Barrelakka (Buffalo Sister), whose original name is Sirisha, is just 25 years old unemployed poorest of the poor girls from Kollapur constituency in South Telangana. She is an independent candidate as representative of unemployed youth and creating new electoral culture and morality in a state where money power has increased several fold after bifurcation. She, with a massive support of social media, and supporters from various social organizations, mainly from Telangana unemployed youth, reaching the constituency from Telangana and outside, in support of her, shaking three rich candidates contesting from BRS, Congress and BJP.
Her speeches, with clarity, have good communication abilities attracting masses and media. Though she was threatened to withdraw and her younger brother, a school going boy, was attacked, she is not deterred. Her commitment to the right to contest and tell the truth to voters is setting a new trend in the state, perhaps in the country itself. She tells a story of an election system giving a handle to harass the poor and vulnerable, as money and muscle power plays a critical role. Yes this needs to be fought by the future generation. This young Dalit girl fighting in a general constituency set aside the caste borders. Her supporters come from all castes, communities and more so women of different walks of life.
Barrelakka is a New hope.
The most unfulfilled promise of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (earlier Telangana Rastra Samithi) partly controlled by one whole family is not providing jobs for millions of unemployed. The party that was said to have been formed only for Telangana now jumped that promise to become a BRS within ten years rule and spending a small state’s money for campaigns all over India. However, this young poor girl has put her weakest side on the election agenda. That seems to have turned the entire state’s unemployed youth against the ruling party. Except in that constituency in all other 118 constituencies, the fight may help the Congress because the unemployed youth in all over the state is glued to the anti-Government battle by this young girl. The BRC leaders, though, are claiming that they put many welfare schemes in place, but their record on keeping the youth unemployed is quite visible in every house. This statehood was achieved by pushing 1500 youth into suicide net by former TRS now BRS leader, particularly the family members of KCR by repeatedly telling them that they would self-immolate if the state was not bifurcated.
She narrates her struggles of spending loaned money on coaching centers, living in un-accommodative Hyderabad city for rural youth. Several days, while preparing for Group I examination, she ate food around some free feeding centers on the roads or temples that dole prasandam. Yet she studied and wrote exams only to be cancelled afterwards on one pretext or the other. She repeatedly tells the masses that she would fight for 40,00,000 unemployed whose age and energies are running out, without getting married and living a secure life. She explains their sorrows as victims of the negligence of the Government.
I was with her on 25 November 2023, just three days before the campaign ended on 27th. Scores of unemployed youth were in her campaign procession going through the richest Congress candidate, Jupalli Krishna Rao’s, former minister from earlier TRS Government and now shifted to the Congress, village Jupalli. Scores of cars reached there from all parts of two Telugu states, with hundreds of youth shouting slogans “Vote for Barrelakka, Vote for Whistle, Save the lives of Unemployed Youth” made me feel hopeful.
Dharani Took Away Her Small Piece of Land
She is a graduate, with an innocent labour mother and two younger brothers. Her father became a drunkard and went away from home, after selling away just 10 gunta (1/4 acre) land they had without informing his wife. The Dharani portal allowed any owner to sell land without involving the family’s consent or signatures. She said my father handed over that land without telling my mother or children to somebody. There is no way now to retrieve the land. I went round begging and touching the people’s feet to get our land back. “Our land is swallowed by Dharani and Drunken father” says Barrelakka in a TV interview. This story infuriates people more and more. The Dharni portal created huge problems for small farmers, who are unable to handle the software mafia.
She hoped for a job in the newly carved-out Telangana state. The KCR party promised jobs for youth once the state is bifurcated. When the state was formed Barrelakka was 15 and participated in the movement for statehood as a school student with a hope that she could help her mother with a Government job in the new state.
She wrote several state service examinations and got qualified from Group I, the top most state service, to other small job vacancies. But every time either selection was postponed or already written exams were cancelled, with a pretext of paper leakage and some other issue that state administration itself plotted.
The KCR Government remained indifferent to massively grown unemployment and totally collapsed the state education system. The education system remained dysfunctional during the T-state agitation and thereafter for the last ten years without any serious effort the Government killed the education system. When compared to the other bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, both in education and employment, Telangana remained the most unattended state. Barrelakka is a victim of the new method of administration of the new state administrators.
She Bought Buffalos and became Barrealakka
She was clueless about her family’s future. She learnt making videos on her phone and started posting them on her Instagram @ barrelakka “Hi friends I am your Barrelakka. However hard we study and whatever degrees we acquire we will not be given jobs in Telangana. That is the reason why I bought four buffaloes with the struggle of my mother. Now I am with my buffalos in the fields”. That video went viral. The police obviously with the eye-wink of the higher ups booked a case against her under the IPC section 505 (2) that she was defaming the Government. She was made to run around the court and her life became more miserable.
In this struggle came the election of 2023 for the State Assembly. As a last attempt in the struggle for survival, she filed for the nomination for Kollapur constituency. No major politician expected her nomination would survive the scrutiny. They thought that like her answer papers were rendered useless in the job examinations, her nomination would become useless. But it was not rejected. She was given a whistle symbol.
As I am writing this article her campaign began to shake with supporters with small amounts in their hands to donate and willing to stay with her sleeping on the roadside. Youtube channels follow her, songwriters and singers making quite powerful music videos and uploading on Youtube. The atmosphere around her campaign with several cars behind her bannered campaign vehicles showed a newborn moral force in this election. She is certainly a moral political fighter who created a new atmosphere in Telangana elections. Whether she wins or loses is a different issue. But she shows a direction to the youth which is the way forward.
Lawyers approached the Telangana high court asking for protection as the state and election commission were looking the other way about her and her family’s safety. There is fear all around that the rich can do anything against such a vulnerable young poor girl, as she has shown unusual courage and confidence.
The moral nation still surviving in the civil society of India must protect Barrelakka as she is a great hope for future life like her namesake the buffalo milk for this country for millennia.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His latest book is The Clash of Cultures—Productive Masses Vs Hindutva—Mullah Conflicting Ethics.