Police detain pro Telangana advocate who were staging protest demanding introduction of Telangana bill in parliament. (Photo: PTI)
HYDERABAD: Students Dasoju Srikantha Chary and K. Venugopal Reddy and police constable Kishtaiah, who died by suicide for the cause of a separate Telangana, are credited with igniting the second phase of the Telangana statehood agitation in 2009.
The movement, spearheaded by TRS president K. Chandrashekar Rao, intensified after the suicides and pushed the Centre into granting statehood to Telangana by bifurcating the then-united Andhra Pradesh.
As many as 369 activists laid down their lives in the first phase of the Telangana statehood agitation in 1969 and about 1,200 activists sacrificed their lives between 2001 and 2014. Most of the dead were youths and students, who sacrificed their education, careers and lives, whenever the agitation hit a low.
The movement for a separate Telangana was triggered on January 6, 1969, near Khammam railway station, with an indefinite hunger strike by one Ravindranath, who was protesting against the alleged illegal recruitment of non-local youths into the National Thermal Project at Palvoncha. It intensified with students coming onto the roads demanding that the state government implement the Gentlemen's Agreement with regard to sharing with the Andhra region. As the then government tried to suppress the agitation with armed police forces, it turned violent and 369 students and youths were killed in several incidents of police firing.
The Indira Gandhi government at the Centre tried to slow down the agitation and succeeded in putting the matter to rest, but not indefinitely. The movement regained momentum with the launch of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 2001 by Chandrashekar Rao, who led the agitation for 14 years and achieved statehood on June 2, 2014.
Srikantha Chary was the first to give his life in the renewed agitation, immolating himself. When Chandrashekar Rao was arrested on the morning of November 29, 2009, and prevented from sitting on a fast-unto-death, a disheartened Srikantha Chary went to the Dr B.R. Ambedkar statue at LB Nagar crossroads around noon, poured petrol and set himself ablaze shouting "Jai Telangana".
Within three days of Chary's self-immolation attempt, a police constable in Nizamabad district, gave up his life on December 2, 2009, for the statehood cause.
Shooting himself with his service revolver atop a cell phone tower in Kamareddy demanding a separate Telangana, 37-year-old Kistaiah alleged bias towards Telangana natives in the united Andhra Pradesh. In a suicide note, Kistaiah wrote: "I am dying for the cause of separate Telangana. Drive people of Andhra from Telangana and fight for separate statehood."
Chary, who had suffered 70 per cent burns, succumbed to his injuries on December 3, 2009, one day after Constable Kistaiah died.
Chary, 24, was a native of Podichedu in Mothkur mandal in Nalgonda district. He was a physiotherapy student and TRS youth wing office-bearer in LB Nagar in 2008.
Chary's self-immolation and Kistaiah’s death intensified the agitation. Students, youths and activists hit the streets demanding statehood for Telangana. Violence broke out and Telangana came to a standstill, with bandhs and dharanas forcing the then UPA government at the Centre to make a statement on initiating the process for the formation of Telangana state on December 9, 2009, within a week of Chary's death.
Kistaiah appealed to OU students not to stop their fight for separate statehood. "Telangana is more important than your studies. You get jobs only in a separate state. Fight for it," he said in the letter. Kistaiah was part of many encounters against Maoists and therefore was given a weapon. He was a native of Shivaipally in Bhiknoor mandal of Nizamabad district.
Sources said Kistaiah was also unhappy over being denied a promotion. Though his batchmates were promoted as head constables and assistant sub-inspectors, Kistaiah was not promoted and he suspected that being a 'Telanganite', he was marginalised.
The third to sacrifice his life was Venugopal Reddy, an MCA student, who set himself ablaze on the Osmania University campus on January 19, 2010. A suicide note left by Reddy said he was disappointed over the delay in the formation of the Telangana state and feared that it would not become a reality. He also appealed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to help in the formation of a separate state.
Reddy, a native of Nalgonda district, was a student at a private engineering college in the city.
Another student who gave his life was S. Yadaiah, who stated in a suicide note that the government was not responding to the statehood demand, as the agitation slowed after the appointment of the Sri Krishna Committee.
Yadaiah, just nineteen, set himself afire on the OU campus on February 21, 2010, shouting "Jai Telangana". He was a native of Nagaram village in Ranga Reddy and was at OU to take part in the students' agitation.
"People like me will get jobs if Telangana state is formed. I am giving life for Telangana and please don't stop this movement till Telangana is achieved," he said in the suicide note.
Following his death, various joint action committees called for an 'Assembly Muttadi (laying siege to the Legislative Assembly)' the next day, which turned violent as protesters clashed with the police.
KCR pays glorious tribute to Telangana martyrs with the construction of a world-class Memorial:
Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, in his very first Cabinet meeting on July 16, 2014, decided to provide 10 lakhs to the families of each of those who laid down their lives in the statehood struggle since 1969. The Cabinet also decided to give jobs to one eligible family member of the heroes, bear their medical expenses and ensure free education for their children.
"If the families are landless agriculturists, they will each be given three acres of land," the Chief Minister had then stated. He later allocated 2BHKs kin of the families of those martyrs who did not own houses.
On September 30, 2014, Rao signed orders to disburse 10 lakhs to each of the 462 martyrs' families identified by collectors in the 10 districts that existed then — 164 in Karimnagar, 93 in Warangal, 52 in Medak, 48 in Nalgonda, 31 in Nizamabad, 26 in Adilabad, 18 in Ranga Reddy, 17 in Mahbubnagar, 11 in Hyderabad and two in Khammam.
On June 2, 2016, the Chief Minister laid the foundation for a state-of-the-art memorial near Lumbini Park. The 180 crore memorial is set to be inaugurated on June 2.
The structure which resembles an earthen lamp, is estimated to be the world's largest seamless stainless steel structure. It will hold a display of events from Telangana's struggle from 1969 to the movement's final stages from 2001 to 2014.
The memorial will comprise a museum, an audio-visual hall for 75 people, a convention centre with seating for 650 people, a restaurant inside the structure and other amenities, such as parking for 350 cars and 650 bikes. The main structure spans 85,000 square feet on a 3.29-acre plot and features a flame-shaped construction at the top that can be seen from afar. Gardens and a fountain will greet the visitors as they enter.
Srikantha Chary's mother Shankaramma: KCR recognised by son's sacrifice:
Telangana hero Srikantha Chary's mother Shankaramma said Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and IT minister K.T. Rama Rao recognised the sacrifices made by her son for the cause of Telangana state.
She said the Chief Minister extended 10 lakh financial assistance to her family, a junior assistant job in the MRO office to her younger son and a 2BHK house, as promised.
She thanked K.T. Rama Rao for naming the LB Nagar junction after Srikantha Chary recently and requested the state government to install a statue of her son at the junction.
Speaking to this newspaper, Shankaramma said, "Telangana exists today because of Srikantha Chary's sacrifice. His sacrifice ignited people of Telangana, especially youth and students, to hit the streets and agitate for achieving statehood to Telangana."
However, she said that the families of several other Telangana heroes were awaiting the benefits promised even after nine years and urged the Chief Minister to take immediate steps in this regard.
The Telangana Martyrs Families' Forum (TMFF) has demanded the state government extend the benefit to families of all the martyrs who laid down their lives in 1969 and between 2001 and 2014.
The forum expressed objection over the government identifying fewer than 500 martyrs while claiming in the Legislative Assembly that 369 died in 1969 and about 1,200 in the next phase of agitation. The forum demanded the government allocate 2BHK houses to kin of all families besides extending 3-acre land to Dalit families.