Phantom Menace

It is unfortunate that rationale becomes the first casualty when blind passion turns into pure rage. Now that the decision has been made by the powers that be that the nation would henceforth sport two telugu speaking states and that the ruling for all intents and purposes appears to be irreversible, it is time to take a deep breath and take a stock of the real gains and the true losses in the transaction. Media, which has a real business reason to fan the flames, so that it can peddle more of the "news" and increase its net worth in the process, has  no motivation in staking the middle ground and finding a compromise. Career politicians, who are battling for their soapboxes, remain steadfast to their hardlines and toe the the line of the sentiment, than of reason. And so are other stakeholders, the businessmen, the vested interests, whose balance sheets are effected by which direction the weather wane turns. But what about the regular folk, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the protests, shunning schools, boycotting colleges, burning buses, damaging property, essentially waging their own fates in what is essentially a zero sum game? Students who haven't even grown lip rugs yet are shown screaming in anger at the cameras, usually setting something on fire, or about to smash the panes of stationary vehicles unfortunately parked near by. Employees usually take the safe route doing a sit down on roads forming human chains, or consuming healthy servings of road side cooked food. Unions - trade, auto, road & rail transport - contribute their mite shutting down the services at the drop of the hat. There is an ironic cartoon by R.K. Lakshman, where his ubiquitous common man looks on at a gambler in a race course, who has the horse and the jockey staring right in his face, with the jockey asking "well, you screamed at us to come on and we came. so, now what?". It applies aptly to the situation, now what?

First of all, the argument whether a separate state is needed or not is a never a logical one as long as there are only two sides making the case - one for and one against. Each side has its own "facts" and "figures" supporting its argument that would confound and confuse a neutral person into siding one way or the other. Water has not been shared justly between the two areas, points one side. Well, your side is not conducive to agriculture as ours is, counters the other. Nevertheless, we didn't get our share of water, screams the former. Both points have merit to them. Even trickier areas involve cultural domination/hegemony/subjugation. It is a fact that the mainstream language treads the line of a certain area's lingua franca. It is not just with Telugu. It the same with every language, every region all over the world. Hindi has probably hundreds of different dialects, spoken across tens of different states in the entire Hindi belt, but what is adopted for mainstream communication might be spoken by people from one particular region alone. There could be historical reasons why only that form was chosen against the others, but to consider that the others have been given step-motherly treatment is both right and wrong at the same time. Same goes with English. Either the choice could be to ignore the slight and move on to bigger and better things or like the general practice that is prevalent in India, keep correcting the historical injustices - particualarly when it comes to naming conventions - and go on erasing and rewriting the same script over and over again. Jury is still out whether calling Madras Chennai or Bombay Mumbai or Calcutta Kolkata (this one is a howler, even among the laughables) or Bangalore Bengaluru (this takes the silver medal) has done anything to alleviating or elevating the status quo, but the country keeps trying nevertheless. Similarly, it is a fact that Telangana dialect lost out to the coastal (in particular Krishna and Guntur dialect) usage probably some centuries ago, but using that histotic inequity as a contemporary burning issue for finding a separate space doesn't show progress. Instead, the dialect could be promoted by the plethora of linguists, poets and other literateurs in other interesting ways, without looking for the crutches of state sponsorship or patronage, and let the dialect duke it out on its own. Anyway, as said before, the issue was never a logical one in the first place.

But that doesn't mean to say that it is an illogical one either. The boon (or bane) of democracy is, right or wrong comes only second to the voice of the people. If people vote to have or not to have a certain privilege, the reason or intention behind it doesn't matter a bit. Like with the moral choices (gay vs straight, abortion vs right to life, death penalty vs clemency), majority decides what direction the state has to take, and state (or the intellectual community) does not have a say in the matter. So when one region of a state decides to have its own identity separate from its umbrella organization and the decision is made clear in a number of elections held specifically on the agenda, there is no force on earth that can deny that populace their right to self-rule - if a country considers itself an upholder of democratic and sovereign values, that is. But the problem is not as simple as a bunch of people voting one way or the other. Every federal state is held together by a bunch of rules that have been approved by its constituent members that they vowed to abide by no matter what, to keep the structure solid and the country strong. So when in 1956, when the country enacted a rule that states be split apart on linguistic basis causing the formation of new states, the rule sounded just and logical, as it was approved by almost all of its constituent states. But now, when development/cultural identity is stated as the new edict to form new states, the ground gets shakier. What are the benchmarks of developement or identity - how low is too low or how ignored is too ignored? Who decides on who is dominating whom and who is oppressed by whom? Though not eactly moral choices, these moving targets has no real right or wrong answers. Is Adilabad more developed or less than Srikakulam? And what is development in the first place - because of varying geographical factors, not all areas in the state, leave alone not all states in the country, enjoy similar conditions conducive to economic prosperity, just like how in a family, not all kids are endowed with the same faculties, though availing similar facilities. So agriculture in one area might be considered development (like in the delta regions), while industries in some other might not (like the dry regions) constitute real progress. The aim should then be using the advantages of one region to uplift the downtrodden ones, which is the  bedrock principle of public adminstration anyway. But when votaries of Telangana claim the so called prosperity of the coastal areas came at the expense of their backwardness and that should be why they need to control their own fate, what prevents, say North Telangana, which is  at some point in the future, wishes to breakaway from its relatively properous southern neighbor, claiming the fruits of development were hanging low for its southern brethren than for them. And same goes with cultual identity. In such a diverse nation like India where culture, customs and traditions overgo a complete overhaul every 100-200 kms, how can one deny Warangal from seceding from Mahabubnagar, claiming Mahbubnagar has different cultural identity than itself and hence deserve to be in a different demarcation. Slippery slope all the way.

But all this is moot anyway. Whatever might be the reasons, Telangana wants to have its own rulers and its people have spoken for it. So, what's the rub for the Seemandhras into not obliging the request. Ignore for a second the politicians and the businessmen's motives, leaning one way or the other, for they clearly gain something or otherwise, if the state is split. But why is the common every day population so up in arms against the bifurcation? Is the loss of a notional boundary so strong that they could not see a legitimate reason in the other side's argument? Does the bifurcation prevent a person in Vizag from visiting or setting up shop in an area in Telangana? Does he face any more natural prejudice than one already faces when trying to establish himself in an alien place (city, state, country)? So what is the exact loss here for the Seemandhras? Water, jobs, funds etc are not a cause of concern for students protesting in front of their campuses. At least, not when they are students yet. Is it that they don't want see the other side win merely by holding the state at ransom? If they can, we can too, seems to the strategy of the backfire of the decision. If they can lay siege at the government offices, we can too. If they can stifle the growth and get the scales to tilt their way, we can go one step further and hasten doom. If they can....we can too... Playing right into the politicians hands, whose bread and butter business is dividing people and showing whom to blame, people from remote corners of the coastal regions who have no legitimate reason (other than to keep the map of the state evenly balanced and symmetric) to oppose formation of the state are flinging themselves into the fire vociferously and wholeheartedly. If only someone can sit them down and ask them what real harm they perceive would befall on their day to day lives, should the state be divvied up...When Seemandhra shouts no Telangana, it is an open secret that they mean no Hyderabad. Ok, so what about Hyderabad? Does everyday folk truly think that once Hyderabad falls under the jurisdiction of Telangana, all natural laws and civil and penal codes would be thrown out of the window, and Telangana folk would start hunting down the settlers like Nazis were post the second world war? Is that the real fear? Or is the fear that they would not be allowed to enter the hallowed halls of success as long as the administration speaks a different dialect than themselves? Both the fears sound immature, unfounded and illogical. Any government values and worships success, immaterial of its roots, and to genuinely think that the Telangana administration would drive away successful Seemandhra business and deny themselves of the employment and the revenue opportunities purely out of spite, is a puerile thought at best. As it is with us Indians who were subjected to countless persecutions, suffered innumerable indignations, split, joined and socially engineered in every which way imaginable - culturally, socially and religiously, if history is any guide, it has shown that we stay where we had always been, as nothing happens to us - good or bad, nothing moves for us - forward or backward, status quo is our state motto and progress is only incidental. So, sit back, take a deep breath and relax, crossing an imaginary state line is not stepping over the line drawn in the sand. It is as notional as politicians actually impacting the society for good. Enjoy the fact that we now have a whole different state to go to without worrying about learning a new language and remeber the fact that we treat our relatives better than we treat our inmates, because of the 'athidi devO bhava' and all...


Anonymous said...

impeccable sir,thank u..

Anonymous said...

good one