hyderabad were not funny anymore as we grew up to come to terms with its grim reality in the early 1990s. During the 1990 violence another Mathematics teacher was booked under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and put away without bail, for the only crime of being a Hindu in his twenties in an area of the old city that saw violence against Muslims.
Hyderabad once again in the past week saw deliberately provoked incidents of communal violence. Some have attempted to attribute it to VHP leader Pravin Togadia’s earlier presence in that city, which in the opinion of this columnist is a naïve and superficial reading of the dynamics that are shaping up in Andhra Pradesh. The State once again is witness to a weak Congress Chief Minister with no real base. There are a number of powerful lobbies of current and former Congressmen that have been at the receiving end of a variety of court and CBI interventions with their commercial interests around Hyderabad and political interests elsewhere under threat. Last but not the least there is a new political dynamic that is emerging that is unsettling many from the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
The communal incidents of the past week in Hyderabad must not be seen in isolation given the anxiety expressed by the MIM and other Muslim groups even before these incidents. Sangareddy, about 50km to the west of Hyderabad, saw communal incidents in the weeks leading up to the incidents in Hyderabad. In both Sangareddy and Hyderabad, there was deliberate provocation in the name of insult to religious symbols of one kind or another. But what is curious is the line pushed by the MIM and the so-called Muslim civil rights groups, both of whom linked the communal flare-up to the BJP’s surprise win in a bypoll election to the State Assembly in a different district of the Telangana region — Mahabubnagar.
The Congress and the Telugu Desam Party have declined in the Telangana region for some time now over the T-State issue. What is, however, interesting about the Mahabubnagar contest is that it was the first time that there was a competitive election between pro-Telangana parties since the movement for joint political action for a separate Telangana State emerged. The margin of victory for the BJP in Mahabubnagar may have been narrow, but it is significant that the BJP managed to hold its own against the TRS in a Telangana seat with a large concentration of Muslim population. Hence, the angst of the MIM and other Muslim groups is highly understandable.
This columnist had many months back lamented that the movement in support of a separate Telangana State had to first make its case to the rest of Andhra. This columnist had also lamented that, despite the churning in Andhra politics and the fragmentation of political parties, the BJP had failed to produce a leader who could reach beyond the regional divide to chart a new course. This past week the BJP’s young chief in Andhra Pradesh, G Kishan Reddy, released a 14 page booklet in Telugu, making a direct socio-economic case to the people of Rayalseema and Andhra on why a regional bifurcation of the State would not hurt their interest but instead create new opportunity. It was heartening to see him actually take up the challenge of making a positive case for Telangana to the rest of Andhra by touring both regions.
It is too early to say if the BJP’s Mahabubnagar win was an anomaly or a leading indicator of the undercurrents in play in Telangana. One thing is, however, clear: The political ferment within the Congress in Andhra has reached its rotten limit, with factions going at each other within the party and beyond. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party seems to also be scripting its path to increasing irrelevance with its failure to take a clear stance on Telangana while continuing to be mired in family feuds within NTR’s extended family.
The political environment in Andhra Pradesh is in a flux, putting a State that sends the highest number of Congress MPs in play for the first time in decades, opening up the possibility of a new configuration to emerge.
How far the BJP will gain in this environment, is an open question, but it may have found a new rising star in young Kishan Reddy who has shown a proclivity for engaging on policy issues in the past and has now shown the conviction to take a bold and enlightened stance on the Telangana issue.
Tailpiece on Beef controversy in Osmania University
The Beef controversy in Osmania University is unfortunate. It is one thing to argue a case for the private right to consumer beef quite another to make a public spectacle out of it with the deliberate aim of drawing controversy. The ABVP too has acted foolishly walking into the trap here resulting in violence on campus. Between the Telangana issue and these contrived controversies it is an open question what kind of academics gets done in Osmania University these days. This entire sequence of events is another reason why organized politics on campus needs to be clamped down completely. The IITs have the most meaningful model for student governance within the campus where there is room for robust debate and democracy but without any role for political parties.
On the Beef issue without getting into the Historical context and the geographical differences on attitudes towards it suffices to say the following:
Most legislation in India is against commercial Cow slaughter and transportation and trade facilitating it. It is a slippery slope to go from this position to attempt to Criminalize the Possession or Consumption of Beef.
It is just as well in a Federal polity like India for a Local Community or state to prohibit cow slaughter or commerce around it while other states and communities retain the right to not do so.
Beyond this any arguments against Private Consumption of Beef need to be in the socio-cultural realm with no role for Politics or Government.
Also read on the same topic from Offstumped Archives 2008 – Flat World Hindutva on Individual Freedom and Socio-economic choice and on Liberty and Licentiousness.