The death of Venugopala Reddy, a student who set himself on fire to demand the creation of a separate Telangana state at the Osmania University, shocked the nation and forced agitators to renew their protests over the issue.
Dr Sangam Prithviraj Yadav, chief of the Students' Joint Action Committee for the Telangana movement, claims that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which has been at the forefront of the movement, is actually delaying the creation of a new state. In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, he explains why.
The number of students committing suicides has apparently gone up due to the Telangana movement. What do you think is the reason behind this?
How much more will the politicians confuse us? All this is happening because the central and state governments are constantly changing their stance. One day, they gave hope to all of us and now they are singing a different tune. Telangana is not just about Hyderabad and the movement here. There are problems at the grass-root level which none of them want to go into.
The political parties are working to resolve this issue. Don't you think it is better to wait for a while? You have waited for 50 years.
Ninety per cent of students from Telangana don't have jobs. Government jobs have been looted by the people of Andhra and Rayalseema. Government Order 36 clearly states that the people of Telangana should be given some preference (while allocating jobs), but this has not been done. People from Andhra and Rayalseema, who had come here to set up industries, were aware that people of Telangana had to be given preference. But that has not happened.
The students are insecure. They have spent money on their studies and when Union Home Minister (P Chidamabaram) promised us a state, they all felt hopeful. Now they are back to square one. Moreover, when we talk of Hyderabad and its development, we are only looking at areas such as Jubilee Hills or Banjara Hills, which have been developed by the people of Andhra and Rayalseema. Look at the rest of Hyderabad, it is in shambles since these are the places where most Telanganites stay.
But this has always been the case. Why have the students suddenly started reacting this way now?
If you are given hope and then it is snatched away from you, you will realise how it feels.
How many people have given up their lives for Telangana?
Today three people have died. In the past three days, there have been at least 18 deaths. Over the past 50 days, the figure must be around 140.
I am not trying to be rude here, but in India there is a tendency to exaggerate such figures.
Please take your words back. We don't need to exaggerate figures. I am only talking about genuine deaths, not like the ones which were reported after the death of (Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister) Y S Rajashekhara Reddy.
We don't need death statistics to fight the movement. Not only students; over 8,000 farmers have died in the last one decade. Come here and have a look at the plight of the people. You will know what I am talking about.
As a leader of the students' JAC, isn't it your responsibility to ensure that students don't kill themselves?
Everyday, I make appeals to the students. It saddens us that parents are losing their children. The situation is going out of our hands and the government has to act quickly. The leaders have to stop confusing us and ensure that food from our mouths is not taken away any more.
Our jobs have been looted and our lands exploited. Telangana is rich in coal and people from outside are extracting it like there is no tomorrow. They will just loot us and leave. It is not only about Hyderabad and real estate. They are also interested in the coal and once it's over, they will leave.
Even water availability is a major issue. The Jala Yagnam project by Dr YSR was to steal water from us. We get only 20 per cent of the water from the Krishna River. The water is stored here but someone else gets to drink it.
The state elections were held recently and you have voted for your leaders. Why aren't you talking to them?
What do we talk about? We are only watching their drama. All the leaders are playing a game. If they were sincere (about the creation of Telangana), why would there be a delay? We have sent five Members of Parliament from Telangana and till date, none of them have raised the issue in the House. You really think that students like to come out and protest this way or kill themselves? If our leaders were sincere, we wouldn't need to do all this.
What do students feel about the TRS and its stand on the issue?
They are no different and they are just playing along. I don't know what kind of deal they have entered into, but I can state with confidence that they are not at all sincere. If they were really sincere, then why would there be a delay? Why haven't the leaders resigned till now and why are they giving time (to the Centre)? The TRS and the Telugu Desam Party are the biggest exploiters and they are only cashing in on the sentiments of the people.
But TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao is the face of the movement and things got rolling only after he began his fast.
This is not correct. When KCR was an Union minister, he didn't visit his constituency even once. He has not addressed our issues at all. Do you remember when he went on a fast and people committed suicide? It was not because of him fasting, but because of the movement. The TRS used this card to gain political mileage. KCR is just a spark in this movement, but the real movement is that of the people. What will KCR do for us? Nothing.
What about the intellectual figures in the movement?
If you are talking about Jayashnakar and Kodanda Ram then I am sorry, but at the moment they are behaving just like agents of political parties. They should come out with us and guide the movement.
What will the students tell the leaders of the movement?
Our patience has run out. We want to tell the leaders to stop discussing the issue behind closed doors. Come out and fight with us on the streets. Come and see what it feels like since we are the ones who take the lathis and bullets.