Marking new phase in the Telangana movement, 30-year-old Nayani Karunakar committed suicide by immolating himself on Monday.

 

Though Telangana stands only second to Maharashtra in farmers’ suicides, Karunakar’s suicide is different in that this is the first self-immolation committed against Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s government after the creation of Telangana.

 

 Earlier, during the Telangana movement, many students resorted to self-immolation protesting the delay in according statehood to Telangana. Karunakar decided to kill himself as he saw no future in Chief Minister KCR’s grandiose plans to build Bangaru Telangana (Golden Telangana). This is the first farmers’ revolt against the chief minister in his own home district.

It is not known whether Karunakar attained martyrdom, but his death has definitely triggered a new phase of resistance movement in Telangana.

As part of building Bangaru Telangana, KCR’s government is constructing a dam at the Mallanna Sagar Reservoir with an impounding capacity of 50 TMC, instead of originally-planned 4 TMC, which is bound to submerge huge land mass in the area, according to farmers’ leaders. 

 

Karunakar’s small strip of land also falls in the submergence area. Without invoking the Land Acquisition Act, the state government started taking the land from the farmers by issuing a government order.

According to the order, the lands will be transferred directly to the local tehslidar. Foreseeing the threat to their villages, the farmers, especially women, from 14 villages have launched a hunger strike.

 

As there was no sympathetic response from the government, Karunakar, having lost the hope of preserving the land, set himself ablaze on June 1 while the state was busy with the T-formation day celebrations.

 

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Karunakar was shifted to Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad where, after struggling for five days, he breathed his last on Monday.

 

It is not known whether Karunakar attained martyrdom, but his death has definitely triggered a new phase of resistance movement in Telangana. Aghast at the people’s ire against the irrigation project, particularly because it was planned in the chief minister’s home district Medak, many intellectuals rushed to the affected villages after Karunakar’s bid to immolate self.

 

The farmers have been on a fast for the past two weeks, but that, until now, has drawn little attention from the public and media. It took a farmer to burn himself to death for the protest to turn into a full blown movement. 

 

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Prof. Kodandarami, who was a public face of the TRS’s Political Joint Action Committee (JAC) during the 10-year long Telangana movement, yesterday visited the fast camps and extended full support to what he called the unconstitutional land acquisition process.  Kodandarami, who had been the ideological force of Telangana movement, has been sidelined by KCR in post-Telangana politics.

 

The former Osmania University political science teacher, has been working for the welfare of the farmers ever since the T-state came into existence. Addressing the farmers at Etigadda Kistapur village, he called upon the people not to sign on any paper at the insistence of revenue officials.

It is unfair to evacuate 14 villages to make room for a project with 50 TMC water. These people are not demanding the moon. They are demanding their livelihood rights

“It is unfair to evacuate 14 villages to make room for a project with 50 TMC water. These people are not demanding the moon. They are demanding their livelihood rights. They are just. We are with him,” Prof.  Kodandarami, who is synonymous with the Telangana movement, said. Dozens of women came rushing and fell on his feet with teary eyes.  They asked the professor, who is as equally popular among Telangana’s people as KCR is, to protect their lands from being acquired for the project.

 

Photo courtesy: TS Sudhir