Friday, July 01, 2016

Telangana Slips Into Agitation 2.0 As KCR Plans 'Kejriwal Act' At Delhi


Telangana state is geared up to agitation 2.0 demanding the proper bifurcation of the state on certain long pending issues.

Two years after he secured the state of Telangana after a 13-year-long struggle, K Chandrasekhar Rao will wear the hat of a protester once again. The chief minister of Telangana now plans to do an Arvind Kejriwal by sitting on a dharna in the country's capital, to protest against the delay in bifurcation of the High court of Hyderabad.
After the division of Andhra Pradesh, the High court of Andhra Pradesh was rechristened as High court of Hyderabad and it serves as the top judicial body for both Telugu states.

Since 6 June, barring the High Court, all courts in Telangana are on strike. The judges of the new state are upset that posts in Telangana are being filled with judicial officers from Andhra Pradesh. Voices of `Andhra judges, go back' are being heard all over again. In one instance, effigies of Andhra judges were burnt at a court complex in Nizamabad. Two lawyers have attempted suicide in the last two days, bringing back memories of the emotionally charged up Telangana agitation.

That judiciary will be the new battleground was obvious when the list of provisional allotment of judges to lower courts in both states was issued on 5 May by the High court. 335 judicial officers were allotted to Telangana and 495 to Andhra Pradesh. Telangana was livid when it noticed that of the 335 in the Telangana pool, 130 were officers of Andhra nativity.

That threw the courts into turmoil. An agitated lawyer from Telangana Arun Kumar asks, "Is this why we fought for a separate Telangana state?" The dictum that "Telangana is for Telanganites" where those from Andhra should not get a piece of the cake' is once again gaining ground, at least in the judiciary. The AP Reorganisation Act provides for a separate court for Telangana but work on it has been extremely tardy.

On Sunday, Hyderabad saw something that had not happened ever before. About 130 `Honourable' judges - district and civil judges from all ten districts of Telangana - hit the roads, marching up to Raj Bhavan, to submit a memorandum to the Governor. On display was Judiciary vs Judiciary, with the presiding officers of the lower courts calling the High court "untrustworthy", claiming they have lost trust in the higher judiciary to deliver unbiased justice. They threatened to resign en masse, protesting against what they called "stepmotherly treatment".
A note issued by the Judges Association points out: "We feel we are working under the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and not under the High Court of both states. We are afraid of their future intervention in political and executive administration of Telangana. We cannot work under Andhra judicial rulers."

The apex court in Telangana hit back hard on Monday. It suspended two judges who participated in the street march on disciplinary grounds. One of them K Ravinder Reddy is the president of the Telangana Judge Association apart from being the 4th Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge at the Nampally criminal court. The other V Varaprasad is the secretary of the association and a sessions judge in Ranga Reddy district court. On Tuesday, nine more judges were suspended by the High Court, taking the total number of judges who have suspended to eleven.

That has only worsened the standoff, with no end to the boycott of courts in Telangana. What's worse, the decision to suspend the two judges is seen as reeking of a bias against Telangana, with the judges of the High court being seen through regionally tinted glasses. Sriranga Rao, the convenor of the Telangana Advocates Joint Action committee says, "There are only three judges from Telangana in the Hyderabad High court. Of the 21 judges, 18 are from Andhra Pradesh."

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti has come out in support, realising the mood in the legal fraternity and gauging the political benefits in riding on this issue. K Kavitha, Lok Sabha MP and KCR's daughter took the fight to her party's favourite punching bag, Chandrababu Naidu, saying, "Younger judges from Andhra have been posted in Telangana, while those close to retirement have been posted in Andhra. Even after bifurcation, Chandrababu Naidu wants to control Telangana using the courts as a backdoor."

Congress leaders allege the TRS is using the issue to wriggle out of the mess it is in over the land acquisition for Mallanna Sagar project in KCR's home Medak district. Over 30000 villagers in 14 villages are up in arms against the KCR government for over a month now, refusing to give up their land for the irrigation project. All opposition parties have lent their support to the cause, pushing the administration on to the back foot.

"For the last two years, you knew that bifurcation of High court is to be done as per the AP Reorganisation Act. Why didn't your MPs try to get it done? You are trying to divert the attention of the people from the Mallanna Sagar issue by stoking the Telangana sentiment," says Ponnala Laxmaiah, senior Congress leader.

Kavitha in turn accuses the Congress leadership of favouring Andhra Pradesh over Telangana. "First, I would like the opposition parties to give up on their farcical agitation over Mallanna Sagar and support us over the issue of judiciary. Two, I want to point out that Sonia Gandhi in Lok Sabha spoke only about Andhra, never about the interests of Telangana," says Kavitha.

The polemics in this round of Telangana vs Andhra has highlighted the trust deficit between the people of Telangana and Andhra that defined the period of the Telangana agitation. Just when the wounds of the bitter division had healed, Agitation 2.0 threatens to reopen them.

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