Shah spins anti-Nizam narrative, but Telangana looks the other way

Even though the BJP is invoking local heroes to build a narrative against the Muslim rule in Hyderabad, experts say it may not work as youth, unlike the yesteryears are not ready to be manipulated by religious incitation

BJP, amit shah,
File photo

The BJP has been desperate to invent a strategy to counter the widespread Telangana sentiment generated by the recent statehood movement, spearheaded by Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).

BJP leaders are under the impression that a stronger dose of sentiment could alone catapult the saffron party into power. And the search has begun in right earnest for new heroes and villains in history.

Each of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s Hyderabad visits appears to be part of the mission. And his Nirmal town visit on September 17 to commemorate Telangana Liberation Day was no different. Addressing a rally organised to commemorate Liberation Day, Amit Shah alleged Chief Minister KCR had no respect for Telangana heroes like Ramji Gond.

“He had no respect for Sardar Patel who liberated Telangana from the clutches of Nizam and Razakars. He had no respect for Ramji Gond. He is not celebrating Liberation Day officially. Why? KCR is scared of the MIM. The BJP cannot be intimidated. We will liberate the Telangana again and celebrate Liberation Day after we formed the government in the state next time,” he roared.

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Nirmal town is important for the BJP in more than one way. This is closer to a communally sensitive town, Bhainsa, the only place in the entire state where clashes still occur frequently. And it was where Ramji Gond, a tribal hero was hanged to a banyan tree by the Nizam government, 150 years ago, in 1860.

According to folklore, nearly 1,000 of Ramji Gond’s followers were hanged to the tree. The tree is remembered as Veyi Vurula Marri (Thousand Hangings Banyan). Praising Ramji Gond as an anti-Nizam and anti-Muslim hero, Shah asked what has KCR done to pay tribute to the hero.

Professor Bhangya Bhukya, the historian from Hyderabad Central University, disagrees with Shah’s attempt to portray Ramji Gond as an anti-Nizam hero. “Ramji had nothing to do with Nizam. Following the usurpation of the Gond Kingdom by the British in the 1820s, the Gonds from central India, with help of Rohillas, started waging a war against British. In the 1950s, Ramji took the lead. Though he was arrested and hanged in Nirmal by the district collector, it’s wrong to stamp Ramji Gond as anti-Nizam and anti-Muslim,” Prof Bhukhya, an authority on Gond history told The Federal.

In Nirmal too, Shah’s entire speech revolved around four words:  Rajakars, Pakistan, MIM and Patel.

“Had it not been for Sardar Patel, Telangana would have become a part of Pakistan,” he said, adding that Telangana had to wait for freedom until September 17, 1948, 13 months after other parts of India celebrated it on August 15, 1947.

It was for this reason, Shah asserted, that September 17 should be remembered and celebrated. “In 2019 the BJP won four Lok Sabha seats and the party is set to win all (19) Lok Sabha seats in 2024,” he declared to a thunderous applause.

It is not the first time that Amit Shah deployed the Razakar card to enthuse the masses. On November 2020, he visited Hyderabad in the run-up to the GHMC polls and headed straight to a little know Bhagyalakshmi temple near the historic 56 metre-tall Charminar and performed puja.

The BJP game plan is that the Charminar, which stands as the symbol of the glory of Hyderabadi culture, could get eclipsed, if  the temple, though many consider as an illegal structure, is converted into a sacred place for the Hindus of Hyderabad.

The saffron party, which sees the small makeshift place of worship as its first port of call to the Old City, the stronghold of MIM, has made it a point to launch all its programmes from the temple. After Puja, Amit Shah said, “Whose adda is this temple? Whose adda is this old town? This is our temple, this is our Hyderabad. We will liberate it soon.”

The same day, upon arriving at the party’s central office, Shah addressed the media, only to declare, “Hyderabad is stuck in Nawabi and Nizami Culture. We should get rid of it. We will make Hyderabad a mini-Bharat”.

In 2017, Shah chose to felicitate 160 families of the Telangana martyrs, who were said to have been killed by Razakars, in Teratapalli in Nalgonda district.

The attempt to rekindle the Telangana movement of yore, which was full of blood and sacrifices, is clear in Amit Shah’s visits. Shah never chooses to praise the sacrifices of students and youth made in the recent movement, which the BJP apprehends, would only benefit KCR and the TRS.

Curiously, Shah’s attempt to glorify the anti-Nizam struggle and massacre of Razakars is not catching up with the youth of this generation. Even repeated reference to Sardar Patel’s name is not enthusing the public. Incidentally, in these parts of India, one can find more ‘Bal Gangadhar Tilaks’ in every street rather than Patels.

This brings us to the question – Why is the BJP’s interpretation of history not finding favour and inciting the youth to take the plunge to ‘liberate’ the Old City or Hyderabad?

Political parties no more have youths who could create disturbances for them as it happened in the 1980s, says political analyst and veteran journalist Ashok Tankasala.

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“Hyderabad has undergone a total transformation since 1990 when the last communal violence jolted the city. As usual, the 1990 communal violence was also ignited during the stint of the Congress party. The advent of NTR changed the political culture of the state. At that time, due to lack of employment, jobless youth were available for parties in Old City to create disturbances,” he said.

According to Tanakasala, the disgruntled politicians who exploited these youth for selfish motives were crushed by NTR.

At the same time, the workspace in Hyderabad also started changing. There was a proliferation in job opportunities due to the IT revolution and globalisation. The youth from Hyderabad including the Old City lapped up these opportunities, he said.

“One can find Muslim boys and girls, who earlier never dared to venture out of the old city, everywhere in Hyderabad. This generation, a beneficiary of peaceful and hi-tech Hyderabad is not ready to get exploited by politicians. This is the reason behind MIM’s inability to react physically to the fiery speeches of Shah and other BJP leaders. The battlefield has got shifted to social media,” Tankasala added.

Prof Prabhanjan Yadav of ‘Social Telangana’ is also skeptical about BJP’s claims. “The tall talk by Amit Shah of winning 19 Lok Sabha seats in 2024, is an attempt make some little gains the party has made recently in the form of winning the Dubbaka by-election and emerging as the second-largest party in GHMC. BJP needs to look more like Telangana than communal to get accepted in the state,” he added.

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