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Why Telangana's Muslims, Dalits prefer a united AP

By Vicky Nanjappa
April 19, 2012 14:50 IST
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The minorities and Dalits, who constitute 40 per cent of the Telangana population, are now saying that they will prefer to remain in a united Andhra Pradesh rather than have a Telangana which is controlled by "communal forces", reports Vicky Nanjappa.

There can be no two thoughts over the fact that the Telangana movement has been the biggest challenge for the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh. Till the recent past, the impeccable unity behind the agitation for a separate Telangana consistently kept the government on its toes.

However, that unity has seen a sea-change in recent days, as the present-day Telangana movement has been marred by infighting, tensions and a complete lack of political will.

The split in the Telangana movement is wide open nowadays. The last couple of months have seen a number of communal clashes in the region which is the reason why the minorities have started to feel insecure. They are also blaming the political Telangana Joint Action Committee for not taking into account the "rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party" in the region.

Minority leaders say it all began with the death of Professor Jayashankar. Under him the movement was perfect as it was fought on only one issue: a separate Telangana state. But following his death a vaccum has been created and the movement today has gone out of control, they say.

Political parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi are worried about their position in the region and in the bargain many persons have been trying to take over the movement. The clear divide within the movement has given both the state and the Union governments plenty to relax about.

There were deadlines which had been set to arrive at a decision on the movement. Both the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party leaders from the Telangana region were supposed to resign from their positions, but that has not happened and this could well be attributed to the complete lack of interest and pressure from those who are fighting the cause.

Lateef Mohammad Khan, who heads the Muslim Forum for Telangana, says that initially they were optimistic. "It was horrifying for the Muslims to live in a united Andhra Pradesh. But today, looking at the way things have been shaping up, we would prefer the existing set-up than a separate Telangana which would be controlled by communal forces," he says.

"We do not want the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideology to rule the new state. The Congress had played its cards right when it put down the Leftist movement. Under that movement there was only the talk of a cause and no religious feelings. Telangana was the religion, but today, that is not the case. All of us, Christians, Muslims and the Dalits have decided to stay mum and not take part in the movement because in today's situation if the state is created then it will be hell for us," Khan adds.

"There was the Sangireddy riot and now the beef festival incident (at Osmania university). Even the number of rallies and processions being taken out by the communal forces has all increased two-folds and this is not giving any sort of security to us. The by-election result of Mahboobnagar was the turning point and the moment the BJP won there we realised that the region would be ruled by communal forces," Khan points out.

Even the other Muslim groups strongly feel that this is the time the JAC should step in and take control. However, the JAC is on sleep mode. It is time they take control and have a confidence building exercise, Khan adds.

While the unity among the various communities in Telangana looks unsteady, there is also a major shake-up at the Osmania University recently in the form of the controversial beef festival. There is growing animosity between different student groups at the university which was the erstwhile epicentre of the Telangana movement.

Student leaders say it was an unwanted controversy and "over something as simple as food, the unity in the campus has been shaken up".

A JAC leader requesting anonymity says that the divide and rule ploy has worked for the ruling Congress. "I would not say that they entirely stage-managed it, but they did add fuel to the fire. There is no pressure whatsoever on them today and even their MLAs from the Telangana region have forgotten that they need to resign to step up the pressure, as the movement is in tatters today," the leader says.

However, the other viewpoint to the emergence of the BJP in Telangana is that finally there is a party which could counter the TRS. The latter has been running the movement as if it was its sole property. But today the BJP looks like an emerging force and this would keep the TRS on tenterhooks as the BJP has a bigger say at the Centre.

In the meanwhile, this divide has given the likes of the Congress and also the YSR Congress ample breathing space. They are expected to make good use of this split and each one of them has been trying to woo the disgruntled minorities and Dalits of Telangana.

Telangana leaders say the game is not up and that all this has taken place only due to delayed decisions. Had the leaders from the region in the ruling parties been more firm, then the issue would have been resolved a long time back. However, all attempts are being made to strike a balance and ensure that the movement is back on track, the leaders add.

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Vicky Nanjappa