EPW and the Mumbo-Jumbo on Telangana

Dr. G. Vijay, a scholar of the Department of Economics, University of Hyderabad, has written to me recently and sent his article published in the reputed journal Economic & Political Weekly (Issue XLVII, No 37, 15 September, 2012) in its ‘Commentary’ section.

Its title is Telangana Movement: Democratisation or Authoritarianism.

He hoped, in his mail, that I would find his article ‘interesting’. He also said that he wanted to have my comments and suggestions (sic) on his article.

Economic and Political Weekly has been giving space to only one side of the argument on the Telangana issue. Perhaps, only those who favour the division of the state of Andhra Pradesh are writing to it. I do not know. But as a responsible journal interested in a serious political and economic discourse, I assume it is its duty to source writings that cogently present the other point of view. It is a serious omission on journal’s part. I would even say that it is an unpardonable omission.

EPW has in the past has published several pieces on the Telangana issue. They were badly researched; their assertions were unsupported by data, unfaithful to history; they labored under an inability to differentiate between cultural contradictions and cultural diversity, failed to appreciate a people’s urge for unity on the basis of language; and were crude in applying political and economic categories. They were above all quite insensitive to the opinion of the silent majority. The piece written and signed by Rama Melkote and others is a classic example of this genre that found place in EPW.

Therefore, when Dr Vijay said that he sent me his piece published in EPW and wanted my comment, I was a bit puzzled.

He would not have been unaware of my stand on the issue.

But if he thought it worthwhile to send it to me for my comment, I had expected it to contain something either close to my position on the issue or something that seriously challenged it.

When I looked at it, it turned out to be full of usual mumbo-jumbo. The blurb of the article itself revealed it as nothing more than a pamphlet mouthing the clichéd separatist propaganda.

I will pick only a few of his assertions to illustrate.

He says in his piece that “The division of the state therefore tops the people’s agenda, cutting across regions.” He should only know how he could make such a sweeping statement. He probably has his own tools to divine that it tops the people’s agenda and that it cuts across regions. His tools have not helped him to hear the voices in Telangana region itself that fiercely oppose the division of the state.

He goes on to say something even more bewildering than this. “The paradox is that subregional movements seem parochial in form while having a substantive democratic content, whereas the slogan of a unified state is parochial in its content and only pretentiously enlightened in its articulation.” It takes several leaps of imagination for anyone to juxtapose parochialism and unity on the one side and subregionalism and substantive democratic content on the other.

He also says “In spite of widespread support in Andhra Pradesh for the Telangana cause…” Notwithstanding their desire for achieving a separate Telangana state, even the most ardent protagonists do not believe that they have widespread support for their cause. Every available measure like general elections, by-elections, opinion polls such as the one conducted by Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)-Lokniti, have given ample evidence that the support for the division has always been quite disproportionate to the shrillness of the demand. I am not able to fathom what vantage point does a perch in the Department of Economics in a University gave to the writer to come to that conclusion.

He imagines that the impasse is due to “the nexus between the state and the ‘mafia-backed Seemandhra oligarchy”.

Of the two categories the writer posits here, only the state is real. The other, ‘mafia-backed Seemandhra oligarchy’ is only a creature of his imagination. Perhaps this could be his code word for an unprintable expletive.

The impasse, if there is one,  is only because the union government, unlike in the past, has not been able to say firmly that it is not in favour of dividing the state.

He gets it wrong again when he says that the movement’s failure to him could result in “the forces of lawlessness acquiring new strength, with disastrous consequences for the common people.”

 It is actually the other way round.

It is this agitation that has spawned a huge new bunch of lumpens who are marching the streets vandalizing cultural icons, indulging in extortion, and terrorizing people into acquiescence to forced bandhs.

Interestingly, the sakala janula samme (the general strike) that the writer brandishes as a proof of support to the agitation has mysteriously exempted liquor outlets from closure. That shows the character of the general strike. Characteristically, and not surprisingly, it escapes the notice of our writer.

It is sad that a journal like the Political and Economic Weekly chooses to print anything which has some right keywords that sound interesting to people of a particular persuasion in social sciences.

I wish the EPW’s editorial policy is a bit more responsible and demands diligence from its writers.

I am sad that our universities are churning out such sub-standard social science.

14 Responses to “EPW and the Mumbo-Jumbo on Telangana”

  1. September 11, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    You are very skilled in usage of English language. Your post was easy to read and in parts actually delightful. Ofcourse I agree with the content.

    Thanks,
    Kiran

  2. September 12, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    The oligarchy is not imaginary. The contractor-neta-babu nexus is in full swing. Just check the % of contractor-politicos and witness the ongoing investigations.

  3. September 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Dear Prabhakar Garu,
    A very well argued reply. I hope people understand from it that only in Unity lies strength, and stop calling for further divisions that can only make us ineffective at the Centre.
    Best Wishes.. P.T.

  4. September 13, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Jai,

    The nexus may be there (i am not sure “oligarchy” is the correct word) but what is not right is to give it a”seemandhra” spin and run politics around it. Thats really insulting the millions of hard working, upright people in seemandhra. Also its really the worst sort of identity politics that humanity has seen now and often. The nexus exists among telangana politicians, contractors too – not to mention delhi politicians or maharsthra politciians. Are you going to demand a separate country ?

    • September 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Kiran, if I understand Dr. Vijay correctly his article can be summarized as per the following:

      – Nexus between rent seekers & state
      – These oligarchs have no regional feelings
      – Hyderabad is the “cake” being split amongst these folks
      – There are many “democratic movements” fighting this nexus
      – Telangana state demand is a prominent anti-oligarchy trend
      – To protect their interests, oligarchs are adopting a united AP platform

      Dr. Prabhakar’s position is that the oligarchy is a figment of Vijay’s imagination. He therefore dismisses the rest of the theory.

      It looks to me you agree more with Vijay, not Prabhakar on this (central) point. In which case, you may like to think through the concept logically. You may indeed arrive at a different conclusion but dismissing him based on extraneous factors does not sound great.

      I agree with you oligarchy is not the right word. Crony capitalists or carpet baggers are more appropriate terms in my opninon.

  5. September 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    My dear sir….
    Your visalandhra maha sabha site gave an item on May 18, 2011 under titled “Separatist Movement in Andhra Pradesh – Shadow and Substance ‘
    http://www.visalandhra.org/2011/05/18/separatist-movement-in-andhra-pradesh-shadow-and-substance/
    Which was taken from the same EPW!!!
    And your comment…. Is…
    “”This article written in 1973 in EPW explains how In the course of the fight for thle competing claims of the petty bourgeois of the two regions of Andhra Pradesh. the wider interests of the state and the nation are being forgotten. The arguments are as relevant today as they were four decades back.
    And you also gave us an option of Download of that article ….””
    On that day………
    EPW is a great political weekly which explained competing claims of the petty bourgeois of the two regions of Andhra Pradesh.
    Now the same EPW ….is…
    “”Economic and Political Weekly has been giving space to only one side of the argument on the Telangana issue. Perhaps, only those who favour the division of the state of Andhra Pradesh are writing to it. I do not know. But as a responsible journal interested in a serious political and economic discourse, I assume it is its duty to source writings that cogently present the other point of view. It is a serious omission on journal’s part. I would even say that it is an unpardonable omission.””
    “”unpardonable omission.”” ??
    and aslo…
    “”EPW has in the past has published several pieces on the Telangana issue. They were badly researched; their assertions were unsupported by data, unfaithful to history; they labored under an inability to differentiate between cultural contradictions and cultural diversity, failed to appreciate a people’s urge for unity on the basis of language; and were crude in applying political and economic categories. They were above all quite insensitive to the opinion of the silent majority. The piece written and signed by Rama Melkote and others is a classic example of this genre that found place in EPW.”
    Wah!!! Great!!! Superb!!!

  6. September 14, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    Jai,

    United AP was not set up to protect interests of “oligarchs”. That is a funny and ridiculous charge. Its like saying India was set up to protect interests of “oligarchs” at Delhi level. United AP was set up based on a principle of linguistic states which was later accepted by entire India..there were many other reasons too.

    You seem to admit “Oligarchs” have no regional identitiy therefore any one should try to single out the oligarchs and remove or control them. It is a mystery why they you will seek a separate telangana.

    thanks,
    Kiran

    • September 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

      Kiran, Dr. Vijay (not me) contends the crony capitalists have taken up “samaikyavadam” to protect their interests. He did not say that AP was set up in 1956 to protect their interests.

      According to the author, there are several “democratic movements” resisting the rent seekers. Telangana is one of these.

      FYI I did not endorse Vijat’s article in toto. His core premise makes some sense to me. Unlike Vijay, yourself or me, Prabhakar refuses to acknowledge the prevalent crony capitalism.

      • September 16, 2012 at 8:07 am #

        I believe Prabhakar does not acknowledge “seemandhra” oligarchy and he is correct on this. Crony capitalism is one of the problem facing the entire country and to color it a regional problem is a patent falsehood. Someone who bases their entire article on such obvious myths is either a fool or a fraud. Prabhakar is correct to dismiss the article with contempt.

        • September 21, 2012 at 11:18 am #

          Kiran, imputing regional (or other) colors to those seen as indulging in organized loot is neither uncommon or new. During the Reconstruction, the carpetbaggers were scronfully chareceterized as “Yankee Republicans”.

          • September 28, 2012 at 1:26 am #

            Maybe Jai. But seemandhra are not Yankees and there is no “reconstruction” here . Your leaps of imagination in to irrelevance makes you a appear a bit unhinged.

  7. September 21, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Dr. Prabhakar, you disparagingly write “Interestingly, the sakala janula samme (the general strike) that the writer brandishes as a proof of support to the agitation has mysteriously exempted liquor outlets from closure. That shows the character of the general strike. Characteristically, and not surprisingly, it escapes the notice of our writer.”

    I notice liquor outlets in Hyderabad appeared to be functioning normally during the Bharat Bandh yesterday (Sep-20-2012). Would you care to extend the above to this strike too?

    • September 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

      “Sakala Janula Samme”, evident from its name was a strike by general public, not a “bundh”. Why should liquor shops or any other shops be closed down?

      Govt employees participated in the strike by not attending to their work and general public participated in the strike by bearing the brunt in the absence of public services. All the trade unions along with liqour shops union have given their solidarity to the strike by closing down their businesses for a day or two. This includes liqour shops, restaurants, sweet shops, barber shops and auto rickshaws. When all the other businesses were run normally during the 44 days strike period (except for a day or two)why should there be an exception for liqour shops?

      I wonder why “samaikyavadis” always pick up wrong examples and falsified logic. Is it because of the fact that wrong cause can never be supported by right reason?

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