Telangana: Betrayal and Broken Promises

Posted in politics, society by Nehaa on December 23, 2009

As Telangana continues to be a hot-bed of political uncertainty and regional discord, Abdaal Akhtar explores the history of the region and the formation of Andhra Pradesh, and why a separate state might be a good idea, while the Congress finds itself in a Catch-22 situation.


It was with some degree of amusement that I read the reactions of various people to the Telangana issue. “DO NOT DIVIDE THE COUNTRY AGAIN!!” screamed a hysterical status message on Facebook. “You divide, we fall” ran the slogan of the United Andhra Group. “Make Hyderabad a UT-Cheap Booze!” said another. The more knowledgeable ones wrote about how small states do not necessarily mean better governed states, how political consensus was not arrived at and how Irom Sharmila’s fast has been ignored for a decade while an opportunist politician’s fast has been rewarded in just five days!

At the outset, Telangana is not equal to KCR. Or the TRS for that matter. Telangana was an entity long before they came on the scene. Right from the 14th Century to 1956, Telangana was never a part of Andhra. Six centuries of separate existence has led Telangana to acquire an identity of its own. Unlike Coastal Andhra, Telangana is unmistakably feudal, a side of it captured brilliantly by Shyam Benegal, a Hyderabadi, in his debut film, Ankur. The culture is distinct too. Anybody with even a passing acquaintance of Telugu cannot miss noticing the difference between the Telugu spoken here and the rest of Andhra. The vocabulary here is rich with borrowings from Urdu and Marathi. It is always “Nuvvu” (tum) here and never “Meeru” (aap) as prevalent in the Coastal areas. A place is either “najdeekmu” or “doormu”. Not surprisingly, the Telangana dialect has always been the butt of jokes in the rest of the State. So much so that prominent Telanganites like the late PM, P.V Narasimha Rao always made it a point to speak the “refined” coastal dialect in order to avoid coming across as uncouth. Telugu movies inevitably have the villain speak this “rowdy” dialect which is perhaps a telling comment on the way Andhra sees Telangana.

The old Hyderabad State continues to be regarded with pride by native Telanganites. While Andhra associates the Nizam’s rule with the tyranny of the Razakars and the Police Action, a Telanganite remembers it as the last time any development activity happened in his lands. It saw the creation of the Nizamsagar Dam, of the Nizam Sugar Mills, the establishment of the Osmania University and the making of Hyderabad into what it is today. No wonder then that KCR’s lavish praise of the Nizam a few years ago drew no flak in Telangana while he was roundly criticized for praising a tyrant by the Andhraites.

The differences I have enumerated can be easily dismissed as trivial by many critics of a separate Telangana. After all in India, cultures, cuisines and languages change every hundred miles. Does that mean a separate state carved out of every existing state? The problem is not the diversity. It is when this diversity leads to neglect. Take any human development parameter and compare a Telangana district, say Nalgonda or Adilabad with a Coastal district like Krishna or West Godavari. The Telangana districts fare no better than Daltonganj or Surguja while West Godavari is one of India’s most developed districts, economically and educationally. Indeed, for every 1 rupee that flows into Hyderabad, barely 4 paisas go to the districts of Telangana, its neighbours. As a Times of India report points out, Telangana, minus Hyderabad, fares just about better than Bihar in living standards, a statistic that is even more shocking when one considers the fact that more than 30,000 crore rupees has been pumped into Hyderabad through the IT sector. That is why I also have sympathy with similar demands in other neglected areas like Bundelkhand or Purvanchal.

The Fazal Ali Committee whose recommendations led to the redrawing of the provincial boundaries of India had specifically commented on Telangana. It stated that it would be wrong to merge Telangana with Andhra once the old Hyderabad state (comprising of modern day North Karnataka, Marathwada and Telangana) was abolished. Its reasons were simple: a) Economic b) Lack of public support for Andhra Pradesh in Telangana area. It recommended a separate Hyderabad State that may join Andhra at its own option later. This was however overlooked by the Govt. of India in view of a Gentlemen’s Agreement entered into by Telangana and Andhra leaders. The Andhra leaders promised among others that a) Telangana would benefit from the planned dams on the Krishna and Godavari rivers b) Telanganites would be given preference in jobs c) 40% of ministers to be from Telangana. While Pt. Nehru had his doubts, he nevertheless gave the go ahead.

By 1969, the illusion had been shattered. Once every clause of the agreement had been broken, Telangana erupted. More than 350 people died in police firing alone. Indira Gandhi in a masterstroke made the leader of the movement, M Chenna Reddy the Governor of UP and thus controlled the flames of what promised to be a repeat of the Telangana Rebellion of the 1940s when the peasants overthrew their landlords and liberated a third of the region. The T sentiment though kept on simmering as evidenced in 2004 when the Congress in alliance with the TRS swept Telangana. KCR’s constant gaffes and resignation dramas however ensured his party’s rout in 2009. The mandate though was not anti-Telangana. What choice did the people have anyway? Chandrababu Naidu, whose flip flops are legendary? Or the Praja Rajyam, a party with almost no base here? The people made the pragmatic choice by voting Congress. YSR knew this better than anybody else and thus kept on dilly-dallying the Telangana issue. A vote for development is not equal to an Anti-Telangana vote as United Andhra proponents would like to claim. It merely reflects the lack of choice in our democracy.

The recent agitation has little to do with KCR. Had the police not savagely beaten up pro Telangana demonstrators, this turn of events would never have come to be. KCR became the unwitting posterboy of a drama fuelled by an age old sense of betrayal and conducted by a brutal police and a hapless CM. The announcement by the Home Minister sparked off wild celebrations. These people were not OU students or TRS cadres. They were people celebrating the end of six decades of betrayal.

What followed though was shameful. For no apparent reason, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra erupted. I have observed first hand the agitation here in Guntur, the heart of Coastal Andhra. The people are actually glad about Telangana. Hyderabad, the great vortex of economy in Andhra, had been sucking in way too much investment in their opinion. It was high time, they say, that Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Guntur received their share as well. The reasons officially bandied about for the agitation include “development in United AP-separation is no solution”, “hasty decision”, “fate of Hyderabad” and so on. The first reason, and this is the one most commonly given, is laughable, coming as it does from people who adore Potti Sriramulu and claim to be running the movement in his name. Potti Sriramulu ensured the separation of Andhra from Madras province claiming unequal development. It was his fast unto death that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. If only he had subscribed to his followers’ views of “separation is no solution”! Coming to the second argument, the decision is not hasty at all. After all werent it these the very MPs who had authorised the CWC to decide on Telangana? Had not the TDP and the PR declared their unstinted support to the Telangana cause? All that the Govt. did was to recommend that a resolution be introduced in the Assembly and that was enough for these opportunists to do a complete volte-face.

An interesting observation in this United Andhra agitation is the fact that its leaders have all got major business interests. This is where the third reason becomes pertinent. Throughout the years they have made major investments in the realty sector in Hyderabad. The creation of Telangana is expected to cause a sharp drop in land prices and this would hurt them badly. That is the reason why they want Hyderabad to be made the joint capital or a UT. That is the reason why Vijayawada MP and billionaire, Lagadapati Rajagopal is on a fast unto death. Other reasons include the mining lobby’s pressure which, controlled as it is by the notorious Bellary brothers, is afraid of losing the rights to Telangana mines. The creation of Telangana would hurt them and their ilk the most. Separating Hyderabad from Telangana is a ridiculous idea. Telangana derives much of its distinctiveness owing to Hyderabad’s location. Hyderabad in no way can be a made a UT or a joint capital, hemmed in as it is by close to a 150 km of Telangana territory on all sides. This talk of a joint capital is daydreaming in the least and utter stupidity in fact.

A laudable side effect of the Telangana movement has been the collapse of the linguistic state model. Pt. Nehru had warned of its dangers back in the 1950s but his warnings were ignored. Linguistic subnationalism is a force no less harmful than religious extremism. MNS and the Shiv Sena being prime examples. The geographic or cultural creation of provinces makes much more sense. Much discussion has centered on how smaller states cannot handle Naxalism. Naxalism arose because of the lack of smaller states! If Madhya Pradesh had not neglected its eastern wing and Bihar had paid a trifle more attention to Dhanbad, Giridih or Aurangabad, they would never have become the naxal hotbeds that they are today. Small states are not the cause but the solution to Naxalism. Development indices too point to the fact that small states are not doing that badly. Rural electrification has taken off in a big way in all the three states created in 2000. They all enjoy better literacy rates than their parent states even though two of them are predominantly tribal. All three of them have better healthcare records than the states they were hived off from.

The Congress is today caught in a Catch 22 situation. It is damned if it does and damned if it doesnt. Going ahead with Telangana would probably lead to a split in the party and the migration of the super rich from it. Going back on Telangana would be double crossing a people who have been deprived of their just rights since independence. This duplicity will never be forgiven by them. One only hopes that it makes the right choice. Jai Telangana.


11 Responses

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  1. armalcolite said, on December 23, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    I understand that KCR is not popular right now. But there is a reason the media and even a section the pro Telangana agitators chose to project him as the face of the struggle for statehood. As opportunistic as his intentions may have been, following his leaving the TDP, the TRS did capture the imagination of the Telangana voters (which was reflected in the 2004 polls). Also he is responsible making Telangana an electoral issue in the post NTR era during which elections were won on Telugu pride and populist measures. However, you are right in saying KCR does not represent Telangana and that the defining feature of this protest has been that students were involved on a large scale.

    Nice post though, one of the best I’ve read on the issue.

  2. Tarun said, on December 24, 2009 at 9:42 am

    brilliant, brilliant stuff. ndtv, times of india and hindu online, all of google news and local opinion haven’t put it better. amused observers usually make for good reads and you haven’t disappointed.

  3. Sameer Boray said, on December 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

    top notch…really good stuff.It’s interesting to see how a third party(non andhra or telengana) person has projected the reasons for dividing the state.As you mentioned in article, everyone talks about how dividing the country will just lead to more discord and chaos.What people seemed to have ignored is that Andhra is like an unlit furnace , which is just about ready to blow up. Bringing in an issue which is of parallel importance is the recent announcement by the government’s panel for referendum of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, looks like the people might decide whether to continue with the operation of article 370 in its present form or modified form or to annul it.Anyhow my point is this: LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE. For Telengana, the people of the region decided they wanted a separate state(which also has support from the Fazl Ali commission report of ’56) almost 60 years ago.Once again, really good stuff:)

  4. abdaal said, on December 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    @ Puneeth

    While KCR was indeed the face of Telangana in 2004, it has been all downhill for him ever since..If only the police had not been so brutal on the students, his fast would have gone the way fasts in India usually go! A glass of orange juice in an ICU..:)

    @ All

    Thanks a ton for the kind words!

  5. ramu said, on January 8, 2010 at 7:02 am

    good one, kcr is not important here. whether systematic oppression took place in telangna for 53 yrs or not is important. people are fighting for political freed..they want their state back..they want equal share in resources/opportunities..they want to restore their pride, culture, dialect, etc. injustice took place for 53 years and whole of india was one helped..its the people of telangana fighting for themselves

  6. Sheena said, on January 8, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Really liked your article, talks of the systemic injustice done to Telangana time and again.

  7. sravank said, on February 5, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Nicely put. Clear and Fair.
    Surprisingly none of the usual samaikhyandhra proponents have shown up or commented here.
    I can realize you haven’t left any nail sticking up to pull.

  8. sravank said, on February 5, 2010 at 4:51 am

    But small correction. Potti Sriramulu has nothing to do with Telangana. His fast helped create Andhra State(with present Andhra and Rayalseema) in 1953, along with it surge in formation of other linguistic states. Hyderabad with telangana(forming the majority) and 6 districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka was a separate state until 1956. In 1956 against Fazal Ali’s recommendations erstwhile telangana of hyderabad was merged with Andhra State to form Andhra Pradesh. (Actually the name proposed and included in the state draft sent for Parliament Resolution was Telanganandhra Pradesh. Surprisingly telangana was dropped from the name as the draft reached New Delhi).

  9. abdaal said, on February 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    @ Sravan

    Nowhere have I linked Potti Sriramulu to Telanagana. I have instead tried to point out that how the very people who oppose small states praise Potti Sriramulu whose fast started the trend of small linguo-regional states

  10. sravan said, on February 7, 2010 at 3:24 am

    you said,
    It was his fast unto death that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956

  11. sravan said, on February 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    You said,
    It was his fast unto death that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
    No way Potti Sriramulu’s death was directly or indirectly related to creation of Andhra Pradesh. All he wanted was creation of Andhra State(with out telangana) with Madras as capital. He failed but was able to accelerate the governement process to create linguistic states.
    It was later in 1956 that Andhra forced the merger of Telangana for the obvious reasons.

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