India’s President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the much-awaited, three day-long, Centenary Celebrations of Osmania University (OU) on April 26, 2017 at Hyderabad.
One of the oldest and biggest, once prestigious, OU has now 720 affiliated colleges with 3.2 lakh students including about 5000 from 87 foreign countries. The HINDU that morning reported:
The Vice Chancellor Professor Ramachandram in a media meet gave a veiled warning to the students. “The security detail of the President is taken care of by the National Security Guard. They will not tolerate any disturbance or untoward incident. Students have to think of the consequences if they try to create trouble,” he said. The uneasy truce was palpable from the fact that the student leaders and the VC addressed the press separately. It is a matter of prestige and pride for the varsity and it should not be affected due to petty politics. “We have to send a message to the world that this is a mature university. I know the academic image of the university has been affected over the past few years, but we are going to set it right. I will put across the demands of the students and I am sure the government will consider them,” he said.
The Report continues thus:
Several OU student unions today announced that they will not disturb the opening day function of the Centenary Celebrations which will be graced by President Pranab Mukherjee and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. “We don’t have trust in the Telangana government but we have faith in our Vice Chancellor S. Ramachandram. He has promised to fulfil the four key demands we have placed before him,” said one of the student leaders who spoke at VC’s Lodge on the OU campus. “Our four conditions for allowing the inaugural function to proceed smoothly include: Constitution of Executive Council, institution of fellowship for PG (Rs. 3000) and PhD (Rs. 8000) students, filling up the 700 vacancies in the university, and conduct of student council elections. The VC has agreed to these conditions. But if they remain unfulfilled after May 1, we will chalk out an agitation programme,” he said.
“We have to send a message to the world that this is a mature university,” said the VC.
How was this maturity displayed?
The following report is from newindianexpress.com:
HYDERABAD: In perhaps a first, fingerprint scanning linked with Aadhaar data is being used as an entry mechanism for a private event. In this case, at the inauguration of centenary celebrations at Osmania University (OU) in the city.
The varsity, expecting close to 20,000 participants including alumni, had made online registration mandatory and Aadhaar number was one of the requirements. The move has drawn criticism from activists….
In the run-up to the inaugural, OU has turned into a fortress. A two-tier security set up arranged will see deployment of 3,500 police personnel in and around the venue. CCTV cameras have been installed all across the campus and will be monitored centrally. Invitees are required to carry invitation card, valid ID proof (employee ID Card/student ID/Aadhar Card)
“Only invitees are allowed. Students will have to swipe their Radio-frequency identification (RFID) linked identity cards, their photographs will be compared. OU has arranged provision for biometric verification of one’s identity. We have made available sufficient gadgets and personnel for the purpose,” said a senior police official….
OU administration has prohibited cameras and photography equipment into the venue. Carrying helmets, mobile phones, bags, bottles, black flags, umbrellas, lighters, matchboxes, weapons, hazardous materials into the venue is also prohibited.
“It just shows the level of paranoia. OU has traditionally been very open and a genuine public institution. The use of surveillance mechanisms, including Aadhaar verification, being imposed with strong arms nationwide, is part of a larger issue,” said Padmaja Shaw, a former journalism professor from the varsity.
The university has indeed made seating arrangements for nearly twenty thousand people which include around 10 thousand students, 1,000 VIPs, 2,000 alumni, 1,020 faculty, 758 retired staff, 1800 non-teaching staff and 128 physically handicapped candidates. Attendants had to apply for entry pass online. 1,500 invitations were sent to affiliated colleges, said another report giving details. But many from all the categories mentioned above, with entry passes too, were denied admission due to the policing methods. Almost half the venue was vacant as many were denied admission.
POLICE STATE : Raids on hostels, arrests
As a result, though seating arrangements were made for upto 20,000 audience in 24 galleries, many PhD scholars and teachers also could not attend the function as passes for admission were given in a limited, conditional and restricted manner. They needed to download entry pass, linked with Hall Ticket Number or Employee ID Number…Finally when some of them went with such passes, they were asked to show Aadhar Card or other prescribed ID cards which many did not carry. As a result, many enclosures like the A-1 Gallery for 1000 VIPs, and B-2 Gallery for OU teachers were largely unoccupied even as thousands were disallowed from entering the venue.
Many reporters of the media, regulars on OU beat, were denied passes and disallowed allegedly because they had close links with many student leaders not in the good books of the administration or the state govt.
Several leaders of students’ organizations and activists of JAC of Unemployed Students (formed a few months ago) were detained, much before the inaugural, the night before and early morning. Many were detained at the nearby Amberpet PS until evening. City police said around 100 stndents were ‘rounded up’. Several OU hostels ( B, E, New Research Hostel etc) were surrounded by police who went inside rooms and picked up student leaders. Some were sent away from the surroundings of the venue. Many were informally detained/restrained within hostels.
The whole function was held amidst tight security, all roads were heavily policed, visitors being frequently stopped. Vehicles were stopped one km away from the venue. The inaugural function was to commence at 12.30 noon time, on a hot summer day with 41.5 degrees temperature. Buses would be arranged at pick-up points, it was said, but few were spotted. No proper drinking water arrangements were made at places required. No adequate toilets for women. Big LED screens would be arranged at various places, it was announced, for those who could not get into the venue.
Contrast this with arrangements made for the grand TRS Foundation Day, the very next day at Warangal. It was full of luxury for a few lakhs of people mobilized.
Reputed (Retired) Prof Kodanda Ram, prominent leader of TJAC that fought for separate TS, and known across Telangana, said he wanted to attend the function, but dropped the idea in the wake of arrests of many student leaders.
In one word, the whole atmosphere was smacking of a police state.
The CM and his government indeed had lost the trust of the students. The ‘trust in the VC’ mentioned above was merely a formal statement by the students if only to spite the CM and his government.
In fact this is the first time the CM visited the campus in almost three years after the new Telangana State (TS) was formed in the summer of 2014. He had no face to visit it though the OU campus, the focus of media coverage 24×7 until 2014, was a major battle ground in the prolonged agitation for separate TS.
Brief inaugural function curtailed further
The brief inaugural function, slated to last 60 minutes, abruptly ended with the Speech by the President, 22 minutes before schedule, as nobody else spoke as originally listed: The Chief Minister K. Chandra Sekhar Rao , popular and known to be a great orator, and projected as the supreme leader of the newly (2014) formed TS did not speak; nor the Governor (the Chancellor), the Education Minister of TRS Govt., the Union Minister B. Dattatreya (BJP), or two other speakers ….NONE of them listed in the program-sheet spoke.
Cultural programs went on for two hours before the inaugural speech. There was no participation by the students in it; it had nothing about the University, its academic or other contributions, the HINDU reported the next day, April 27. The students avoided violent protests during the Centenary.
Promise of Jobs and a democratic Telangana : Students feel cheated
The new government of TS almost lost the confidence of student community, more so at collegiate level. The movement for separate TS had ‘jobs’ (besides water and funds) as one of its key demands, and that was key to students who en masse worked for TS and also for TRS in the 2014 elections. The TRS Govt. came to power in 2014 promising and saying, unlike the integrated AP govt., it would fill all job vacancies (around 1.5 lakh govt. jobs), and exclusively with candidates from TS. Student and youth leaders became legislators (MPs, MLAs) and Ministers in the new Govt., raising hopes. The Govt spent thousands of crores on doles to cultivate and sustain its vote banks, but did little in tackling unemployment. Lakhs of students, aspirants, were preparing for competitive examinations, hoping for jobs, and spending thousands on food, stay and coaching every month, and this for years together. But sadly, in the last 3 years, hardly 10 percent of the vacancies were filled.
And major chunk of those jobs filled were of police constables for which lakhs of candidates applied and appeared for relevant examinations, including thousands of post-graduates and B.Techs. In the first batch of 7379 constables selected and being trained recently, 40 percent are graduates or PGs, and 20 percent B. Tech degree-holders, as per official information. There are more than 100 B.Ed.s ; thousands of teaching posts are awaited for more than three years now, and hence less numbers of them. There are many law graduates etc also among those selected.
Hundreds of vacancies in the OU itself, pending for years, were not filled in the three years of the new regime. Contract teachers remained as such for years. There are at least 12 departments which have not a single regular teacher. This situation has once again alienated, disappointed and angered the students and scholars.
The TS CM often tells the new state is a rich one with surplus budget. Thousands of crores of rupees is spent on doles for various vote-banks, Rs. 200 crores was announced on the occasion of OU-100 celebrations. But in the third year of TRS rule, out of 1264 teaching posts in OU, only 532 are filled, the rest 732 being vacant for years. 59 Associate Professors are actually working against 511 posts; and 321 Assistant Professors against 601, as per a current report. It is more than 10 years that regular recruitment took place. They would be filled in new state of TS, it was fondly hoped, but nothing happened in the last three years. Would they be filled before OU-100 function? See this report:
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao said the centenary celebrations of the Osmania University (OU) should be held on a grand scale. Mr Rao, who held a high level review meeting on January 24, 2017 with ministers, Vice Chancellors and officials on the issue, said the state government would not hesitate to spend any amount of money to restore OU to its past glory. ..”At the same time, the government will also take measures to have quality and standard education in all the universities in the state. The Vice Chancellors should begin ‘cleansing’ the universities,” a release from his office quoted Mr. Rao as saying. No notification for jobs was issued , however.
The OU posts would be filled at least before the OU-100 function, it was hoped, but no notification was issued.
The protest programs and rallies, with thousands of participants, on unemployment issue, ever more frequent, were repeatedly prohibited; scores of student leaders were framed up in cases and police barricades were back in place in OU.
Thus not only jobs were not created; even democracy was denied. Most of the separatist leaders lamented that the atmosphere of repression is worse than in united AP.
The VC’s warning, and police raj in the campus too, mentioned above, was perhaps part of the cleansing process .
The “ secular” and “democratic” TRS Government is not lagging behind the “ communal” and fascist Modi-led BJP regime and RSS in multi-sided “cleansing”, inside and outside university campuses. There were bans by TRS govt. ona beef-eating function by protesting students. Even the High Court did not permit it.
The Chief Minister outwitted the Hindutva forces in public display with his yagas, pujas, swamijis, jewellry for many Gods, all with public money. Of course, he is “secular” with his public shows on Christmas and Ramzan etc.
Police and Encounter Raj Back Again
Five Muslim youth were shot dead by Telangana police while in their custody, as undertrials, in a false encounter near Alair. Scores of Muslim youth are under illegal detention on mere grounds of ‘suspicion’ of their terrorist links. He is ‘secular’ here too, not sparing any. His Govt shot dead three youth, including two students, one of them Engineering woman graduate, for their alleged links with Maoists. Seven civil rights activists, including advocates, journalists, research scholars, from Hyderabad on a Fact Finding Mission to Chattisgarh, were arrested by Telangana police in December 2016 and handed over to Chattisgarh police! They were denied bail , and stll remain jailed there ! Hopes of democracy in new Telangana proved to be illusions. Meetings of writers and intellectuals on civil rights are being curbed in various ways. Adivasi and other poor peasants are attacked by police, arrested, evicted from lands they tilled for decades. Workers’ srikes and agitations , including by Anganawadi and municipal working women, were suppressed; their leaders were arrested, and Union activists removed from jobs.
Thousands of students defied the diktat of TRS Govt, which is going all out to divide, disrupt, buy over and suppress various sections of students. This crisis of confidence between students and the TRS govt. manifested itself in the Centenary of OU, regarded for decades as the mother of higher learning in Telangana.
Political consciousness and agitation in JNU and University of Hyderabad attracted attention from all over India in recent past. People have seen how Governments and pliable and loyal University administrators were undemocratic and vindictive; and how a section of students were determined, militant and fought for their rights. OU students stood with JNU and UoH student protests, but it was not much reported outside the region in recent past; in fact OU has been the centre of seething mass discontent among students. The ABVP, students wing of the of the Sangh parivar, could not make a significant dent despite Modi, though it always had some place in OU. The TRS at one time appeared to be on top, it showered promises and doles aplenty, but it lost its face with its failure on jobs front.
This situation in OU campus is nothing new; in fact it represents its legacy known for turbulent history of politics of OU students. A brief review of OU politics is attempted here in two parts.
Part-1 deals with the first ever political agitation by OU students, almost 70 years ago, in 1938, in the form of Vande Mataram agitation. Part-2 seeks to give a brief recap of campus politics of recent decades.
Part-1 : Based on DV Rao’s History of Telangana
Vande Mataram Strike (1938): The First Agitation in OU
When OU students felt let down by “national” leadership
2017 is also the birth centenary year of D.V.Rao (Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao, June1917-July1984) who was a student of OU and made a mark in the history of the Hyderabad State, of Telangana and India with his stellar, multi-sided role in the glorious Telangana peasant armed struggle (1946-51). He was a Lok Sabha Member during 1957-62. And he was known for his role as a veteran communist revolutionary leader, prolific writer and theoretician who shunned the parliamentary path. As an OU student from a rural background, already exposed to national movement from his school days, he participated in the Vande Mataram strike, and had his own observations on it.
The contradiction and conflict between the aspirations of the people and the machinations of ruling classes in the then Hyderabad State was objectively presented by D.V.Rao in his monumental History of People’s Armed Struggle of Telangana (1946-51), Volume I. This voluminous, authentic, well-documented book runs into about 450 pages in Royal Demy size. It was written by D.V.Rao, in Telugu, during 1982-84 shortly before his death in July 1984, and published in 1988 July, with successive reprints in 2014April and 2015February etc. The historical aspects of the following write up are based on Chapter IV of D.V.Rao’s book. It reflects a significant part of Hyderabad’s freedom struggle, of interest to general readership, and is particularly relevant in the context of OU at 100. It has its own lessons for the present.
The Vande mataram Strike of 1938 in the erstwhile Hyderabad princely state of the Nizam started as a feeble protest on October 24, 1938, organized by the Hyderabad State Congress that was recently started by the AICC. The Congress until then had avoided setting up its units in British India’s princely states so as not to antagonize the feudals as well as the imperialists. However, as the radical, nationalist, left and revolutionary forces were making their political impact across India, the Congress had changed its tactics and set up its Hyderabad unit. There was, however, poor response to the Congress call for satyagraha from the elite classes, many of them Hindu feudals, who were mostly loyal to the Nizam. More than 100 people in 18 batches, most of them young students of Hyderabad, participated in the Satyagraha which however was withdrawn without any assurances, after dragging it for two months until December 24, 1938.
Thus Congress and Gandhi had failed to make any serious impact in Hyderabad State. In fact, the withdrawal of Satyagraha was regarded by many as a betrayal. Swami Ramananda Tirtha, a key leader of Hyderabad State Congress, in his Memoirs said they were upset by Gandhiji’s advice which would undermine whatever influence the State Congress had and would help the “communal elements”. The Congress Satyagrahis were released and they walked out of jails even as thousands of youth were for continuing the satyagraha, for meeting the aspirations of the people. Tirtha wrote, “we felt the pinch” of public opinion but were “helpless”.
The youth were mostly from Hindu urban middle classes, with some amount of influence of the Hindu reformist, revivalist, Arya Samaj on them. Even as it upheld ‘vedic’ religion, Manu, and Chatur varna system, the Arya Samaj had opposed and campaigned against idolatry and untouchability; they held that caste was linked not with birth but with profession. The more communal RSS and Hindu Maha sabha, it is to be noted, had no role to play in Hyderabad State despite popular sentiment against the Nizam’s autocratic regime.
Gandhi and Congress failed to impress the youth, as also general masses of Hyderabad, more so at that stage. Support for the Congress and Gandhi was drummed up at a later stage, more so in and after 1948 when Union Armies marched into Hyderabad State in September 1948, aided by the Central power and military intervention that was couched in the name of Police Action (September 1948).
The Hyderabad State Congress, though weak, was banned for sometime by the Nizam State as it was linked to British India. Succumbing to the pressures by the Nizam regime, Congress had changed its name as National Conference (as in J&K), but still the ban continued. Many liberals, not ready to defy the ban, rather quit the Congress; one of such weak leaders, Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, later became the first Congress Chief Minister of Hyderabad State after Police Action. Gandhi and his ilk feared and discouraged any mass action, even peaceful satyagraha, and preferred individual (vyakti) satyagraha.
However, as the elders and the elite mouthed ‘nationalist’ slogans, youth and students were initially impressed. So they started visiting the satyagraha camps and discussed about it. Some of them from ‘C’ Hostel (that continued for decades) of OU, proposed and sang songs in the prayer hall of the hostel at dinner time. The prayer halls, curiously, had large-sized photos of some Hindu Gods like Rama and Krishna meant for worship coupled with devotional songs. They were however not much frequented until this time of Satyagraha. Now students started reciting Vande Mataram in all the three (A,B,C) hostels. The Nizam’s administration that had allowed idol worship of Hindu Gods in OU hostels, however, did not like Vande Mataram being sung.
So the University authorities including Hindu Professors, called groups of students and ‘advised’ them not to sing. A few articles, reflecting the official view, appeared in the newspapers saying Vande Mataram was a ‘communal’ song that cannot be sung in the hostel or in any Govt. facility. This provoked the students who thus were bent on singing the song. The prayer rooms were day by day getting full, in fact overflowed, and reverberated with Vande Mataram. University and Govt. authorities then issued orders banning the song and singing. A notice was put up in the hostels that students must vacate their rooms, and hostel mess would be closed from lunch time next day. That was in the OU of feudal, autocratic, Nizam’s regime decades ago. The same situation continues even today in JNU and University of Hyderabad, as also elsewhere, of ‘democratic’ India of 21st Century! This is what DV Rao aptly called Constitutional autocracy.
Even as the students were forced into packing up, help came in the form of trucks that offered to transport them to the Jain Mandir in the City where accommodation and food were arranged for the students. More than 100 students however preferred to march and went in a procession to Gowli guda, in the heart of the City.
Muslim students were devout, many were loyal to the administration too, but were not for confrontation with Hindu students who sang the song. Many of them were visibly sorry for the forced separation. A public meeting was held in Gowli guda, where students and others too spoke, and an Action Committee was formed. Then a call for students’ strike was issued which was successful in Hyderabad. Hindu Students of OU and City College boycotted classes. More than 600 college students joined the strike, a big number in those days. The Nizam college, with many students from Muslim elite, did not join the strike. Then the strike spread to Warangal, Gulbarga and Aurangabad towns that were also part of the then Hyderabad Princely State. The strike went on for several days.
OU authorities issued warnings that students would be rusticated if they did not join back within a stipulated time. None joined. The date was extended as the strike was 100 percent successful. OU students contemplated going to small towns and villages and to spread the strike to school students too.
The Action Committee had some loyalists who wanted to defuse the strike. They tried their best to avert the spread of the strike to schools. One such leader, |Raja Bahadur Venkata Rama Reddy, did his best in this regard. Even as OU students refused to back down, attempts were made to seek admissions in other Universities. Accordingly, students were despatched.
One such delegation of students went all the way to Visakhapatnam (700 Km away by train) and pleaded with Andhra University (AU), set up ostensibly with nationalist fervor, to admit students from OU so as to complete their studies. The Vice Chancellor (VC) Ramalinga Reddy Kattamanchi, a ‘nationalist’ scholar of repute, declined to help. It was later known that he had good relations with the Nizam, who was giving an annual grant of Rs. 2 lakh (a huge amount in those days) to AU.
Then the students went all the way to Varanasi, to Benares Hindu University (BHU), with Radhakrishnan Sarvepalli (later India’s President) as the VC. This ‘nationalist’ University also declined to admit the students. They too were receiving a similar grant from the Nizam. Students were perplexed and discouraged to know how ‘nationalist’ leaders and Universities were not ready to help students whose only crime was singing a ‘national’ song. Same was the case with some more Universities they tried.
On their way back, students went to Nagpur University and met the VC, one Mr. Kedar. He was sympathetic, appreciated the sacrifice of the students, but said the Senate and the local provincial Congress government (formed after 1937 polls) won’t like it. So he advised them to take to streets and agitate, and that would help; he would then press the Senate and get them admitted. He even promised to mobilize public support for the student’s cause.
Back in Hyderabad, the students had made consultations and preparations, and went to Nagpur, marched in a procession from the Railway Station. It was only after an agitation for 2-3 months that the VC could finally convince all concerned and got them all admissions. Science students joined in Nagpur Campus while Arts students joined Jabalpur Campus, and thus the students could finish their studies.
In the course of this agitation, interestingly, one day, the students went to Wardha Ashram, met Gandhiji in a 5-minute interview and sought his help in getting their admissions. Gandhiji told them, yeh bahut kathin samasya hai (it is a very tough problem). And thus ended the interview with no results.
That set the students thinking. The students also had an encounter with another big Congress leader, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, who also evaded an answer to their question. They also had an encounter with Subhash Chandra Bose (who was then elected AICC President in Tripuri Congress, near Jabalpur campus), who too did not intervene in the matter. They mused: If such big ‘national’ leaders like Gandhi could not help in such a small matter, what could be expected of such leadership? A few students, disappointed, had given an apology letter to OU and joined back. Some did not apologize and preferred to study in far away Nagpur. DV Rao was among those who refused to apologize. PV Narasimha Rao, later Prime Minister of India, was also among students who studied like that. At a much later date, the OU finally relented and lifted the ban on Vande Mataram.
The Vande Mataram Strike of 1938 in OU was one of the earliest such strikes by students at University level. It is apt to remember the historic strike at this time when OU is celebrating its Centenary.
The Satyagraha by Congressmen as well as the Vande Mataram strike by students had exposed the conservative and dubious character of most of the leaders of freedom movement, including Gandhiji. They were more for a token, controlled movement that helped their bargaining position vis-à-vis British imperialists. They were opposed to genuine, democratic mass movement, even while they gave calls like Boycott colleges, Boycott Courts, when it suited them. They had their supporters (as VCs etc) in Universities, centres of learning that were more intended to groom educated servants of ruling classes, who often played as their henchmen. Despite this, sections of students turned militant, integrated with national and democratic mass movements. These experiences turned many students and youth, including those from Arya Samaj and Congress, into communists and Leftists. The ideological, political, and practical work by communists in Telangana had a significant role in this transformation.
Part-2 : Political Economy, Campus Politics : Then and Now
The OU at one time was among the leading Universities of India. Apart from academics, it had produced scores of leaders both for the ruling classes, who became CMs, Ministers and Legislators, (PV became PM), and for the oppressed masses.
The OU over the decades, more so in the 1970s and 1980s, produced scores of leaders influenced by Marx, Lenin, Mao, as also Hochi minh and Castro who were living legends at the time, and whose victories were celebrated by the OU students. Together with Kakateeya University (Warangal) it had produced hundreds of supporters for Marxism-Leninism-Mao’s Thought, scores of revolutionary writers, poets, journalists and intellectuals who became part of various democratic and revolutionary mass movements of the oppressed people. One among them, George Reddy, a bright PhD Scholar, through his martyrdom (he was killed in OU campus, in April 1972, by RSS-ABVP goons) symbolized the revolutionary fervor of the 1970s. But a very large number of them later on avoided his idealist revolutionary romanticism and were steeled in more sustained struggles. Several of them, including quite a few women students, had joined revolutionary movements from their student days, faced worst repression from state apparatus, went underground, were jailed for years and many were tortured and killed. Dozens of them became leaders of revolutionary movements inside and outside AP and Telangana. Several of them later became and continue to be all India leaders. Such was the revolutionary legacy of OU. Many who later became Leftist feminists were also products of OU student movement.
The State apparatus had then shed all its democratic pretences, bared its fascist claws and fangs, and had turned OU into a police camp. University authorities were forced into subservience and they acted like stooges. They handed over details and photos of student leaders to the police, who were given a free reign for years in OU. There was no need for any VC’s permission to enter colleges and hostels. Fascism reigned supreme.
The revolutionary left in the campus was systematically crushed with iron heels through a prolonged and comprehensive police campaign that went on for years. The OU campus as also the entire Hyderabad city were kept under perpetual prohibitory orders, not for years but decades in a row.
Simultaneously, students wings of ruling classes, the NSU of Congress and ABVP of BJP, who were nullified by the revolutionary Left for years, were brought back with explicit political, state and police support.
Later on, Reformist Left and Ambedkarites were also given a breathing space, more so after 1990s. Anti-Congress politics, more so Prime Minister VP Singh’s Mandal, and NTR’s National Front politics, had a role to play. Divisive and diversionary tendencies, ideologies and movements were played up, aided by the handmaid of the media. Casteism that was quite weak in OU was strengthened. Mandal and kamandal were to replace revolutionary left, more so in the ninetees and later.
All this was a part of a larger game-plan of the ruling classes and their Governments all over India, driven as they were by economic and political crises. It was these crises that also lead to separate Telangana movement, which intensified after the year 2000.
The India of later 1960s witnessed a worst economic crisis, agrarian crisis, unemployment etc that led to a variety of movements including Naxalbari. The OU (along with Kakateeya University) had in that context become a hot-bed of separate Telangana politics in late 1960s for 4-5 years, partly fueled by internal feuds of the ruling Congress party. The dissident Congress leader from Telangana, Dr. Marri Chenna Reddy, led and fanned it only to ditch it later on to twice become the Chief Minister of United AP! Hyderabad city had witnessed a sort of urban insurrection, mainly by students. And armed Central police forces took over for months. More than 350 students and youth were shot dead by police by the Congress regime in that process, perhaps as nowhere else in India.
The students realized the betrayal and learnt their lessons. Anti-feudal struggles, in particular Naxalbari and Srikakulam peasant struggles, and anti-imperialist struggles internationally, mainly Vietnam that was marching towards its liberation in 1975, now inspired them. Many of them being from rural areas where revolutionary Left wave was sweeping, the OU and hinterlands of Telangana became seats of intellectual fervor and practical activity where students and young teachers worked in tandem, learning from each other. Left-wing student and cultural movements griped the students, whole of Telangana. Thus followed, more than two decades of dominant role for revolutionary left in OU. With the heavy hand of the police state, as well as deceptive and diversionary politics, the State agencies tackled the latter.
Meanwhile the LPG era of 1990s arrived, ushered in by PV-Manmohan duo, economic reforms was the catch-word, and it was advanced by Vajpayee-led NDA/BJP’s Stage-2 reforms marked by India Shining campaign. Thus the A team and B team of Indian ruling classes, stitched together in unwieldy but inevitable alliances of UPA and NDA, each incorporating 15 to 20 opportunist ‘regional’ parties, led India along a more dependent and perilous path of IMF-dictated policies wherein imperialist globalization, led by US imperialism, held sway. Privatization and commercialization of education and medicare was systematically promoted by the Indian state.
In AP, an IT-centric and hi-tech Cyberabad (as new Hyderabad was called) was created with investments of thousands of crores of rupees; the opportunist and comprador TDP regime of Chandra Babu Naidu (1994-2004)had sailed with both ‘secular’ UF (with outside support of Congress) and ‘communal’ BJP, played havoc with AP’s economy and polity, to relegate the old Hyderabad and its OU into utter neglect and oblivion, not to speak of rural hinterlands and agri-related sectors. Privatization in education, medicare and transport, and related brokers and power-brokers, were promoted with state support dumping the old era where public sector had some role to play earlier.
IT jobs for some held sway, while traditional industry, agriculture and related employment were dumped. All this led to discontent, despair and unrest, not only in AP but also across India. All this led to the stunning defeat of Vajpayee’s NDA and and Chandra Babu’s TDP in 2004 elections, taken advantage of by Congress in a game of musical chairs. Alerted by this defeat, a weakened Congress had to depend on parliamentary Left for sometime. And thus in 2004 UPA-1’s Manmohanomics returned, but with its slogan of reforms with human face (obviously not human heart), aided by reformist Left, only to be followed, in a seamless manner, by the more brazen era of aggressive reforms by UPA-2. It paved the way for BJP and NDA rule in 2014, with Modi being the chosen leader of the ruling classes who hope a double term, as for UPA, so as to push their agendas in an unhindered manner. Hindutva of the softer variety of PV and Congress yielded place to the more crude, hard-core Hindutva of BJP to grease the juggernaut of the exploiting classes, both being subservient to US imperialists.
All this once again led to severe discontent, massive unrest, and unending economic and political crises. Parties and political forces were riven with factionalism and splits. Casteism was nurtured and exploited, from above and from below. And thus OU had once again become restive and turned into a strong-hold of separatist politics, intertwined with casteist politics, since late 1990s. OU colleges were frequently closed for weeks and months amidst massive agitations. It was in such a background that Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was formed in 2001, led by K. Chandra Sekhar Rao, a disgruntled dissident leader and ex-Minister of TDP, the latter a party, as is well-known, founded by NTR who swore by Telugu nationality’s unity and self-respect. He was in TDP for almost 20 years and split it to float separatist TRS. And the newly formed TRS grabbed the opportunity, aided by a divided Congress and sundry political forces of Left, revolutionary and caste-based descent, and jumped into the fray with the slogan of separate Telangana. OU colleges, and students and teachers, and educational field in general, were gripped by and in turn fueled separate Telangana agitation. The Congress government of AP went all out to contain the agitation with arrests of, and cases framed against, hundreds of student activists and leaders. It avoided cruel policing and killings of 1970s that had then radicalized the students. As it proved to be counter-productive, Telangana Congress leaders, egged on by Central leaders, played a dubious and double game, literally hunting with the hound and running with the hare. They aided TRS and there was a talk of merging TRS with Congress if separate Telangana was conceded by the UPA-2.
Once again the OU campus was taken over by police, but they were asked to operate with soft gloves, unlike the iron heels of 1970s-90s. There were dozens of bandhs and boycotts, and academic life was almost absent for two years preceding formation of separate Telangana state in 2014 summer. Political leaders of all hues curried favor with OU students and media vans operated 24 X 7 from OU campus.
Sonia Gandhi was projected to be sympathetic to Telangana. Ultimately, in a confused situation the UPA and the Congress conceded Telangana in 2014, only to lose in the General elections. And TRS went away with the trophy and merger did not take place.
The recent turmoil in JNU and University of Hyderabad (UoH) which had its echoes in OU was much smaller than that in OU in all dimensions, if the quarter century since 1970s was taken for comparison. Student movements are a significant part of the wider political canvas, but ultimately conditioned by the latter.
The TRS and its leader KCR were always viewed with suspicion by OU students. In fact at the peak of separate Telangana agitation, KCR’s effigy was burnt, more than once, by students in OU and elsewhere. Despite his populist ways and idiom, he was viewed by many, more so students from lower classes and castes, as a representative of Telangana landlord classes.
The students and educated youth had for sometime some hopes if the new Govt led by him would solve the massive unemployment problem, aggravated all the more by the continued economic crisis in the US and the West that had cast its long and dark shadow on India’s growth story. But increasingly, it was evident that he basically toed the same path of imperialist-led, jobless growth path. The three years of TRS rule, despite all the promises and doles linked with vote-bank politics, did not solve basic problems of people including the land question and unemployment, also of the educated youth. Hundreds of peasants of Telangana committed suicides, like in the past, in these three years.
There was not even a climate of marginal democracy that was promised and expected in the course of separate Telangana agitation. The last straw in the camel’s back was brazen repression, even on students and their protests in recent past. All this manifested in the gaudy function of OU-100 but accompanied by a grand alienation of students and alumni of OU. And the most populist, vocal, and wordy politician chose to be silent surprising one and all.
(The author of this article is a media person who was a graduate student of OU, and a PG student of journalism from a sister University that was an offspring of OU. He is greatful to many friends and seniors for their inputs.)