Police fired in the air and caned Osmania University students carrying the body of their colleague Wednesday as Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region was again on the boil with two suicides triggering fresh protests for a separate state.
K. Venugopal Reddy, a final year MCA (master of computer applications) student, self-immolated on the campus of Osmania University. His charred body was found in the campus. The same day, Tuesday, a girl student set herself ablaze in Mahabubnagar district, giving a new twist to the movement to carve out a separate Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh.
In their suicide notes, both Venugopal Reddy and Suvarnamma, a first year BSc student, said they were afraid Telangana state would not become a reality.
The suicides came a day after the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Telangana students launched a walkathon. The all-party JAC also continued their relay hunger strike to urge the central government to immediately initiate the process of forming Telangana state.
There had been an apparent lull in the region since the central government convened an all-party meeting in New Delhi Jan 5. Pro-Telangana parties expected an announcement on a separate state, but the central government kept mum.
It was expected to be quiet till Jan 28 – the deadline set by the groups for New Delhi to initiate the process – but the two self-immolations in one day altered the situation.
Osmania University, the nerve centre of the ongoing movement, and other universities in the region erupted in anger.
On Wednesday, Osmania University students clashed with police and paramilitary forces when they were prevented from proceeding towards the city. They had kept Reddy’s body in the campus through Tuesday night and wanted to take it to the Martyrs Memorial near the assembly building.
Several students were injured in the clash, one critically, eyewitnesses said.
The political JAC had announced that peoples’ representatives would submit resignations from Wednesday and those who had already done so would press the concerned authorities to accept them.
The political JAC is keen to trigger a constitutional crisis through the resignations to force the central government to make an early announcement. However, cracks appeared in the apex body with a section of ruling Congress party leaders opposing the idea of creating a crisis.
Political analysts said with students taking the movement in their hands, the elected representatives irrespective of their party affiliations would be under pressure to quit.
"The contradictory statements made by central leaders of Congress party since the Jan 5 meeting have created confusion and this is responsible for the suicides by students," said political JAC convenor M. Kondandaram.
According to Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader Harish Rao, more than 30 Telangana supporters have ended their lives since the last week of November when TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao launched a fast-unto-death demanding Telangana state.
"We are repeatedly appealing to students and youth not to lose heart and take their lives. The centre alone can put an end to the suicides by making a clear-cut announcement with a time-frame," said Harish Rao.
The 11-day fast by TRS chief and mass protests in Telangana had forced the centre on Dec 9 to announce that the process for formation of Telangana state would be initiated.
With the suicides putting Telangana on the boil and those opposing division of the state also gearing up to constitute a JAC, there seems to be no end to the protests and counter-protests over Telangana.
–Indo-Asian News Service