Meeting with the Srikrishna Committee & the Governor of Andhra Pradesh
We’ve arrived in Hyderabad early in the morning on 15th June. Srinivas garu went to Hyderabad a couple of weeks earlier. He booked a room at a local club to use as a meeting point for everyone. We went to the room around noon and started brainstorming for the next day’s session. We’ve invited a few other folks who had presented to the Srikrishna Committee in the past to get their input. At the end of these discussions, we decided to add one more slide to our existing presentation to reflect the progressive trends around the globe towards unification. For example, East and West Germany, Turkey’s efforts to join European Union, despite deep cultural differences etc.
We were scheduled to meet the committee at 11 PM at the MCHR building on June 16th. We reached the gate and the police cross-checked our names against the list they had. At this point we were let in. We drove to the building and were told to go to the 2nd floor.
SKC’s multimedia manager met us in the waiting area and asked if we have a PowerPoint presentation. We gave the file in a USB-drive and they promised to load up the presentation and be ready.
We were ushered in after about a half-hour. We walked into the meeting room and were pleasantly surprised to see Justice Srikrishna. We were told that Srikrishna was abroad and would not be there for our session. When I enquired about his travel, he said he was in the U.S. visiting his family and just returned.
The large room had tables arranged in a U shape and a screen for the projector in the middle. The committee members sat in the middle. They’ve asked those who will do the presentation to sit on one side and the rest on the other side. Punnam garu, Srinivas garu, and I sat on one side and the rest of the team sat on the other side. We introduced ourselves by giving our name, State we hailed from, and the profession. After the introductions Punnam garu introduced the organization and our goals. Then we went into the presentation.
The presentation was basically structured into four parts: i) History of Telugus living together and background on the current movement ii) Data to show how each region performed since the State formation iii) How NRIs are impacted by the current movement iv) What we believe are some solutions to the ongoing problem
One other thing I figured out quickly with the SKC was that they pick up counter arguments from the separatists and use it against integrationists and they use integrationist arguments against separatists. Also, not surprisingly, SKC has never seen our submission before. The committee received thousands of submissions and these are supposed to be reviewed by the consulting companies that SKC hired. However, I doubt even if the consulting companies have the bandwidth to review what people have sent.
Here are some of the questions they asked us during the course of the presentation. These are not verbatim, but paraphrased to the best of our team member’s memories. Of all the members of the SKC, during our presentation Dr. Ravinder Kaur had the most sympathetic expression, while Justice Srikrishna lightened up the environment with his sense of humor. SKC has warned us upfront that they will take an opposite view to extract as much information as they can from us.
While presenting our views about how human relations will suffer if the State is partitioned,
Dr. Ravinder Kaur argued that: Haryana and Punjab have separated in the past and seem to be doing well.
APNRI Response-1: The issue of capital Chandigarh is unresolved after all these years and continues to be a sticking point.
APNRI Response-2: Divisions such as the current one proposed in Andhra Pradesh are fundamentally rooted in hatred. If people are separated on this basis, it will leave deep wounds. Families that left Pakistan after partition to this day cannot reconcile with what has happened.
Mr. Duggal: After all, this is a constitutionally governed country. Whether a State is divided or not, people still have the fundamental rights and they can live anywhere they want. What is the harm in division?
APNRI: The current demand is built on misinformation. Telugu people have a long history of living together. Separatist violence has left deep suspicions in people’s mind about their future and security. In addition to that, separatists are openly making proclamations of a great war, civil war, and turning rivers red. We are not opposed division of the State as long as there is a national framework and it is done for administrative reasons with mutual consent. However, the reasons cited for division today are untenable.
On our argument about Nizam region’s economy will suffer in the event of division-
Mr. Duggal: The new Chief Minister of a Telangana State won’t be a fool. Do you really think he will drive Andhra investors away to the detriment of Telangana State’s economy?
APNRI: Neither is the new Chief Minister of Andhra going to be a fool. The first day he comes into office he will announce incentives of free power, free land, and a tax free regime for businesses that move to Andhra. He will further lobby investors from Andhra to leave Telangana by arguing that they have been mistreated, attacked, and have been accused of being looters. As a result, Nizam region’s economy will suffer.
During the discussion around how the IT industry will be impacted-
Justice Srikrishna: How will the division impact IT industry? I understand there is some slowdown now, however, once things return to normalcy, IT sector should grow as usual.
APNRI: Investments are already fleeing the State in large volumes. Our research shows that the State has already fallen behind by 5 years. There are members in our organization who are staunch integrationists, yet have moved a section of their staff to Bangalore already to deal with possibility of further violence in Hyderabad.
Justice Srikrishna: But those are all short-term impacts. In the long-run, let’s say 5 years from today, IT industry should fall back to normalcy.
APNRI: In the event of two States, there will be intense competition between the two regions for IT business. As a result, some of the IT business will inevitably go to the Kosta region and this in fact would hurt the Telangana economy.
APNRI: Similarly, real estate sector will also suffer with investments slowing down or moving to other regions.
On the topic of human relationships and APNRI’s argument that people across all regions are forming relationships including some of the prominent leaders in the current separatist movement; Dr. Ravinder Kaur wanted to know how many of us that are there that day have married across regions. Three members of our team have said they have married across the regions.
When we gave examples of businesses moving to Bangalore, Chennai, and Shanghai-
Dr. Abusaleh Shariff: Hyderabad is a cosmopolitan city, just like Bangalore. Infosys recently announced that it will expand its operations. Do you think this is an issue that will affect business?
APNRI: Infosys entered a deal prior to the recent violence and had to expand its operations per its agreement with the government. (One of our team members gave a personal example of Citi which originally planned to start its operations in Hyderabad, but decided to move to Shanghai)
When we said that Smt. Gandhi’s 6-point formula has done more harm than good, by perpetuating the differences between regions-
Mr. Rajiv Sharma: Why blame just Gandhi. Leaders of all regions from A.P. have consented to the agreement.
APNRI: Mrs. Gandhi was the leader of the country and was in-charge of the agreement that was put together. Yes, A.P. leaders have to take the blame too, but it was Mrs. Gandhi who was at the helm.
During the concluding remarks-
APNRI: Justice Srikrishna, we urge you to exercise caution with the words you use in your report. We are confident that you will be objective in your assessment. Irrespective of what your recommendation may be, please see to it that there is no verbiage that reflects that there has been discrimination of one region by the other region. Your words will be used 20 years down the road to start another violent movement, the way SRC and Bachawat reports are being used.
Justice Srikrishna: Humorously, “Are you asking me not to use words loosely in my report?”
With that everyone laughed, exchanged pleasantries, shook hands and left the meeting. The session lasted about an hour and a half.
We went to the Raj Bhavan the following day to meet the Governor. After the security check and cross-checking of our names, we were ushered into a visitor room. After snacks and tea, we were then taken into another large room with Nizam style décor that has two large chairs and two sofas. Governor came in about 30 minutes late and apologized for the delay.
We presented him a copy of our report. He skimmed through it and before we could speak, he started talking. He gave an inspirational monologue about why we all should come back to India and make a difference by working in the country. We said, we are helping Indian economy through knowledge-transfer, investments, and by being cultural ambassadors of the country. I don’t think we could convince him
We eventually managed to steer him to the topic of separation. We told him about NRI concerns with regards to law and order. He again veered around saying there is violence in other parts of the world too and that India or Hydreabad is not unique in this matter.
After pestering him a bit more, he eventually took off his gloves. He said that the government is paying close attention to the law and order situation. He asked if we noticed that the violence has been coming down significantly since February and then asked us: “do you think the reduction in violence is just an accident?”
He then assured us that the government will do everything in its power to put things in order. Interestingly, he said, there could again be violence in January and we should all be prepared for it. However, he assured that the government is taking all the measures to ensure law and order prevails.
That is a brief summary of our discussion.
Save Andhra Pradesh!