rockscape Metroplus

The many uses of stone!

Burgula Narsing Rao. Photo: G. Ramakrishna  

“In all Indian agitations, stones are very important!” laughs Burgula Narsing Rao. In one of the most riveting conversations we have had in our research for the documentary on the rocks and Hyderabad, he describes why he, an eminent Hyderabadi senior citizen, once threw stones!

His ancestral village is Burgula, 68km from Hyderabad. He served as its Sarpanch from 1976 to 1995. A student leader and freedom fighter himself, he has the regions’ political movements committed to a memory that is razor-sharp even at 84. I will recount here just one part of a dense, personally annotated account of the region.

To transition from the Nizam’s government, during the gap between joining the Indian Union in 1948 and the democratically elected state government of 1952, a parallel bureaucracy with officers from outside the state was brought into Hyderabad. Andhra was still a part of Madras presidency then, so Andhra officers came from there. There was simmering discontent with this Andhra bureaucracy that, in September 1952, broke out on the streets in the form of the Mulki/Non-Mulki agitation.

“It started from Warangal. I was President of Nizam College Students Union. We also called for agitation. We were not parochial and did not favour slogans like “Andhras go back”. We wanted Mulkis to be given preference in employment. We wanted officers who came after Police Action to be repatriated to their native states. We wanted education and employment opportunities.”

On September 3rd, students of City College came out agitating, were fired upon and 3 persons were killed. Students added the immediate demand, that the government hand over the bodies, to earlier demands.

On 3rd evening when Narsing Rao went home, there were summons from the Chief Minister. “I woke up Bharat Vajpayee (Secretary of Arts College Union) and took him along. Almost the entire cabinet was there and very disturbed. I reiterated that they had to hand over the bodies. My uncle, Chief Minister Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, became very emotional and promised to do so.”

Next day, September 4th about 20,000 people gathered at Osmania Hospital. “There were emotional speeches. Trouble erupted. I saw armed police all over: at the hospital, across the Nayapul Bridge (made of stone masonry, after the terrible 1908 Musi flood, under Mehboob Ali Khan’s rule). Police started firing and people scattered. We went under the bridge for protection, emerged to throw stones we found there at the police, went back under it for protection.”

“All schools, colleges were closed for one month curfew. We regrouped and demanded an inquiry into firing. The Government responded with an inquiry and the outsiders being repatriated.”

“But the one month turmoil shook the government. Nehru and Maulana Azad came to Hyderabad. At the Fateh Maidan public meeting, Nehru assured us about our demands. Next day he addressed students at Nizam College grounds: a 45-minute class on the meaning of democracy. As Chairman of the Action Committee and President of the Students Union, I was on the dais and began a vote of thanks, ‘Thanks Panditji for your advice and guidance, we will try and restore normalcy...’, when I suddenly found myself being lifted up high. It was Nehru! There are many Hyderabadis around the world, who were there that day, who still remind me of that! My mike had failed, the audience could not hear and was restive. Nehru simply lifted me and put me onto the other mike! It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.”

“Seriously though, the Telangana agitation against denial of opportunity to the Telangana people began there: in the 1952 student movement.”

Narsing Rao had a book-worthy amount of invaluable information to share. There is space here for just so much. Clearly though, those were times of passionate action for socio- political justice. Inspiring times! Somewhere in all this excitement, the stone masonry of Naya-Pul culled from our rocks gave young agitating students shelter and a means of self defence. Our rocks have been sentinels in our history and enduring protectors. They are as inspiringly strong and remarkable as the history of our region. Etched in various ways into memories of our city, they must be protected in our current development in order to remain unique markers of our city’s human and physical geography.

(The writer is a documentary filmmaker, writer and teacher.)

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 8:55:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-many-uses-of-stone/article5944068.ece

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