At the height of the Telangana agitation, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders would pitch their movement on the emotional plank of the people who had committed suicide for the cause, the numbers cited varying from leader to leader, but always over 1,200. They would taunt the then UPA government by asking how many more victims’ blood it wanted on its hands before granting statehood.
Statehood achieved, the time has come for keeping the pre-poll promise of ex-gratia to the families of those who committed suicide for Telangana. And the TRS government on Monday listed just 459 cases.
It was a sharp drop from earlier figures cited so freely by TRS leaders such as K Chandrasekhara Rao who is now CM, his son K T Rama Rao, nephew T Harish Rao and Etala Rajender who have all become ministers, and chairman of the Telangana Legislative Council Swamy Goud. Goud, in fact, said after taking oath as chairman that there were more than 2,000 Telangana martyrs. When Chief Minister KCR spoke for the first time in the assembly, he paid tribute to the martyrs and cited the same figure of 2,000.
Even a TRS list, which was till recently easily available at Telangana Bhavan, the party headquarters, had more than 900 names. Now, the 459 families listed comes in a government order dated October 27 issued by the revenue department. These families will be given Rs 10 lakh each.
Among the families left out are those of some widely remembered students who immolated themselves at Osmania University after leaving notes that they were doing so for Telangana. One such student was K Venugopal Reddy, doing his MCA, who set himself on fire on April 26, 2010, on the campus. Also left out are Sheik Anwar, 29, of Nalgonda, S Srikanth, 23, of Hyderabad, and K Uppalaiah, 30, and Sambari Navin, 18, of Warangal, all of whom killed themselves between February 2010 and April 2012. All these deaths had received wide media coverage. Venugopal’s funeral had been attended by hundreds, including TRS leaders.
Asked about the missing names, Home Minister N Narasimha Reddy said the government is still working on the list and would find out if anyone has been left out.
Opposition parties, however, have accused the TRS government of playing with the emotions of the people who made sacrifices.
Mohammed Ali Shabbir, deputy leader of the Congress in the legislative council, demanded that KCR tender an apology. “You’ve occupied the seat of chief minister due to the sacrifices made by martyrs and their families,” he said. “The state government should ensure that not a single family is left out. Any attempt to neglect or ignore the martyrs’ families would be an insult to the people of all of Telangana. While I appreciate that the state government has sanctioned Rs 10 lakh each to the families of martyrs, I regret that only 459 such families were covered… On many occasions, KCR has claimed that more than 2,000 persons have sacrificed their lives for the cause.”
The BJP’s Telangana president, G Kishan Reddy, said the TRS government is making a mockery of the martyrs. “KCR became chief minister due to the sacrifices made by these people and now he is trying to wriggle out of his promise to pay compensation to each family. KCR is going by police reports now but when he quoted figures in Parliament and public forums and made emotional appeals, his figure was always over 1,000. The government is not serious about the martyrs,’’ he said.
The list prepared by the government does not have proper addresses of some of the identified martyrs’ families either. For instance, officials wrote “Not Available” against the addresses of five martyrs out of 11 identified in Hyderabad district. Of 91 persons once declared martyrs in Warangal district, 17 are not in the list.
“When more than 2,000 people sacrificed their lives, why is the government paying compensation to only 459 families? Why were district collectors able to furnish information on only 459 cases while ignoring almost two-thirds of the martyrs?” TPCC chief Ponnala Lakshmaih said.