Something very significant happened today. The Hyderabadi, who otherwise has the infamous reputation of being laidback, chose to go to work when he or she had the easier option of taking an extended weekend break, thanks to the Telangana bandh that was called by the Osmania University Joint Action Committee. Yes, some schools had declared a holiday, scared by the visuals of violence on television on Sunday evening. Barring that, it was as if Hyderabad wanted to send a clear message to the votaries of Telangana on where the city stood on bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
To put it in a nutshell, Hyderabad has said no to Telangana.
Television is a medium that magnifies. And that is precisely what it did yesterday. It made a crowd of 50,000 people on one side of Necklace Road seem like a sea of humanity. Not to say that they are unjustified in demanding a separate Telangana state, but to say that all of Greater Hyderabad, that includes 24 assembly constituencies, share that sentiment is to exaggerate the situation. The Hyderabadi of 2012 is not a Telangana man or woman, who you would find in a Karimnagar or Warangal, where the separatist sentiment is strong and ought to be respected. Today in this cosmopolitan state capital, you have apart from people born and brought up here, people from other parts of Andhra Pradesh and other states. Their voice matters. To interpret their scared silence as an affirmative nod in favour of becoming part of Telangana state would be to read their lips wrong.
Same is the case with how the protests at Osmania University is sought to be projected. As if all of Hyderabad is on fire. The fact is, and anyone who knows the geography of Hyderabad will tell you how, the `action' takes place on just one stretch on that University campus and a group of students and non-students engage in pitched battles with the security personnel. Neither do the images represent all of Hyderabad, nor do the students represent the popular mood of the city.
But for the last three years, the state capital has been held hostage by Telangana agitations, many of them taking a violent turn. The city has shut down several times, losing man days and money, the half shutters conveying a mood of nervous fear. The safety nets that one finds on most commercial establishments are Hyderabad's shame, because it is akin to being a prisoner in your own home. School and college managements and parents despise how groups with no mass base in city can dictate terms to a 78 lakh strong population. Mention you are from Hyderabad to an outsider and you are more likely to hear references to your city, that resemble an obituary. Akin to cutting your nose to spite the face, the separatist movement has struck off Hyderabad from the list of the fastest-growing Indian cities.
However, none of this is to say that Hyderabadis are extremely happy with the quality of governance they get in present-day Andhra Pradesh. Far from it. In fact, so pathetic is the situation that the only time one realises there is an administration in the city, is when it increases the number of hours for which there would be no power supply. The government is crippled by a crisis of leadership so acute that it is at war with itself, with ministers openly defying the Chief Minister. What's worse is that no one even bothers to give a sense of security to the aam aadmi, whose cause the Congress party claims to espouse. And the Congress High command in Delhi has done precious little to listen to democratic voices and democratic means of protest, and in fact, takes note only when there is violence.
Sunday's incidents have sent a wrong signal to the world community at large, which incidentally is in Hyderabad in large numbers for the prestigious International Biodiversity meet. On Monday, the citizens of Hyderabad decided that enough is enough. For quite some time now, they have put up with bandhs that hurt business and life. The resilience of the Hyderabadi has been tested enough. If the Congress party has any political sense, now is the moment to act.
For long we have heard that Hyderabad is the bone of contention between those who want Telangana and those who do not. The city has spoken in one voice today. Seize the initiative and decide.