"I am unable to continue my studies. The exams are around the corner and I am scared that I will fail. I never wanted to fail in exams. Therefore, I have decided to end my life," read the suicide note of 21-year-old postgraduate student of Osmania University MSc (Physics) student E Murali Mudhiraj. He took his life at Maneru hostel on-campus on 3 December sparking off yet another clash between the police and the student community in Telangana.
The suicide note of Mudhiraj which displayed the frustration and despair among students on the bleak prospects of employment in the state has further aggravated the student-police skirmishes at the university campus. In the background of the ongoing Kolavula Kotlata rallies (struggle for jobs) being organised by TJAC (Telangana Joint Action Committee) headed by Kodandaram, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government has taken a tough approach to the suicide and jailed over two dozen student leaders in an effort to curb the protests. Mudhiraj hails from Gajwel, the constituency of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Student leaders of Osmania University stalled the shifting of Murali's body for post-mortem throughout Sunday night and staged dharna in his hostel room. "We suspect that the student committed suicide anticipating unemployment as the Telangana government has been delaying job notifications causing him depression," said Pratap Reddy and Manavatha Roy, office bearers of Osmania University Joint Action Committee.
Mudhiraj’s suicide reflects the level of frustration among students and jobless youth who have already lost one academic year due to the Telangana agitation and hoped that the TRS government would give them an advantage by hiking the age limit for government jobs and releasing notifications for two lakh jobs as promised. But none of that has materialised.
Instead the TRS and its chief minister are attacking students, for opposing their move to take over university land and spending on water projects and blaming them for siding with opposition parties and participating in the rallies and dharnas of TJAC leader Kodandaram.
"Over 30 students had been jailed since Sunday at a time when the OU exams are going on," said Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president Uttam Kumar Reddy who led a delegation to the Chanchalaguda Jail where the student leaders were kept.
Student leaders are also unhappy about the draconian measures unleashed by the university authorities to drive away senior students in hostels by terming them as 'squatters', shutting down university canteens during vacations and posing restrictions on cultural activities like beef festivals.
The Hyderabad Police and TRS leaders find fault with the student community for not focusing on studies and supporting opposition parties. The Hyderabad Police have denied permission to the students to take out processions to Assembly, Secretariat or the chief minister’s residence at least a dozen times in the past three years. "Even during the Telangana agitation permission was not granted to students to take out rallies but stay confined to campus in view of law and order. Same rules are followed even now," said Telangana DGP Mahender Reddy.
Biting the hand that fed the ruling party
The students of OU played a key role at all stages of the agitation for a separate Telangana. They bore the brunt of police lathi charge and lost out on a whole academic year in order to drive the Congress government to concede to their demand for a separate state. "All our sacrifices have gone waste as the promised land of opportunities is not at all visible," said OU student Ramesh Reddy.
This is not the first time since the formation of the new state in 2014 that the KCR government and the OU students’ lobby have crossed swords. Despite KCR giving a paltry budgetary hike to Osmania University as well as a few Assembly and MP seats, there has been no special focus on jobs. Student leaders point out that KCR assured them of creating one lakh jobs every year but so far hardly 20,000 jobs have been created and more than half of it is in the police constables cadres. "Instead of removing the contract workers in government and in the University, KCR is keen to make them permanent as they come cheaper than permanent workers," said Durgam Bhaskar, a student leader at OU.
KCR's eyeing of the vacant land in the 2400 acres of Osmania University campus also became a cause for discord. KCR wanted to take over the land for building his pet project of double bedrooms for BPL (Below Poverty Line) families in Hyderabad. It met with extreme resistance across the board – among Osmania University staff and students.
The student–government rift intensified during the Diamond Jubilee and centenary celebrations of the university in 2015. Sensing the mood of the students, both the chief minister and Governor avoided their speeches, anticipating heckling by students and the celebrations ended in less than 40 minutes with president Pranab Mukherjee doing the talking. This event was held under tight security with mobile phones seized, entry allowed only with both ID cards and invitations and student leaders kept under house arrest.
TRS leaders contend that KCR was unhappy with the student body as they had burned his effigy at the height of his indefinite fasting in November 2009 which had triggered the Congress to grant Telangana. His grant of only Rs 200 crore for the celebrations as against a demand for Rs 1000 crore and his non-stop row with the TJAC leader and one-time mentor Kodandaram are cited as other reasons for his aversion toward the Osmania student lobby whom he had described as “ungrateful” in party circles.
“Kodandram is just another soldier for Telangana prepared and mentored by me,” said KCR recently pooh-poohing the latter’s fight for students and jobs.
After the centenary fiasco, the government tried to remove ‘squatters’ in OU hostels, closed canteens and increased police patrolling. CCTV cameras were installed on campus and 10 pm set as the deadline for entry and exit from the OU campus gates. “With Telangana becoming a reality and KCR taking over as CM we hoped for good times, with plentiful jobs, more funds and facilities. But all of that has remained a mirage,” said SK Moorthi, an SFI leader.
Osmania campus has over 5,000 faculty members and a student strength of three lakh who are all nursing wounds and bitter sentiments against the government. “We suffered under the Andhra Pradesh government led by Seemandhras but the same trend of subjugation continues even now,” said Satyanarayan Reddy, a teachers’ front leader.
Although TJAC leader Kodandram has retired as head of the Political Science department in OU he is on a collision course with the TRS government and KCR with his agitations for jobs and justice to martyrs of the Telangana agitation. His attempts to take out an Amaraveerula Spoorti Yatra and now Koluvula Kotlata allegedly to whip up emotions against the government have been foiled by the KCR government which has denied permissions and made preemptive arrests.
Police even refused to permit rallies despite court directions. Once the police even broke down the doors of his house to take him into custody.
Osmania University is emerging as yet another battleground for KCR as the BJP and Congress with its student wings – ABVP and NSUI respectively - are strongly behind the students’ lobby. The CPM, CPI and TDP (Telugu Desam Party) wings of students are already opposed to the government and the once a shot in the arm for TRS in the agitation days – TJAC - is now a bitter and hostile platform against both the chief minister and the government.
But will the student lobby remain the same and work against him in the 2019 elections and support the other political entities in 2019 general elections is the million dollar question.
“We will cross the bridge when we come to it,” said a student leader.
Published Date: Dec 08, 2017 07:25 am | Updated Date: Dec 08, 2017 07:25 am