Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bojja Tarakam: The Dalit Leader

Prof. P. Kesava Kumar

Bojja Tarakam (1939-2016), a Dalit leader of high eminence passed away on 17th September 2016. He is a well known Dalit leader with multiple facets to his personality. He left his mark on most of   the democratic struggles of Telugu society in post independent India. He is a peoples leader, civil rights activist, advocate, organizer, writer, poet and ideologue of democratic struggles. His activism has not frozen into either of the dominant streams of his times either Marxism inspired revolutionary struggles or Dalit movement. He traversed both with unparallel ease and sense of purpose. He has been critical of Marxism for its caste blindness. He did not undermine either. Instead he brought credence to both.
 He was born in a village in Konaseema of coastal Andhra in an Ambedkarite family in 1939. His father, Bojja Appala Swamy was a first generation dalit leader in independent India and was responsible for establishing Ambedkar led Scheduled Castes Federation in 1942 and had been elected as a Member of legislative Assembly in 1950s.

Educate, Organise and Agitate
 Tarakam was an active student leader and completed his graduation in Law. He started practicing law from late 1960s to late 1970s in Nizamabad and engaged in wide range of struggles by organizing Rythu Coolie Sangham and Ambedkar Yuvajana Sangham. He was arrested during emergency and imprisoned for his public activism on various issues of people. Later he shifted to Hyderabad and started practicing in High court and become appointed as public Prosecutor of Administrative Tribunal. Later, in protest against Karamchedu massacre, he resigned for this post and continued as senior advocate by taking up the cases of people. He was the founder vice-president of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and a member of Revolutionary Writers Association (Virasam). Though he was active in Marxist leaning organization, he never deviated from the core of Ambedkarism. After Karamchedu masscre, Telugu society has witnessed the strong assertion of dalits and formed autonomous dalit organization by ideologically differentiating itself from Marxist politics. In formation of Dalita Mahasabha in 1985, along with another prominent dalit leader Kathi Padma Rao, he was the founder president of that organization. He took up the Karamchedu case. The Dalit Maha Sabha (1985-1991) had a creative intervention in Telugu society and consequently changed the political discourse. He then become a state convener for Chunduru  Struggle Committee(1991).The political mobilization of dalits resulted in formation of Bahujana Samaj Party in A.P. and he was the founder secretary from 1990-1994. He came out of the BSP as a protest against the party for its alliance with BJP in Uttara Pradesh. He started reviving Republican Party of India in A.P and came out after Ramdas Athavale’s identification BJP.
His life was spent in writing fact finding reports, organizing press meets, public meetings and fighting for justice in courts. He believed in the philosophy of questioning the social system and state machinery rather than petitioning to them. It is clear that Tarakam has established credibility with his commitment to wide range of issues of people and a threshold for democratic struggles. He reached to the people through his writings on various issues. In Telugu society, public life was marked by ideological confrontation between left and dalit politics. Many intellectuals and writers came out of the fold of left politics with emergence of dalit politics from late eighties. But Tarakam was an exception to this trend. He was never deviated from the philosophy and practice of Ambedkarism and viewed every struggle from Ambedkarism. His struggles and writings are testimony for this. His criticism against revolutionary left is constructive and anticipated support for dalit issues. His work Kulam –Vargam(Caste- Class, 1996) ideologically clarifies his position on both caste and class. Apart from his literary writings Nadiputtina Gonthuka(The Voice That Gave Birth to the River,1983), Nalage Godavari(The Godavari is Like Me, 2000) and Panchatantram(2012), his special tracts Nela-Nagali-Mudeddulu(Land, Plough and Three Oxen, 2008) , Dalitulu-Rajyam (Dalits and the State,2008), Constitution and the Coup D’ Etat (2000) provides specific theoretical approach to key issues.  In other words, we may find distinct approach of Tarakam in understanding society and polity.

Dalit Labourer as Third Bull
Tarakam’s Nela-Nagali- Mudeddulu is about the relations of feudal system and exploitation of labour. This explains the master and slave relations. Here the third bull symbolically represents the Paleru(bonded labourer)/ Jeetagadu (wage labourer). This is a story set in Indian agrarian society and deals with how the labourer is reduced to the beast. In the feudal set up, labourer does not have any rights or freedom other than working for the landlord. The landlord has control over the land. Power and status has invariable relationship with land. The landlord, social system and state machinery collectively operate to maintain the status quo in social relations. It depicts a condition of economic drudgery and mental slavery which is rooted in world view of feudal Brahminical system. When the labourer realizes that he is a human and that awareness leads to struggle. It is impossibility as imagination is etched in feudal world view.  The political economy of agrarian society depicted in an impressive manner in a form of a story in this book. This is a new genre in literature informed by specifities of political economy.

State, Constitution and Dalit Movement
Dalitulu –Rajyam depicts the evolution of Indian state and marginalization of dalits. This book is continued in the above said genre and explains how dalits were kept out of politics and purview of state. In this he explains the origin and nature of state and its sustenance in protecting the interests of ruling class/caste by maintain status quo of dalits. The state has structured such a way that it controls the anger and aspirations of dalits against the ruling class/caste and state. Though the welfare state in modern times came up with egalitarian principles to uphold the dignity of the oppressed, the caste structure and its value system does not allows the state to be a welfare state based on these principles. He stretched this logic in Constitution and the Coup D’ Etat , which was written in the context of Hindutva’s design to review the Indian constitution. Though the state that based on constitution drafted by Ambedkar was escaping its role of equalizer, modernizer and liberator of the masses of the country, but it was checked by the struggles of the country.  The conservative hindutva ruling classes felt the struggles of the oppressed is a threat to the hegemony. To control the masses and to continue their hegemony, thought of changing the constitution to suits their interests. By foreseeing this evil intention of hindutva forces, Tarakam argued that ‘we have to protect this constitution because it promises justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. We have to save the constitution because it guarantees the celebrated fundamental freedoms. We have to guard the constitution because it assures a welfare state.’ Tarakam maintains that if oppressed people won’t fight against injustice, state will be undemocratic and monopolized by ruling class/caste.

           Literature as A Medium
Tarakam is a voracious reader and evaluated literature from a dalit perspective. He took literature as an organized activity in making people conscious. In seventies, he identified with Revolutionary Writers Association (Virasam) and in eighties he has organized all India dalit writers coference with participation of around thousand writers. In nineties, under his editorship, Nalupu has initiated the alternative cultural discourse. Tarakam’s Nadi Puuttina Gonthuka is a poetry written in the context of emergency. We can see a tone of angry young man raised voice against the authoritarian state. Through his poetry he questioned the hypocrisy of Gandhian politics, Oh! Mahatma, have you ever lived with dalits and had a real feel of suffering of dalits? Naalage Godari is later collection of poetry. To portray the larger and complex social reality, he chooses the literary form novel. Tarakam’s novel Panchatantram illustrates the problem of dalits in the background of caste and class relations in Coastal Andhra village. Viswanath is a landlord of a village and Suranna works as his Paleru(labourer). The sexual relation between Suranna and Lakshmi daughter of Viswanath leads to killing of Suranna. Suranna’s father too was killed for making an attempt to complain against landlord. The story ends up with the struggles of resistance of young Suranna who was born illicitly born to Lakshmi and Suranna. This novel depicts the cruel face of the caste in India in ordinary situation. Land, power and status are with the landlord. Rules of social system, and state machinery is subordinated the upper caste landlord. Dalits have no freedom in situations of everyday life. Any resistance to the authority of landlord was crushed ruthlessly and the institutions of state were used in their favour. The authority was later carried by Dattu, grandson of Viswanath. This casteist young man killed those who contested him (Ganganna , a dalit boy  for contesting against him in school elections, and Gowri , dalit girl raped and killed by him). In both cases, the son of landlord escaped from the cases and on other attempts to implicate Suranna, rebellious young  dalit man  (illegitimate son of Gowri) who is the force behind Dalit victims. Suranna’s struggle has no  value with the manipulation of police, courts and doctors by the landlord but Suranna stands as a moral force in this novel. The novel ends with killing of the landlord Viswanath in the dark by Sathemma another victim of Viswanath.. The novel not only depicts the discrimination, helplessness of dalits but also the resistance of dalits against the landlord in every occasion. In nutshell, the novel narrates the feudal power and how the structures of village and of state are succumbed to the power of caste and class. Tarakam believes that this situation has to be changed for a democratic society. The change has possible only through struggles of the oppressed in various forms.


Caste or Class
Kulam- Vargam is a text of Tarakam that engages with questions of significance of caste and   class in transforming Indian Society. This political text has been written in a form of story to reach the ordinary readers. This has its historical significance where the ideological differences were widened within democratic struggles. This makes clear the differences between movements of radical left and dalits in understanding Indian social reality. It sets the programme for the both the camps in reconstruction of Indian society. In India, caste is the foundation on which society is organized. Caste alone determines the economic, social, political and cultural status of the people. He posed a question how can caste and class be abolished simultaneously? Both caste and class struggles are constituents of the revolution. The abolition of caste is as revolutionary as classlessness. Caste struggle is a mental-material revolution, while the focus of a class struggle tends to be limited to materialistic considerations. In both Srikakulam and Telangana armed struggles, the communist party did not addressed caste issue. The upper caste leadership of communist party failed to take up the issue of caste against the interests of their own castes. He believes that so long as the leadership remains in the hands of upper castes, no attempt will be made to bring about fundamental changes. Tarakam believes that annihilation of caste and class is an immediate political necessity. It is the responsibility of both Dalit and   Marxist struggles, otherwise both will not sustain. In the process of struggle, dialogue between these groups inevitable. It needs conviction and energy to overcome immediate hurdles. Tarakam had both conviction and energy in a dream of realizing social revolution.

Multi faceted Life
He worked for the struggles of the people in his entire life. He has simultaneously involved in the revolutionary struggles and dalit struggles. He is consistent in his firm political conviction of ideology of liberation of oppressed. The organizational structures were never constraints for him. He valued every effort and struggle of the people, whatever may be the form or political affiliation. He was in forefront of all the democratic struggles of Telugu society. His politics has larger canvas. He was directly and indirectly part of all the people struggles for a period of five decades. This includes both class and caste struggles-  land struggles, Beedi workers struggles, political prisoners, fake encounters, struggles against Special economic zones, struggles against SC/ST atrocities, specific struggles against Padirikuppam, Karamchedu, Chunduru, Nirukonda, Timmasamudram, Laximpeta massacres. He expressed his political position through his speeches and write ups. It bears a distinctive dalit point of view. Tarakam was not confined to the political struggles and extended himself to literary and cultural domains. He believed that politics has to be based on strong social and cultural foundations. He wrote poetry, novels, poetic prose and essays. For him, literary writing is a political necessity. To express himself and to reach people, he invented a new political genre that fused social/political theory and literature. The liberation of the oppressed is the underlying theme of all his writings. His politics and writings set against the ruling caste-ruling class and state. Tarakam is an organic intellectual in Gramscian sense. He was organized the oppressed social groups (dalits) keeping in forefront and felt the need for having alliances with other groups against the dominant ruling caste/class hegemony and state.  
In establishing the hegemony of the ordinary people, Tarakam believed in Ideology of Ambedkar as a political ideology to bring about just social order. All his speeches and writings reflects the essence of Ambedkar thought. He made us to understand Ambedkar in simple terms for ordinary public. He has translated some of the volumes of Ambedkar writings and formed Ambedkar memorial trust. Rather reproducing the Ambedkar, he has creatively interpreted Ambedkar to suits the contemporary situation. He negotiated with Marxists from Ambedkarist position. He made his position clear that without understanding the caste, it is difficult to have a successful revolution. Both Marxist movements and Dalit movements have to work simultaneously for annihilation of caste and class. Tarakam’s contribution is that he opens up the category of dalit as a broad political category that have the spirit of rebellion against dominance. We can see a conscious effort on his part from the time of Dalit Maha Sabha till his last breath.


Lost Horizons
The life of Tarakam is devoted to democratic struggles having connections to diverse ideological positions and organizations. He participated in all the democratic struggles of our society. It is difficult to fill the gap of Tarakam especially to regain such rich cultural past of democratic struggles and the way he mediated contesting ideological positions in the liberation of the oppressed. The strength of Tarakam lies in moving beyond the dichotomy of Marxism and Ambedkarism. He has created larger ideological frame work for dalit liberation through his relentless engagement in public struggles which has economic as well as cultural dimension. Dalit politics in Telugu society have entered into a new phase in which assertion of exclusive identity becomes means for self recognition. It is important to celebrate the historically and culturally marginalized identity to achieve self affirmation. Unfortunately dalit politics during this phase has avoided economic and cultural issues. It has not only narrowed the scope of politics but also fails to carry out multi dimensional struggles. The dalit mobilization has become self congratulatory without focusing on suffering. Due to lack of strong political foundations, this dalit identity has not only become authoritarian but also looses on liberatory content of dalit struggles of previous decades. The direction of dalit movement has changed.  There is no voice of protest and the new dalit leadership became subordinate to power of ruling castes. This kind of situation undermines dalit politics. It becomes a suicidal situation for dalit politics. One thing is clear that the generation of Tarakam had never bowed down to these ruling communities/classes and had a relentless fight against the undemocratic system. He never compromised with system and lived with honesty. When the political struggles of dalits were at low phase, he channelized his energies to literature. He never took retirement from public life and waged consistent struggle against oppressive Brahminical society and undemocratic state. Tarakam has opened up the space for dalit politics by widening dalit identity. His struggle is for dignity, political power and rights and not for subordination to the centers of power.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Students Struggles of Hyderbad Central University: Emergence of Dalit Politics


Prof. P. Kesava Kumar, University of Delhi, Delhi 


The University is a modern public space. The students struggles of Hyderabad central universitity has changed the very charecter of this public space.Especially the struggles of Dalit students took the lead in alternative democratic politics of the nation from the time of pro mandal agitation to recent Rohit struggle. With the Rohit struggle, the Amedkarite politics of university has not captured the imagination of the nation but also got acceptance from alternative politics to casteist hindutva politics. From 2000 to till time, the campus dalit politics has not only consolidated its base but also got appeal to other non-dalit students, even to the muslim students. With the rise of hindutva politics, dalit student politics were targetted.  Dalit stuents were retaliating  the dominant casteist forces in all possible ways. As a result Dalit politics of the  nation has not only revitalized but also emerged as the only viable alternative against fascist hindutva forces.This note trace out  the  student politics from late eighties to early 2000.
 TheTill the eighties, the entry of Dalits into the University was minimal. From the eighties onwards, there is a visibility of Dalit students in the University. The entry of students from lower caste groups is possible only because of the reservations in educational institutions. Mostly, they are confined to the Social Sciences and the Humanities. There is a serious debate begun in academic circles about the lowering of academic standards in higher education. For the Dalits, it is a new experience in the University. They are usually confronted with the existing academic and cultural environment of the University, which is new for them. On the other side, Upper Caste students feel threatened with the very entry of Dalit students. There is a strong feeling prevailing among these students that Dalit students are grabbing their opportunities in the name of reservations without having any ‘merit’ or taking any effort towards it. As a result, one can see a serious confrontation between the students from lower caste groups and upper caste groups in the context of competition for resources and opportunities. This can be seen in the agitations around the implementation of Mandal commission recommendation for ensuring the reservations for OBCs in government jobs. This created almost a polarization of Indian society in the lines of caste. Mandal issue was a turning point in Indian politics. The inherent contradictions on the issue of caste came into public debates. This episode influenced the civil society in general and University campuses in particular. A serious politicization began in the Universities and students became conscious of their castes, rather pretend to be ignorant of caste.

To understand the Mandal and Post-Mandal politics in a public space like the University, the developments in the University of Hyderabad and the political assertion of Dalit students in the University for a decade may provide some insights. This University produced many Dalit writers and scholars in contemporary times. This University is known for its immediate response to the political happenings of India, rather any other University in Nineties. Dalit politics outside the campus particularly influenced the University.

University of Hyderabad as a central university came into existence in the late seventies in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. It was established as per the six-point formula intended to concede to the demands of Jai Andhra movement. It was assumed that the University may provide opportunities for higher education to people from all regions of A.P. since another university in Hyderabad, Osmania University, predominantly catered to the needs of the Telangana region. At present, the University has been able to attract students from all over India, though the majority of them are from A.P. The location of the University assumes importance, as A.P. has been known for intense political struggles like the Naxalite movement and contemporary Dalit and women struggles. Students of the neighbouring Osmania University had gone to villages to participate in rural-peasant struggles in Telengana in the eighties. That was the atmosphere surrounding the University at the time of its inception.  But the University of Hyderabad has been immune to all those political influences throughout the eighties.

While conceiving the idea of that University, the underlying premise was primarily to promote excellence in the field of Sciences, and it was followed by Social Sciences and then the Humanities. Semester system was introduced and retained till now to monitor the performance of the students closely. Teachers have been given total autonomy in the matters relating to curriculum, teaching and evaluation. The medium of entrance examination is only English. These things heavily influence the social composition of the University and the retention of students from relatively disadvantageous social background. But precisely this has become essential to the identity the University advertises to enhance its reputation. Throughout its career, the University had a significant number of students from the elite and upper middle class back ground. This University fulfilled the upper caste, middle class dream of studying in an island of excellence where pursuit of knowledge is to promote one’s career alone. Majority of University teachers come from elite social backgrounds who have studied in ‘prestigious’ institutions. But they do carry notions of unbridled academic pursuit as short cut to serve the developmental needs of the society. Everything else appears to disturb this middle class aesthetic of calm, pleasant campus devoid of ‘dirty’ politics. Everything seemed to be ‘fine’ in those early days.

Till late eighties, students used to organize around their classroom. His/her department or batch, marked the student. One is identified by the names of few individuals visible in public. Disadvantages associated with particular social background like one’s caste, economic position, rural/urban and cultural (un) skills associated with them were never openly talked about. They were pushed under carpet and made beautiful by the cosmetic liberal environment. Dissent was limited to private murmurs. Collective activity was centred around picnics, fresher’s and farewell parties. The idea of discomfort over elite ways of life were partly expressed in terms of particular depts or groups; For instance, English dept. students had the image of being hip/arrogant. In those days, the enrolment of Dalit students into P.G. courses was minimal. Most of the Dalit students used to drop out of their courses as soon as their first semester got over, as they were not given with the required percentage of marks. Of course, the drop out rate used to vary from department to department. Students from the Dalit community didn’t have any other option, except to exit from the University. It was rare to find Dalit students with 50% of marks in those days. It was accepted as one’s fate, which cannot be changed by conscious human effort. The enrolment of Dalit students into research was almost negligible since the rule of reservation was not followed in case of admission into research programmes.

Things started changing by the end of eighties. There had emerged a class of students from the Dalit communities whose parents had been employed in small government jobs. This can be mentioned as the product of efforts of Christian missionaries and welfare policies of the postcolonial government. These students were able to study in some of the good colleges located in the developed coastal region of the State. They had entered into the campus by the late eighties. This phenomenon has become regular and irreversible.
Break through in the political situation of the campus came up with the announcement of Mandal commission recommendations providing 27% of reservations in employment for OBCs. This has resulted in nationwide hysteria among the upper castes who went protesting against the government move. Upper caste students within the campus also joined/led the mobilization with the active participation of women. University of Hyderabad’s upper caste students spearheaded the anti-Mandal commission forum (A.M.C.F.) at the state level in Andhra Pradesh.  They came up with the articulation that these(OBC/Dalit) students would breed inefficiency in governmental institutions. For instance, bridges built by them are bound to collapse and if they become doctors, they will surely end up killing the patients as they are necessarily inefficient. As a consequence the country will go to dogs. Aren’t there many poor people within upper castes? Why not economic criteria? Aren’t we all human beings? These were basically the arguments against reservations on the basis caste. They do describe OBC/Dalit students as inefficient and at the same time they staunchly refute the idea of reservation on the basis of caste. How can you blame us for something, which our forefathers have done? Any way we are not practicing untouchability. That was the attitude of upper castes on campus as well as all over the country.

Anti-Mandal commission forum (AMCF) from the University has become prominent in many of the activities conducted against Mandal commission report in Hyderabad. This has precipitated a strong feeling of hurt, indignity and insult prominently among the Dalit students and a few OBC students. There was a sense of hurt as Dalit students were referred in derogatory terms in AMCF articulations. As a response to AMCF, a few students had pasted poems by progressive writers in defence of reservations. (Janachaitany Vedika’s poems and Varavara Rao’s Dejavu ) on the walls. Then, the students from Dalit communities at the centre and a few OBC and sympathetic progressive students among the upper caste together formed an organization, Progressive Students Forum (PSF). Prior to this, there was an informal discussion on naming the organization, whether SC,ST and BC Students Welfare Association or some other name. The Dalit students began programmes of protest against AMCF. Dalit students took it as a point to attend the classes when AMCF called for boycott of classes. AMCF students had regular programmes in the city of Hyderabad like dharnas, shoe polishing, sweeping roads etc. to prove that they would be “reduced” to doing menial jobs if Mandal commission recommendations were implemented.  The University authorities supposed to be neutral, provided them with buses to go to the city comfortably. That was pointed out and made public by the PSF. There was an encounter between a huge procession of democratic organizations of the state and few AMCF students who hijacked a bus to go for a dharna. The AMCF students shouted slogans against the people in procession. People in procession had come to the bus and gave few blows to AMCF students in bus. The AMCF in the University alleged that goons hired by the PSF had resorted to violence. At that time, the Union minister P. Upendra visited the campus on an official function. Students of AMCF tried to disrupt the meeting and entered into a fierce verbal confrontation with him. PSF students intervened and defended the government’s decision. After a few days, the PSF called for a University bandh. Dalit students sat at the main gates of the University to block the entry into and exit from the University. Then AMCF students came and just walked over Dalit students. Dalit students confronted them forcefully. University declared vacation immediately in order to diffuse the crisis.

That can be mentioned as the first instance of direct confrontation between the Dalit students and others (AMCF) in an otherwise peaceful campus. It had become clear and open to the campus, who is who. The silence was broken by the upper caste students and timely responded by the Dalit students. There had emerged a kind of polarization between the Dalits and others. Despite of this polarization, there have been few upper caste individuals, who were with the PSF and actively participated in it. This polarisation had made explicit the deeply ingrained attitudes of upper castes towards Dalits. It has caused semantic rapture and radically changed meanings associated with Dalits. There was a tendency to indicate SC/ STs with PSF in informal conversation. Immediately after the vacation, whatever happened during Mandal agitation period was thrown into the realm of the private of the upper castes, it was never again discussed in public so enthusiastically. But the spectre of PSF continued to haunt them. PSF formed in the context continued to take up various academic and socio-political issues. It has given a sense of confidence to Dalits to be comfortable in campus and to express one’s problems and demand for resolving them. This atmosphere helped to raise several questions relating to inbuilt biases within the academic system.

With the active emergence of the PSF, Students’ Union of the University lost its importance. Students’ Union is an elected body and supposed to represent all the students. The students union is was the sole authority on matters relating to students. The emergence of separate category PSF made students union irrelevant as PSF thought that they will represent themselves separately. The space of discussion and debate is also taken up by PSF by its innumerable public meetings. So the Students Union became hallow and left to perform only functions like organizing orchestras on occasion of freshers parties, arranging buses to city on the occasion of UGC NET and civil services examinations etc.

On the other hand, PSF began to question the casteist biases built into notions of academic standards and merit. They took up instances of students who were not passed or those who had got less mark. They have highlighted how Dalit students had been excluded from classroom interaction and active student-teacher relationship because of the implicit ease and comfort in their relationship among upper caste teachers and students. This was made possible for the upper castes with their English accent, body language and cultural skills. This has resulted in a severe exclusion and isolation from classroom. As a result, Dalits were considered as students unfit to be students in this ‘prestigious’ university. This process of exclusion and finally awarding grades was made an issue by PSF. This was articulated as one of the important discriminations in academic institutions on the basis of caste. PSF submitted memorandums to authorities, issued pamphlets on these cases and talked to various departments.

PSF was born and had grown in quite a turbulent time in Indian politics. It was bound to negotiate and cope with the various challenges that have come to the forefront during and after Mandal commission agitation. One is the growing communalization of Indian society centred on Babri Masjid demolition. The second one is liberalization and privatisation of the economy and its associated evil impact on the education sector. Thirdly, proliferation of politics based on identities (caste, gender, region, religion, language etc) The campus witnessed endless debates and discussions over communalisation and privatisation issues during that period with education in the central focus. PSF tried to build opinion against the Dunkel proposals through pamphleteering and public discussion. At the time of the Tsundur massacre of Dalits (1991), PSF collected relief to the tune of 80,000 rupees and went over there to stand with the victims of massacre. In the PSF initiated discussions, the then public intellectuals associated with civil liberties and radical left used to participate. The practice of pasting pamphlets on walls has become regular from then onwards. There was never an idea of leaders representing the organization while speaking to authorities. Almost all the members of the organization used to go at once at the time of speaking to authorities. Thus, there was no secrecy and no idea of particular leader heading the organization. PSF has contested elections to the Students’ Union once on its banner. That was the only instance of students contesting elections on behalf of the organization. One of its contestants won as general secretary. During the elections, upper caste groups conducted negative campaign against PSF. The nature of campaign was vilifying. PSF. PSF was blamed for politicising the campus. They were marked as hate categories by branding them as ‘SCs’, ‘Naxalites’, ‘trouble makers’, ‘ violent people’ etc. Strong animosity was built against the PSF. In that situation, one of the members of the PSF spontaneously reacted and thrashed two people who were active in the hate campaign against the PSF. Then the entire campus reacted by moving in hundreds, shouting slogans like down with the gooodaism of PSF. These kinds of mobilizations were quite new to the campus. These kind of isolated instances by Dalits were blown beyond proportions and students asked for rustication or some form of stern punishment. Upper castes demanded for the banning of the organization as well. This is how the upper castes repeatedly responded to isolated instances. Authorities have taken this support as an opportunity to demolish the organization and to silence its political voice. Following this, two important members of the PSF were denied seats in the Ph.D. programme. While protesting this, the authorities deployed the police outside the V.C’s chamber and created terror among the students.
By this time, there had already emerged a separate voice of women. A group of women came together to form an organization, Women Students Forum (WSF). This forum mainly comprised students from the English department belonging to other states than AP. They were more vocal, convent educated, urban-based, middle class, independent and confident. They have basically taken up issues of sexual harassment and made explicit the silence surrounding issues relating to women in a situation of apparently joyful life. They have faced lot of negative campaigning with unsigned posters and by actively circulating rumours about them. Once some of the members of WSF were sent pornographic mails, apparently to threaten them and dissuade them from activism. These kinds of techniques with fresh innovations are still followed to dissuade women from activism. Campus had been hostile to issues of women. They haven’t got any kind of support from authorities while facing hostile campaigns. They have brought in patriarchy into the campus political discourse as a critical conceptual tool. There had been a tendency to tie PSF and WSF together by the general public as both were dissenting groups in campus. In some of the issues WSF and PSF worked together.

The decade of nineties is known for the autonomous Dalit movement in Andhra Pradesh. It was also the time around which craving for a strong identity had emerged in Dalit politics. In campus, in PSF the markers of distinction were loose. There has always been scope for non-Dalits participating in it. The ideological, political expression was informed by debates. As against this, Dalits came together and started a separate organization for themselves in the year 1994, with membership exclusively being given to students belonging to SCs and STs. It was named after B.R. Ambedkar, i.e., Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Students Association (hereafter ASA). It involved a separate expression of Dalit political and cultural identity. Students of SC and ST communities have strongly involved and participated in this organization and evolved a new collective life. The PSF was weakened with the shift of support of Dalits to ASA.

Around this time, a separate cultural and literary organization named Visphotana had come into existence. It enabled and encouraged students to write poetry and engage in discussions over current trends in Telugu literature like Dalit, feminist and revolutionary literature. It has conducted seminars, poetry-meets and ran wall magazines containing poems of outstanding Telugu writers as well as poems by students. A considerable number of women students also participated in its activities. This organization became the literary articulation of the agony of many Dalit students and produced a good number of writers in Telugu literature in later times. This literary organization filled the vacuum left by the PSF in negotiating the different political identities of campus.

In the mean time, two shocking incidents happened on campus in the year 1995, one was the suicide of a Dalit women student and the other, a rape of an upper caste woman student on campus. These two incidents generated a lot of political debate among the various groups of students. Students mobilized in their struggle against these incidents with their respective political stand.

A Dalit women named Suneetha had committed suicide after being betrayed by an upper caste student who had promised to marry her. People across political spectrums participated in the beginning. Later PSF, ASA and WSF together led the agitation and had gone to the village of the upper caste student and campaigned in the village to boycott the family of the accused. In support of this,they mobilized the local democratic organizations. An enormous amount of debate took place among the organizations involved in the issues. They have analysed the issue varyingly as per one’s perspective as involving caste or gender as the primary analytical category. ASA considered this issue as primarily a caste issue and later a gender issue. Women Students’ forum considered this issue as primarily gender and then caste. PSF considered this as caste, gender and class issue. Whereas other upper castes considered this as a humanistic issue rather than any other.   Visphotana has brought out a booklet containing the poems written on this issue by the students on campus, named as ‘Suneetha Poddunne Posterai Palakristundi’.

Another incident that lead to a lot of political debate happened on August 15, 1995.  That day, some villagers from one of the villages that surround the University, raped a woman student on campus. The campus as a whole was shocked.  All students agitated for the nabbing of the culprits immediately. There were regular meetings on the campus to discuss the future course of agitation on this issue. The important idea that had come up for discussion was that women should be given leadership as it involves intricate matters relating to women’s dignity and since it is a ‘women issue’. There was another view, predominantly from the men - that there should be equal representation of men and women and described it as ‘human issue’. All the campus organizations were actively participating in this struggle. ASA had put as one of its demands an exgratia of two lakh rupees to the rape victim in its pamphlet supporting the agitation. The demand of exgratia created havoc among the upper caste, middle class women of the campus.  They got irritated. They demanded an apology for mentioning a ‘price for women’s dignity’. In that charged atmosphere one of the faculty commented, ‘we are so insensitive to women, let us accept that all men are bastards, including me’. This caused an enormous frustration among men and a big procession took place to attack that faculty member. They demanded that the faculty member should be suspended immediately. The women students as whole came in support of that particular faculty and from men only few individuals of PSF came in protecting the faculty from a mob attack. That led to huge processions and counter processions over this issue. Men and women were totally divided on this issue. There was no talk between men and women even among friends for a few days. The main issue got sidetracked. The point to note here is that the Dalit students of ASA were compelled to turn against women and upper caste men came in support of ASA in the name of ‘men’s pride’. This reveals inbuilt contradictions and possible political alliances in the given context. In the following elections to the Students’ Union a Dalit student got elected with a huge margin (not a member of ASA) against a woman who contested from the PSF banner who lost. The guess is that women didn’t vote to a women candidate even after such a sharp divide.
Let me explain the issues involved and the functioning of ASA. ASA has gradually become the sole representative voice of the Dalit community on campus. The ways of expressing solidarity among Dalit community has assumed new ways. A huge gathering takes place on the occasion of the birth and death anniversaries of Ambedkar every year. This is the spectacle through which the strength of the Dalits is shown in public. A strong network of Dalit students was established in each and every hostel through forming hostel committees and celebrating Ambedkar anniversaries through them. They continue the fight against attitudes of awarding less marks by upper caste teachers, which PSF had done earlier. They have put sustained pressure on the authorities to follow reservations. They demanded seats for Dalit students in research every year as it has become a common practice in selections to leave the seats of SCs and STs vacant.

To strengthen itself, ASA usually projects the PSF, as a Naxalite leaning students organization. It consciously tried to keep Dalit students out of the fold of PSF. Involvement in PSF was seen to be inviting the unnecessary risk of police involvement. This was to confront with the informed political debates from outside ASA. The speakers invited for the functions were Dalit ministers, successful Dalit officers and Dalit leaders like Katti Padma Rao. Other than the celebration meetings of Ambedkar, it organizes meetings to politicise Dalit students. It confines itself to activities related only to the Dalit community. Ideologically, it defines its position assimilating Marxism with Ambedkarism for the liberation of Dalits. The campus witnessed the confrontation of Dalit students of PSF and ASA on many isolated incidents. More than ideological fights, the conflict was to establish its organizational hold on campus. On many occasions, both worked together also. In later days, PSF was slowly disappearing and the individuals of the earlier active members of PSF remained to mediate various Dalit and women groups in crucial times. Whatever the anti Dalit attitude shown by the students of upper caste at PSF were now turned against ASA.

Within Andhra Pradesh, there emerged the Madiga Dandora, a movement which demanded the categorization of SC reservations between Dalit sub-castes, Madigas, along with some other smaller castes as Madigas, are relatively deprived in accessing the benefits of SC reservations. All over the state, there emerged a phenomenon of separate Madiga organizations. In the University of Hyderabad also, the numerically small Madiga community had gone away from ASA and formed themselves into a separate organization named Dalit Students Union (DSU). This organization has been facing problems due to its numerically less number. ASA remained predominantly a Mala organization. Due to mutual hostilities, these communities could not engage in any negotiations with each other. These communities always organized themselves with reference to other community. DSU too organized along the same lines as ASA.  But the difference was that it involved Madiga leaders and employees. If ASA was supporting one group, DSU used to support another group in the students’ elections by bargaining for one small post like the cultural secretary or joint secretary.

There has always been a stereotype created of Dalits by the upper castes.  This time, the round had come to ASA. ASA has made attempts to take part in the various activities of the University or to actively participate in the affairs of the University. For instance, they wanted to participate as mess secretaries in hostel messes. They want to participate in orchestra by dancing.  They were otherwise left out of all the programmes. They wanted to make their presence more visible. When they participated as mess secretaries, they were projected as corrupt. Anybody can be corrupt, but projecting it as the character of the community lead to a situation of hostility and confrontation. When they participated in the University functions like orchestra, they were projected as troublemakers and creators of terror. There are other stereotypes in circulation as scholarship holders swallowing govt. money etc. They are also portrayed as violent people. These stereotypes cannot be changed without public articulation. The major problem of the campus Dalit politics is that when one articulates the problem of Dalits in public they are bound to be stereotyped, ridiculed and made to be defeated in a deeply entrenched casteist society. There was no other possible way to convince the public except to thrash and scold out of hopelessness and bitterness. This is again branded as violence and the entire community is depicted as violent. It appears that there is no possibility of going beyond this in the near future. It needs a deep politicisation from both sides. For Dalits, language (English skills) and sophistication is always a problem to express themselves for their genuine justified positions in the public space of University.

The upper caste students do not need any organization or agitation since their interests are always safeguarded by the University system. The nexus between students-teachers-administration of upper caste is very strong. The whole system is totally dominated by them. So, their interests are taken care of by this dominant system. They project themselves as ‘against politics’ and ‘only for academics’. The imagined threat from the Dalit students too is not ruled out. After the AMCF, there was no organization formed for upper caste students, though spontaneously they responded in many issues in the name of ‘students’. In late nineties, there were efforts from the upper castes to start organizations. ‘Discovery’ and ‘Bermuda’ are such organizations and which later formed as ABVP. Both ‘Discovery’ and ‘Bermuda’ doesn’t have any formal structures. They propagate and circulate stereotypes about Dalits and women through secret posters. Especially the ‘Bermuda’ publishes secret, vulgar posters particularly aimed at womens’ activities. These stereotypes are actively propagated in their informal conversations. They never come in public. But ‘Discovery’ group organizes public seminars with figures like Arun Shourie, Gurumurthy of Swadeshi Jagaran Munch etc. Discovery has also been organizing RSS sakhas in campus. These two groups are active mobilisers and leaders whenever there is a procession against Dalits. They used to mobilize upper caste vote and also played a crucial role in choosing candidates from the upper caste side. They have also developed a strategy to place Dalit, Muslim or women candidates loyal to the Hindutva ideology to nullify the claims of these actual groups articulating on behalf of them. With the Hindutva forces in power, they created an atmosphere to formally begin a branch of the pro-Hindutva,  upper caste ABVP in campus. Both upper caste students and the administration had by then picked up courage to confront and negate Dalit students  on campus.  This happened in the early years of this decade. 

Apart from this, University Discussion Forum (UDF), a liberal upper caste organization, with leanings towards the CPI (M) is active on campus and had managed to win the Students Union elections. Though progressive, its strength lies in deliberately keeping away from ASA, otherwise it will lose its upper caste base.

On 13th January 2002, ten Dalit research scholars of ASA were rusticated from University of Hyderabad for allegedly beating the chief warden and another warden. The rustication of students was unprecedented either in this University or any other Universities of the country. This has once again shown the vulnerable situation of Dalits even in a modern liberal institution like the University. This has invited protests from Dalits and other democratic forces all over the country. This incident is a culminating point for Dalit politics over a period of a decade in the University of Hyderabad. It provides an occasion to retrospectively look at the complex and torturous journey of Dalit politics spanning over more than a decade in an elite University.
In course of time, the campus is aligned in the lines of United Democratic Alliance (ASA, DSU, Women’s Collective, United Students Forum, collectively known as UDA), UDF and ABVP at the time of the Students’ Union general elections of 2005. UDF panel got elected over UDA and marginalized ABVP. The successive defeats of ABVP made them to install the portrait of Vivekananda in hostels (as a propaganda measure), which became a point of controversy. ABVP justified this as an honour to a national youth leader. The other organizations UDA and UDF oppose this as an issue of ABVP’s effort to communalisation of campus. Vivekanada was considered as a symbol of Hindutva appropriated by Hindu communal forces. ASA has taken a stand that Vivekananda should be opposed as a Brahminical ideologue who supported the caste system.  The undercurrent of struggle over symbols is an act of political assertion of social groups of the campus. The ABVP poses a question logically, when the portrait of Ambedkar is allowed, why not Vivekananda? All these reflect the struggles at a symbolic level between the students of progressive, lower caste and upper castes.      

The entry of the Dalits into the space of the University not just built a more creative space within the political atmosphere of the University.  It has actually reshaped the intellectual output from the Social Sciences and Humanities departments.  Though the upper caste teachers/scholars repeatedly blame the Dalits for “bringing down” the academic standards, the truth is that, the insistent intellectual questioning by Dalit scholars have actually redefined these very disciplines.  University of Hyderabad, in that sense, is a pioneering institution that has created many ground breaking dissertations from the nascent Dalit scholarship.  It has been quite a fertile ground for production of a thriving Dalit intelligentia, both women and men who are still actively contributing to the literary, cultural, and scholarly fields.  The University students and alumni very often provide the political leadership for Dalit struggles in AP.  


Friday, June 17, 2016

An Overview of Contemporary Telugu Poetry

An Overview of Contemporary Telugu Poetry
P. Kesava Kumar
 Professor in Philosophy, Delhi University, Delhi

Telugu society has always been a land of struggles. These struggles have naturally had their impact on the Telugu literary production. In intellectual realm, the contradictions of the society are opened up and articulated through literature. The class struggles are followed by the identity politics. The last quarter of the century has witnessed the movements that have mobilized women, dalits, Muslims, and the people of Telangana for a democratic and human society. These new social movements have been critical about organized struggles and philosophies of both traditionalism and Marxism. In fact, the new social movements are well articulated through literature. This new literature has changed the ideological landscape of literature.  The language, idiom, style and aesthetics have been refreshed and redefined in much more concretely. This new literature has set the agenda of politics of change. Poetry becomes a medium for the emerging new intellectuals of Telugu society to express their anger and social aspirations in contesting the dominance and hegemony. The Contemporary Telugu poetry of feminist, dalit, and Muslim is fully committed to their own social experience and celebrated the dignity, self-respect and pride. The literature has been much closer to life.
Against Feudalism: Progressive Literature
In Telugu society, the progressive literature (Abhyudhava and Viplava) inspired by the Marxism has set the standards and canons of literature. It is a revolt against the ‘classical literature’ (Sampradaya sahityam) and romantic literature (Bhava Kavitvam) of 1920-1940. The progressive literature took new turn in 1970s by identifying with ongoing revolutionary struggles. The revolutionary literature (Viplva samityam) has had its mark till 1980s. The poets rebelled against the ideology of fascism, feudalism and capitalism in support of new democracy and socialism.   The progressive poetry mostly revolved around the themes of ‘humanism’, ‘revolution’ and ‘classless society’ (rythu coolie rajyam). The poet, Sri Sri is the iconic figure of this tradition. Apart from progressive literature, we too find different streams of Telugu poetry such as Anubhuthi(Experiential) and  digambara (Nude). However, in all these literary traditions, the writers and readers were mostly drawn from the category of the upper caste middle class male. The entire literary discourse is centred on either abstract human being or class by erosive of cultural markers such as caste, gender, religion and region. From 1980s onwards with the rise of conscious intellectuals from the lower castes and women exposed the shallowness of the ‘modernity’ and ‘progressiveness’ adopted by the literary world. In this process, they not only questioned the canons of literature but also dismissed the celebrated Telugu progressive modernists.
Feminist Poetry against Patriarchy 
From 1985 onwards, feminist poetry came as a strong dissenting voice against patriarchal structure that mainly responsible for oppression and exploitation of women. By 1990, feminist poetry has established as a different genre of Telugu literature. Feminist poetry is a frontal attack on stereotype images of women, sexuality, gender discrimination and male domination. Private space such as home, kitchen becomes public discourse. Through the literary craft, the feminist writers punctured the myth of body, pativravytam (chastity), motherhood and domestic labour and argued for freedom. The tales of unconcerned personal life   got political articulation through this poetry. Neelimeghalu (Blue clouds, 1993), Gurichoosi Pade Pata are the earlier collective anthologies of feminist poetry. Jayaprabha (Yuddhonmukhamga(1986), Vaamanudi Moodo Paadam (1988), Ikkada Kurisina Varsham Ekkadi Meghanidi (1991) and Yasodharaa Yee Vagapemduke (1993), Kondepudi Nirmala (Nadileche Gayalu, Hrudayaniki Bahuvachanam), Vimala (Adavi Vuppongina Ratri)  Volga, Vasanta Kannabiran, Mahe Jabeen, Patibandla Rajini, Ghantasala Nirmala, Revathi Devi, Silololitha, S.Jaya, K. Geetha, Savitri, Mokkapati Sumathi , Mandavarapu Hymavathi, Ravulapalli Suneetha, K.Varalakshmi, B.Padmavathi, Challapalli Swaroopa Rani (Mankena Poovu), M. M. Vinodini, Jupaka Subhadra, Jelli Indira are among the prominent feminist poets of Telugu literary world. The feminist poetry rebelled against the prejudiced social rules in male dominated society: The movement I am told/ it will burn me,/I want to embrace the sun. /Just once... That’s how I am. /I always want to do/What’s prohibited (Mahe Jabeen, Physical Geography).They retaliated  against the sexist outlook of society by asserting themselves: Looks/From two eyes/dart like needles/roam freely on lumps of flesh…..A day shall come/when women in this country have/thorns/not only in their eyes/but all over their bodies  (Jayaprabha,  Choopulu(Gaze)). Dalit women poets came as internal critics of feminist poetry by bringing into the issue of caste oppression faced by dalit women along gender discrimination. As dalit feminist writer says: When has my life been truly mine/In the home male arrogance/sets my cheek stinging/while in the street caste arrogance/splits the other cheek open (Challapalli Swaroopa Rani, Mankena Poovu)
Dalit Poetry for fistful of Self-Respect   
Dalit literary movement came in the backdrop of dalit struggles against caste atrocities, especially against the Karamchedu (1985) and Chunduru massacres (1991).  The quest for the search of their own Dalit identity makes dalit poets to broaden the literary horizons. They declared that we will write about ourselves. Ideologically they confronted with both Brahmanism and alternative ideologies such as Marxism. They opened up the issue of caste as primary social reality and penned for casteless society. The condemned symbols and life styles are converted into symbols of protest. They performed the poetry by invoking the collective social memory. They introduced the dalit language to the Telugu public against textual and sanskritised Telugu.
The early 1990s poetry anthologies, Chikkanavvutunna Pata (Thickening Song, 1995), Dalit Manifesto (1995), Padunekkina Pata (Sharpened Song, 1996) are set the tone for dalit poetry. At this historical juncture debated: Who is dalit? What constitutes dalit literature? This controversy resolved in course of time by considering whatever is written by the Dalits with their conscious social experience is only qualified to be Dalit literature. Ambedkarism becomes the ideology of dalit literature.
Dalit movement has produced many promising young poets. Dalit leaders have become poets. Madduri Nagesh Babu((Veliwada,(Untouchable Locality,1997), Meerevutlu?(What People Are You?,1998), Rachabanda(Village Square,1997), Naraloka Prarthana ( A Prayer of This World, 2002), Vidi Aakasam(A Separate Sky,1999)), Kalekuri Prasad, Pydi Teresh Babu ((Alpapeedanam(Depression in the Ocean,1999)), Hindu Maha Samudram(The Great Hindu ocean,1999), Nenu Naa Vintalamari Prapamcham (Me and My world of Wonders,2007), Satish Chander (Panchama Vedam( The Fifth Veda, 1995)), Kathi Padma Rao(( Nallakaluva (Black Lotus,1996 ) Bhhomi Bhasha, Kattelamopu)), Bojja Tarakam((Nadiputtina Gonthuka (The Voice that gave Birth to the River, 1983), K.G.Satyamurthy alias Sivasagar (Nadustunna Charitra, The Ongoing History,2004), Gaddar (Gaddar Patalu), Gorati Venkanna, Masterjee, Yendluri Sudhakar ((Varthamanam,   The Present,1985, Vargeekaranam(Categorization)),Sikhamani ((Chilaka Koyya (The Wooden Hanger, 1993), Nagappagari Sunderraju (Chandala Chatimpu), Vemula Yellaiah, Challapalliswarooparani (Manankena Poovu), Salandra, Sambhuka, Thullamalli Wilson Sudhakar, M M Vinodini, Joopaka Subhadra, Darla Venkateswara Rao         ( Dalita Tatvikudu), G.V.Ratnkar (Matti Palaka), P.C Ramulu, Juluri Gowrisankar, Prasada Murthy.

Dalit poets protested against the social practice of untouchability and raised their voice for fistful for self-respect: ‘I am still a prohibited human being/Mine is an expelled breath/ ..The moment he left a mark of prohibition on my face/My race/Was gradually murdered   (Yendluri Sudhakar, The Present).  I’m the wound of the people, a communion of wounds./For ages, a slave in a free country,/subject to insult, atrocity, rape, torture,/someone raising his head for a fistful of self respect./My very existence in this nation, drunk on caste and wealth,/is a protest( Kalekuri Prasad, For a Fistful of Self-respect). The poets constructed the counter history against the figures of Brahminical mythology by invoking alternative symbols like Ekalavya, Sambuka (Siva Sagar, Nadustunna Charitra). From the stubs of those thumbs there now sprout nibs of steel/ to write history anew. ((Sikhamani, Vade Asuddha Manavudu (That Fellow is the unclean Human being, 1984)). Dalit poetry is determined against brahmanical history and their writing is committed in demanding the citizenship and social justice which is denied for generations: In this Country we want a piece of land/These clouds has to be vanished/These walls must be collapsed/…I want real citizenship/will you give it?...I want a touch/I want you to shake my hand with your heart (Madduri Nagesh Babu, What do I want?). They further cautioned the nation that without the labour of dalit communities, this country could not flourish. With pride they declared that this nation was produced out of their labour ( Juluri Gowri Shankar,. Padamudralu,( Foot Prints)).

Sharpening of Identity Politics: Madiga, Muslim and Telangana Poetry

With the assertion of new identities such as Madiga, Muslim and Telangana , the terrain of Telugu literature too has changed remarkably. Dalit literature too has undergone significant transformation with further assertion of social constituents of dalit category by 2000s. Madiga poetry (Madiga Chaitanyam), Bahujana Poetry (Ventade Kalalu , Poetry of Backward Castes) are further democratised the dalit poetry. Muslim poetry has emerged as a new literary genre after the Gujarat massacre with the poetry anthology, Jala Jala.  With the demolition of Babri Masjid , Muslim community has  been pushed to  insecurity and terrified further with Gujarat massacre. In the context of self insulation of community, Telugu Muslim poetry opened up the ongoing anger and uncertainty of Muslim community through poetry.  As Reflecting on this situation : Long before I was born/my name was listed among traitors….Yes, my birthmark is me/my existence, my citizenship/It’s my ancestral property/inherited from the earth/the sky, the air/the surroundings I live in/ It’s a wound that never heals( Khadar Mohiuddin, Puttumacha (Birthmark,1991)). The Muslim poets through their poetry not only depicted the insecurity and ill-treatment of the community and narrated the tale of social economic backwardness of the community.  Skybaba ( Jaljala (Ed), 1998), Khaza (Fatwa), Shajahana (Nakhab), Anwar (Aja (Ed.) ), Iqbal chand (Black Voice, 1995), Khasim Shaik, Afsar (Valasa (Migration)), Yakoob (Sarihaddu Rekha (Borderline)), Haneef, Mahe Jabeeen are some of the prominent poets of Muslim poetry.
Telangana poetry has been established in the backdrop of struggle for separate Telangana state. This poetry is a celebration of the pride of Telangana and its culture against the exploitation of this region. The aspirations for Telangana people were well articulated through the cultural and literary forms. Dalit, Bahujan, Muslim and Women writers and cultural performers played a key role in Telangana literature. The dalit performer poets Gaddar, Gorati Venkanna, and Andesree culturally set the political tone of separate Telangana. At present Telugu poetry is at crossroads looking at the democratic path to move ahead.