That Telangana Rashtriya Samithi and its chief Chandrasekhara Rao have spearheaded the statehood movement is well known. But there is another section that has taken the state by storm for Telangana: the students' movement. The violence unleashed by the students was a major worry for the state government even as the TRS chief continued with his fast.
Rama Rao, senior member of the Joint Action Committee who led the students' protest in Hyderabad, says it is no longer a political movement, but the people's movement.
"We are happy that the Centre has agreed to the demand, but we want to see the process going through completely. In an interview to Vicky Nanjappa, Rao speaks about the movement and Telangana's future.
Do you think this is a victory or just a tactic to quell the protests?
I think it is a victory. The first part of the battle has been won. However, we would like to see the process going through. Our demand was to grant us a separate state and there are certain procedures that need to be followed. We will keep a close watch on the government and how they treat the situation.
The agitation turned violent. Was it necessary?
All we had was a demand. From day one, I have told students that we should protest in a peaceful manner. This is a democracy and we have the right to protest peacefully. We did not expect the Andhra Pradesh government to get aggressive. In fact, the police force has terrorized the people. Was it a mistake on our part to make a valid demand? Moreover, when KCR took up the fast, the police tried using force to curb him. This was not acceptable to many of us and hence we stepped up the ante. However we have always made our demands through peaceful means. It was the police which was acting violent.
Could you elaborate on the police atrocities?
There are around 25,000 police personnel in the city. What is the government trying to prove? They have been brutal with us. They have resorted to every possible means of violence. Thousands of students have been arrested for staging protest. What shocked us the most is that the police men manhandled some of our female students. This was uncalled for. We have approached the State Human Rights Commission. Moreover, all the universities in the Telangana region have been captured by the police.
Why did the protest intensify to such an extent?
This is not the first time that the students are protesting. The struggle has been on for the past 50 years. We realized that the government was just not serious about the demands and was taking this issue for granted. During earlier agitations, at least 400 students were killed. Do you think we should let their efforts go waste?
What about political parties. This is after all a decision that needs to be made by politicians.
Till now, the parties were saying that they would form Telangana. We realized that they were not serious about it. The time had started to exceed and we began to believe that unless and until we raised our voice, this issue would never be resolved. Hence we decided to come out in the streets and protest. It was no longer a political movement. It has become a peoples' movement.
Despite empty promises, the people still voted for the Congress. What is your take?
Yes, we realised that. We were assured, but that promise was never fulfilled. What we realized is that the Congress did not give any importance to the public movement and mandate. That is when we decided to take this fight to the streets and by ourselves without any political help. We had no other way to pressurize the government.
If the government backtracks once again, what would you do?
We will continue to protest, but will ensure that it is a peaceful one. We realize that only non-violence will help our cause.
Don't you think that the students over-reacted by committing suicide?
No. It is very unfair on your part to say that. The students were genuinely concerned and they have been in this state since a long time. It was not done to stage-manage some drama, but their feelings were genuine and we will not let their sacrifice go waste. Moreover, we also realized that the government was targeting students unnecessarily.
So, who should get the credit for the statehood?
The people of Telangana and Chandrasekhara Rao. This is not a victory for the Congress. I know for a fact that they have tried to ensure that KCR and the people don't get credit for this movement.
What about Hyderabad?
Hyderabad is Telangana and Telangana is Hyderabad. There is no compromise on that. We don't have any conditions. All we want is Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital.
Why do you think that the Congress was dilly-dallying on this issue?
If Telangana had not seen the light of the day, it was only because of the people of Rayalaseema and the Congress. They have established businesses and have large tracts of land in these areas and at no cost did they want to compromise on their business interest.
Do you think this dream would have become a reality had YSR been alive?
With due respect to the departed leader, I would have to say that he was one of the main reasons for the delay. He did everything to scuttle the movement and also target some of the key leaders. He gave them important posts so that they would soften their stance.
Will Telangana be a prosperous state?
Yes, it will be. At present, there is no development, but there is no denying that it was a rich region. It was with the resources of Telangana that the rest of Andhra Pradesh was built. The government has always been biased in this issue. Not a single chief minister is from the Telangana region and majority of the ministers were from Rayalseema. In the past, we were assured that there would be either a CM or a deputy CM from Telangana, but this too has not happened. Is this not unfair? If we get a separate state, then Telangana will be prosperous.