On Sunday, leaders of civil society groups and opposition parties in Telangana went into hiding. The reason: A proposed “capture” of Dharna Chowk scheduled for Monday. The police was yet to give permission for the protest that was against the state government’s decision to move Hyderabad’s version of Jantar Mantar to the city’s outskirts.
The last time the groups led by Telangana Joint Action Committee chief M Kodandaram attempted a protest, the government denied permission and police even broke down Kodandaram’s door in the wee hours of the day to detain him. So the leaders chose to lie low.
On Monday, all the opposition parties joined hands with Kodandaram to lay siege to Dharna Chowk. The police hastily gave permission even as a Left leader was injured in a clash. At the site, reporters noticed ruling TRS members and even police claiming to oppose the protest on behalf of residents who wanted Dharna Chowk shifted out, even as some residents gave protesters water through the day.
The irony, of course, is that the state is run by a party that itself fought for a separate Telangana, alongside people like Kodandaram, from the very Dharna Chowk it wants to shift.
This is not the first time the government has tried to use a sledgehammer to swat a fly. Another example was the level of security at the recent inaugural event of Osmania University’s centenary celebrations. Security at OU, the bedrock of the Telangana movement and the CM’s alma mater, was tightened.
Guests and students were even subjected to biometric scans and student leaders detained to ensure no black flags marred the function. Monday’s events are the latest sign of the TRS’s deep discomfort with the democratic processes—including the right to dissent—that swept it into power in the first place.
The government seems not to understand that engagement with dissent may be a mutually beneficial strategy than the inclination to crush it, which can only lead to more anger and discontent.