Tension Haunts Hyderabad

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: With political leaders and parties keen to “exploit” the recent tension in Hyderabad to their advantage, they are playing all possible cards they can. The old city was rocked by tension, following a dispute between two groups over religious flags last month (March 27). Riots broke out, causing loss of three lives and injuring around 150, which led to curfew being imposed on March 29. As the situation became normal, curfew was gradually lifted from the areas rocked by communal violence. Curfew was completely lifted last week (April 10), though prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people remained in force.

Investigations being conducted by the police on who was responsible for the communal violence are expected to take another week. On this, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes), K. Narsimha Reddy said: “We are thoroughly investigating the matter to know the exact reasons that led to communal unrest. Strict action as per law will be initiated against all those involved in the communal clashes.” 

With more than 180 cases booked in connection with the communal violence, around 250 people have been arrested. Yet, verbal missiles between the rival political parties continue to be hurled at each other. While accepting that communal violence should not have taken place, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah (Congress) claimed that he had “deftly” handled the situation. Following his return from New Delhi after a three-day visit, he claimed that Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi was “extremely happy” with his government’s performance in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Referring specifically to communal tension in Hyderabad, he said: “She has been happy over the deft handling of the situation arising out of communal riots in old city of Hyderabad, though such things should not have happened in the first place” (April 17). Her words, according to him, were: “She told me- You have tactfully handled the situation, I am happy.” She also expressed appreciation on the situation being “normal” now, he said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not reacted favorably to police rounding up Hindus also for their alleged role in recent communal clashes in Hyderabad. The party organized protest rallies and demonstrations across Andhra Pradesh last week (April 17).  Blaming the police for its “high-handedness” in booking charges against Hindu youths, the BJP activists shouted slogans against the state government and police. They demanded withdrawal of cases against workers of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The police reacted by taking more than 200 BJP activists into preventive custody. These included the BJP’s AP unit chief, G. Kishan Reddy (Member of Legislative Assembly), general secretary N. Ramchander Rao, former union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and party’s national secretary Dr. K. Laxman.

Several BJP leaders were taken into custody earlier in the month also (April 7), when they tried visiting some riot-hit areas in Old Hyderabad. A five-member team formed by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, included Prakash Javadekar, Shanappa, Prahlad Joshi, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dr. Laxman. The police tried convincing the team, led by Javadekar, not to proceed as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC were still in force. As the police denied them permission, the BJP members entered into an argument with them. Sitharaman and his party members blamed the state government for acting in a “dictatorial” manner. The BJP activists raised slogans against the police. More than 50 BJP members, including Reddy, were taken into custody. Condemning the police action against BJP’s “fact-finding” team, Reddy was addressing the media.

Though the concerned authorities must be credited for not allowing the recent communal clashes to spread further, questions continue to be raised on their having taken place. Who is to be blamed for planning these clashes, where did the state police and intelligence services fail in preventing them are some of the questions which remain unanswered. These have gained greater importance with tension prevailing on continuance of peace and harmony in sensitive parts of Hyderabad. As the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast comes closer, tension is further aggravated by fear on whether it would pass by peacefully.  A blast occurred inside the Mecca Masjid in Old Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, when around 10,000 people were gathered for their Friday prayers. The blast and subsequent police firing led to 14 deaths and more than 50 injured.

Last year, on May 18 at Falaknuma, a Home Guard was killed by a member of an alleged terrorist group.

Though, last year’s incident did not lead to any communal clashes, with the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast being preceded by riots, tension prevails among the citizens. Even though police has picked up riot suspects from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), signaling that it is taking a tough stand against whosoever is a “suspect,” fear continues to haunt the people. Apprehension about situation still not being normal in Hyderabad has hit the state’s tourist industry also. This is indicated by more than 50 percent hotel rooms going unoccupied this March. Situation remains grim, as expressed by Ram Misra, president, Hotels and Restaurant association of AP. He said: “The first quarter is not showing any pick-up at all so far. Normally by now, the bulk bookings are into the system and we know May will be fine. But as of now in April-May, there is nothing happening.”

Till political leaders continue to exploit sensitive issues for their interest, the state’s citizens and also the visitors, including tourists, are bound to remain skeptical about normalcy marked by peace and harmony in Hyderabad.

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YSR’s Death Raises Questions

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD:  The sudden passing away of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (60) in a chopper crash last Wednesday (September 2) has raised intriguing questions about certain crucial issues. One is instantly forced to deliberate on loopholes present in the security actually provided to political VVIPs and apparent negligence displayed towards ensuring that helicopters used by them have no technical flaws and are capable of handling weather problems. If as initial reports indicate that the helicopter had technical problems, why was it retained in service to be used leading to Reddy’s death and of four others on board? The same helicopter had developed a technical snag earlier this year, while Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama was flying from Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) to Gulbarga in Karnataka. The Dalai Lama was told during the flight that the helicopter was experiencing technical problems. The pilot managed to land the Bell-430 chopper safely at its destination. The Dalai Lama used a different chopper on his return flight.

If the concerned aviation staff was aware of the technical problem in chopper, why was it made available for use by Reddy? The helicopter crashed over Nallamala while flying to Chittor from Hyderabad. It has also been said that chopper ran into rough weather and then crashed. This implies that the chopper may have crashed because the pilot was not given the right information about weather problems, he may have over-estimated the plane’s weather-handling capacity and/or despite being aware of these risks he took the chance, as he did not want to refuse on flying the VVIPs. The pilots face the risk of losing jobs on refusing to fly top dignitaries, even if their stand is backed by strong reasons such as bad weather.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is looking into whether the local Met office gave the correct weather report before the VVIP flight took off. The hard fact of weather being unpredictable cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, this does not minimize importance given to checking vital air safety checks of helicopters being used in India. It may be noted here that DGCA has only one part-time inspector to conduct safety checks of more than 200 helicopters deployed across the country. Even if this inspector was engaged full-time in conducting safety checks, it is certainly not a one man’s job to thoroughly inspect 200 helicopters all over the country. As it takes two days to thoroughly inspect one helicopter, it would be impossible for him to inspect all 200 helicopters even in a year’s time. Considering the new importance being given by politicians to use helicopters, isn’t it time that they paid some attention to safety of choppers they use and weather conditions. Not too long ago, an angry state chief minister ordered the transfer of a pilot simply because the latter had refused to fly the VVIP because of bad weather.

Reddy’s death has also exposed a dark side of Indian political culture once again. Though there is nothing surprising about it but one is certainly amazed at how chaotic and stormy Indian politics can get in the race for political chairs. This has been exposed with Reddy’s death being followed by confusion and political battling on who would succeed him as the chief minister. While the confusion has ended for the time being, with swearing in of Reddy’s Financial Minister K. Rosaiah as the caretaker chief minister (September 3), the political heat has not yet settled down. A new set of ministers was sworn in to form the state’s new cabinet (September 6). But the battle is still on with their being a heated campaign in favor of Reddy’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as the next chief minister. A letter signed by 36 ministers in the late Reddy’s cabinet has urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to consider him for the post. The letter said: “Just like Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Jaganmohan Reddy has a good following among the masses from grass-roots level and is acceptable to all sections, particularly the downtrodden and weaker sections, for the post of chief minister.”

Several former ministers stated that they would join the cabinet only if Jaganmohan was made the chief minister. It is pathetic that supporters of Jaganmohan have even disrupted condolence meetings being held in his father’s memory. Shouting shrill slogans they forced early end of a condolence meeting being held in Hyderabad in the presence of acting Chief Minister Rosaiah, Union Minister Jaipal Reddy and state Congress president D. Srinivas. The three leaders had to be quickly escorted to safety by security personnel as Jaganmohan’s supporters tried to mob them (September 6). Considering that Jaganmohan’s entry into Lok Sabha this year is only his first step onto the Indian political stage, one is forced to wonder whether his supporters are considering him as the “right” candidate only because he happens to be late Reddy’s son? Shouldn’t he be first given time to prove his political mantle as his father did?

Circumstances leading to Reddy’s death and the political storm over who would be next chief minister have exposed two dark sides of Indian politics. One is negligence of needed air safety measures even for political VVIPs. The second is inherent instability leading to confusion and chaos when leader at the top suddenly moves off the political stage. If entering Indian politics is being treated like a cakewalk, as Jaganmohan’s supporters seem to, it would certainly provide rivals of Congress enough political ground to rise again in the state!

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