Some 35 km onwards on the road is the mandal headquarters of Dubbaka and meandering another six kms on the country road (which seems to be remarkably good) we reach Chellapur village. It is here that a 16-year-old, class X student of the local school, Ramoji Swamy committed suicide for the sake of Telangana on Monday. Many locals surround us. “Why did this small boy take his life,” we ask. “For T-state,” say most of them. “The T-sentiment is very strong here. Every evening meetings are being held in Dubbaka to express these sentiments.” We ask: “Did Ramoji Swamy play an active role in these meetings?” The answer is that he used to go for the meetings, but was generally silent. But he was a supporter of the cause. “What happened on Monday that he took his life?” we ask. There is hushed silence. A boy standing there in an aside tells us: “Yes, everybody is saying that Ramoji committed suicide because of Telangana.” His manner convinces us that he wants to say something. But the dialogue cannot continue, because the boy’s mother standing at a distance shouts at him: “Go home. Go home.” The crowds collected are holding forth about the backwardness of Telangana in general and the village in particular.the journalists talk about panacea too. the report continues:
“There are no jobs. I have passed Intermediate science group, but I don’t know what to do next. There are so many boys who have done B Ed but are jobless,” says Kondal Reddy, a youth. “There is no water here. Water has to be dug from borewells that have to be sunk at least 200 feet,” says another youth Durvasa Raju. “What do you talk about water for irrigation. There is no water for cleaning clothes and even for drinking,” says a wizened old man. He says his name is Poshetti and he is a washerman. Finding that everybody is assuming that Telangana will be the panacea, the medicine for all ills, we ask what if their assumptions turn out to be false. “We will ensure that this does not happen. The funds will be with our people. The Andhra people won’t be able to take it away,” say all of them in unison.
Our next stop is the Zilla Parishad High School of which Ramoji Swamy was a student. The boy had attended classes till recess on Monday and then returned home. After partaking his lunch, the boy consumed pesticide. “He left a note behind that he was taking his life for the sake of Telangana,” everybody we met told us. Head master of the school Bendram Ram Reddy withdraws in a shell the moment we start asking him questions.both the suicides, in the journalists' view, were not for any grand cause. so, why do they think yadaiah was a genuine case? shaik ahmed ali isn't so sure (hat tip: kiran):
Fear is written visibly on his face. On his side is sitting a senior bio-science teacher of the school Mohammed Farooq. On our insistence, he answers on behalf of the head master. “Yes we were very surprised to hear that this boy had committed suicide. He used to go for meetings and rallies but nothing more. He was a normal boy, average in all respects,” says Farooq. “But why did he take his life?” we persist in our questioning. “Well, it is all due to these TV channels you know. They go on beaming the T-issue and the same visuals all the time. In 1969 also there was an agitation. I was a school student then. But we were hardly affected because news never reached us. But now things are different,” Farooq asserts. Somebody pipes in that this is the second death in the village due to the T-tangle. Earlier this month (Feb 4) a class 8 student Akula Mounika suffered a heart attack after watching a T-related visual on TV, we are told. Numbed by shock, classmates Dubbaka Shweta and Kankanala Srikanth say, “Suicide is no solution. We will carry our fight through rallies and protest marches.”
We decide to meet Ramoji’s family members. On the way in this large village that lies sprawled what with a population of 5,000, we are beckoned by a man. “Sirs, you are coming all the way, but let me tell you this boy did not die because of Telangana. The T-sentiment is very very strong here. But he did not give up his life for this reason,” says the man bluntly but requests us to keep his identity secret.
The story he narrates bamboozles us completely. “He was a nice boy, but a few months ago he stole the stereo set that was attached to somebody else’s tractor. He was caught and warned by village elders. But last week he committed the crime again and was found out. This time, the village elders took an undertaking from his father and uncle that if any tractor stereo were found to be stolen they would have to pay up. The father gave an undertaking,” our source reveals. He adds: “But at the same time the village elders chastened the boy and so did his uncle and father. This was a day before the suicide. Shamed or whatever, he took his life. As far as the suicide note is concerned, it was put in his hand after he died,” our source concludes.
We now go to Ramoji’s house. Everybody is waiting for his body that has been taken for post-mortem. We find his father Pentachari and uncle Balarathnam. Both are sozzled. “Why did Ramoji commit suicide?” we ask. A man sitting closeby (also dead drunk) asks us sharply: “Don’t you know he died for Telangana?” The father and uncle begin weeping.
On the way back we decide to drop in at the police station in Dubbaka, the mandal headquarters. Outside the police station, there is a pandal. A few people are sitting, wearing garlands. They are on relay hunger strike for T-state. The policeman is quite frank: “What story did you hear - that the boy committed suicide for T? Well the actual story is.... (and he repeats the same story that our source told us).” The police official adds: “If you ask me on the record, I’ll say he died for T. Why should I contradict it? Everybody wants Telangana. So do I. If I contradict the story, I will have to face the wrath of the people. If Telangana comes, what’s the harm? We shall benefit.” He ventures more on his own: “That girl Mounika had a heart problem for long. Her death has nothing to do with Telangana.”
On the way we are thinking. By faking suicide cases, aren’t these local T-activists harming their own cause? After all this faking will be found out sooner or later. Then like the boy who cried wolf, people would start disbelieving the genuine cases of suicide for the T-cause like that of Siripuram Yadaiah who immolated himself in Osmania University last week.
It happened once again.
On 20th February, a student Yadaiah attempted suicide by setting himself ablaze in the Osmania University campus in full public view. Minutes after he was shifted to the hospital, the Telangana agitators started waving his life-size photographs. Even copies of his 'suicide note' reached the scores of reporters covering the violence in the OU campus. While Yadaiah's love for Telangana is undisputable, I suspect whether he willingly attempted suicide.
At least I don't want to believe that Yadaiah's suicide bid was a spontaneous reaction. The authorities need to find answers for: who were all aware that he would attempt suicide; who were possessing the suicide note and why; when, how and who brought his life-size photographs in the campus and how the media representatives got access to his suicide note even before the police got it and why did he choose the place where the media cameras were present. The suicide bid was perfectly planned and timed in order to get maximum publicity. But who planned it?
So far, over a dozen students committed suicide 'demanding Telangana', but circumstantial evidences tell a different story. Almost all of them wrote similar text in their 'suicide notes' complaining of delay in formation of Telangana state. In all cases, media got access to the suicide note before the police got them. The authorities should find out if somebody was trying to exploit the sentiments of Telangana students by abetting them to commit suicide.
suicide, is among the top three leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds, in many countries. the recent spurt in telangana must be pulling it up to the top spot as the single leading cause of death among young people in the region. is someone trying to pull it up? the same people who don't find anything wrong in schoolkids committing suicide in large numbers? and for a grand political cause? like some kind of vultures, they seem too eager, and quick, to swoop down on these barely adolescent 'martyrs'.
on child soldiers, amnesty international says:
Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children under 18 have been affected by armed conflict.
They are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups. Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist “voluntarily”, usually because they see few alternatives. Yet international law prohibits the participation in armed conflict of children aged under 18.
It means that in reality girls and boys illegally and under force, participate in combat where frequently they are injured or killed. Others are used as spies, messengers, porters, servants or to lay or clear landmines. Girls are at particular risk of rape and other sexual abuse.
Such children are robbed of their childhood and exposed to terrible dangers and to psychological and physical suffering.
they might not have been recruited into any armed group or militia, but they're child soldiers in many ways. how can they not be considered soldiers if they can be enthusiastically feted as martyrs, later? whether directly, or through other means, the separatists have been taking their campaign into schoolyards-- shouldn't they be accused of robbing the childhood of these soldiers, especially in many of the villages in the few districts in which the movement appears to be strong? and especially of obc, dalit, adivasi and muslim kids in government schools? the private schools where the children of the separatist leaders and ideologues go aren't touched, of course. ironically, many among these recruiters, i mean people like prof. kodandaram, haragopal etc., have worked as human rights' activists earlier. many lives ago, it seems like now.