Lost amidst bad news, Professor Kodandaram says he knows the road map
Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) chairman Prof M Kodandaram says he has no faith that the Congress will deliver a Telangana state and asserts that the party will pay a price for not responding to the people's demand. He also ruled out any compromise on the status of Hyderabad as an integral part of Telangana or accepting a Rayala-Telangana state. Excerpts from an interview with G S Vasu.
Police say they expect the Telangana March to be violent.
That is a meaningless argument. As anyone will agree, the Telangana movement has always been by and large peaceful. There have never been any attacks on property belonging to people of other regions. On the contrary, we have always sought good ties with them. It is the government that has been indulging in violence. Close to 1,000 people have sacrificed their lives for the sake of a separate state, and yet the government remains unmoved. It is the Coastal Andhra leaders who have been aggressive, often making irresponsible and insulting remarks.
Is there a rift between you and K Chandrasekhar Rao?
Absolutely not. He has adopted the mode of negotiation and we have chosen the path of agitation. That's all. So there are differences.
I wouldn't say these are differences. You could describe it as a divergence of approaches. The TRS feels that when negotiations are on, the movement can be suspended. We feel that the movement should go on independent of discussions until we extract a firm statement by the Centre.
But the TRS has been lukewarm to your Chalo Hyderabad call.
As I said, they are focusing more on negotiations. But the TRS too has announced its support to the Telangana March and we expect their participation along with that of other parties. If the negotiation process is exhausted and nothing comes out of it, even the TRS will join the agitation.
Won't the TRS' focus on negotiations take the sting out of the agitation?
No. We appreciate the TRS' efforts. In fact, this is a wonderful opportunity for the Centre and the Congress to utilise the channel of negotiations to find a solution. The TRS has said it is even willing to merge with the Congress. What more does the Congress want? Politically, such a merger will make the Congress an unbeatable force in the region. But unfortunately the Congress is controlled by a few vested interests from Coastal Andhra who are stalling separation of Telangana. The people of Coastal Andhra themselves are not against division.
Do you really share the TRS' faith that the Congress will someday deliver a Telangana state?
No, we don't. The Congress has cheated the people of Telangana more than once for us to have any faith. We are not willing to suspend the agitation based on media reports that the Centre is moving towards a decision. There has to be a firm statement with a specific time-frame.
There is speculation that the Centre is contemplating merger of Rayalaseema with Telangana to create a Rayala Telangana state. Are you okay with it?
NO. We want a Telangana state of which Hyderabad is an integral part. Rayalaseema and Telangana cannot together be one state. Regions acquire a certain identity over a period of time and states cannot be created merely on the basis of geographical contiguity.
Are you also non-negotiable on the status of Hyderabad?
If the proposal is to make Hyderabad a Union Territory, we are certainly against it. There are, of course, any number of other options on the status of Hyderabad. That can be discussed if the basic issue of creating a state is resolved.
What are these options?
I will not disclose them now. We will do so when the time comes.
Coming back to the Telangana March, there is fear that you are planning to storm the Assembly, the residences of Coastal Andhra leaders and so on.
We have already disclosed our plans. The plan is to form a haaram (chain) along Necklace Road and we will do so in a peaceful manner. The people who gather there will display their desire for a separate state in different forms. That's all. It will be a peaceful assertion of the collective will of the people. It is the police who are making it violent. They are dragging employees and teachers out of their offices and colleges and arresting them. Unofficial arrests are being made in large numbers.
How many people are likely to turn up for the march?
I don't want to guess the numbers, because the police have denied us permission. If they had allowed the march, I could have told you how many will participate.
There is a feeling that the TJAC is growing bigger than the TRS.
There is nothing of that sort. The TRS is a political party and we are a non-political entity. If a Telangana state is given, we will cease to exist. But representatives of TRS will exist either within the same party or as members of the Congress. But I can tell you that the three-month-long preparations we have been making for the march have helped in cosolidating the mood. The YSR Congress, which was confident of gaining some space in Telangana, is no longer able to do so. Likewise, the TDP has been pushed into the same kind of crisis that the Congress is already in. Ministers from Telangana will also face a severe existential crisis. While Coastal Andhra leaders have been together in their lobbying, ministers and MLAs from Telangana have not been able to project the same kind of unity or exert the same kind of pressure. Politically, this march will yield significant gains to the movement.
After September 30, what are your plans?
We have a clear road map.
What is that?
Why should I reveal it now? We will reveal it when the time comes.