Feb.13 : The movement for Telangana has now touched a peak. It has also become a movement with unique characteristics. Masses belonging to all walks of life have come out to the streets with their cultural symbols. We can see dalit-Bahujans beating drums and dholaks, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with their ploughshares and bullock carts, shepherds with their flock, toddy tappers with their moku (rope assembly use to climb the trees) and muttadu (is the belt they wear to keep their hatchet) and stone-breakers with their own iron artifacts.i don't see why ilaiah views telangana and power as two contradictory goals. telangana is power. it might not mean much change in the power equations at the village and district levels, but in hyderabad, where most power is concentrated, a new state would require a full-fledged ministry of its own, among other things. now, who gets the power is the critical question.
The festive game of Bathukamma (a women’s festival celebrated mainly during Dussehra, pro-Telangana activists are performing the Bathukamma on the highways as a form of protest and to highlight their Telangana identity) was also enacted. It was being projected as a cultural symbol.
During the age of Nizam, Bathukamma used to be enacted by the Shudras — mostly OBCs. Dalits were not allowed to participate as they were seen as pollutants even by the OBCs of lower order. And the upper caste women — particularly Brahmins, Komatis, Reddys and Velamas — would not participate as it was seen as Shudra festive game. They thought it was below their dignity. Now suddenly some Dorasanlu (women of dominant castes) went to this play as a symbol of the agitation. Is it for Telangana or for power? [emphasis mine]
the involvement of certain articulate sections from a few obc, dalit communities and some adivasis like the lambadas has helped the separatists aggressively publicize the dubious claim that it is a broad-based social movement. that it is not a political movement, or a movement led by politicians, but a movement for 'self-respect', 'self-rule' etc. will this movement help the obcs, dalits and adivasis gain 'self-respect'? the answer to that question depends on the answers to a few other questions.
how many of the top leaders of the political joint action committee spearheading the agitation are obcs and dalits? very few. ilaiah himself points out their role in the current agitation:
The most interesting thing is that while the lower castes are using their cultural symbols to achieve a separate Telangana, the members of former feudal families are playing the politics of agitation. We also see a surprising unity between some Reddy and Velama political lords. The whole attempt by these two caste forces is to control the political joint action committee (JAC) that is driving the Telangana agitation. Some academicians have also been drawn in to mediate between those two otherwise politically warring castes.so, whose 'self-respect' are the agitators talking about? there are very little chances of a new state ushering in any significant improvement in the political representation of the obcs, dalits and adivasis in the institutions of power, thereby radically enhancing their social standing or 'respect'. they're not going to get any new power. a few more members from 4-5 large obc castes (out of a hundred odd obc communities in andhra pradesh) might get elected to the state legislature, but that would only mean a slight improvement on the current low base of obc representation which stands at around 15% of all legislators.
It is as if the stereotype of future Telangana is being played out — “We will play politics and you should play Dhoom Dham, Bathukamma and drums”. [emphasis mine]
anant maringanti makes a significant observation in a recent article in the economic and political weekly ('Telangana: Righting Historical Wrongs or Getting the Future Right?', jan23, 2010 issue; thanks, anandaswarup):
The creation of electoral democracy and revenue administration at the mandal level opened up a unique space for the backward castes in Telangana who comprised small and medium farmers with little access to irrigation facilities. The first generation of the leaders benefiting from this strategy are now important leaders in the TDP and have been, by and large, the most ambivalent about the separate state demand. However, over the last 15 years, a number of new social groups have emerged at this scale whose efforts at upward mobility have not been very successful. It is those social groups, who have hit various road blocks to social mobility, that are the ones who are the most vocal in demanding a separate state.the obc leaders who have achieved a certain degree of power in the tdp since the party's inception in 1983, mostly come from the few, large obc communities i'd talked about earlier. now, a new generation of aspirants from the same communities are trying desperately to find their way into institutions of power in general, and the state legislature in particular. their success can only happen through the displacement of the older generation of obcs, mostly in tdp and a few in the congress, because the reddies and velamas have a strong entrenched presence in all political parties, especially in the congress. therefore, a new state would obtain very few net gains for the obcs in hyderabad, and their political presence in the countryside wouldn't change much.
both the major political parties, the congress and the tdp, made tall promises about including more obcs among their candidates' lists in the long run up to the 2009 elections, mostly to neutralize any major shift among obc voters toward chiranjeevi's praja rajyam party which had talked about fighting for 'social justice', or more representation for the obcs. but eventually, neither party stood by its promise and chiranjeevi himself fielded obc candidates in constituencies where his party had little chances of winning.
neither chiranjeevi, whose party tried to project itself as a party of the backward classes mostly, nor the current telangana agitators have evolved any theoretically sound anti-caste agenda, or a programme of 'social justice'.
the few dalit and obc leaders among the separatists who tried to raise the issue of caste at public meetings, and in other fora like the jac conferences, have been shouted down, silenced and even attacked. and even a dominant section of the students, who have supposedly made this agitation a 'people's movement' according to its propaganda artists, have aggressively opposed any discussion of the caste question by saying: 'Kulalu vaddu, mataalu vaddu, Telangana muddu' ('no castes, no religions, we want telangana', roughly) and 'all for Telangana'. doesn't that sound like the 'youth for equality' agenda?
so, who's going to get the power? the movement does not even challenge entrenched social groups on the question of political representation for the obcs or muslims. the share of the dalits and adivasis in the new state assembly shall not increase. like space bar says here, it might seem like the politicians have no control over the 'movement' now, but we also have to look at the question of who gains 'power' from this movement, whose ends does it meet, to understand who is trying hard to make it look like a 'people's movement'.