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People’s Telangana: Long way to go డిసెంబర్ 13, 2009

Posted by Telangana Utsav in agitation, Andhra, BCs, compromise, Congress, Culture, Economy, elections, GHMC, Harish, Hindu, Hyderabad, Identity, JAC, KCR, KTR, MIM, Mulki, Muslim, Naxalite, politics, Rahul, Reddy, Sonia, students, TDP, Telangana, TRS, Velama.

Between a state and a hard place

A Telangana state will give the region’s dominant castes their place in the sun, but there be will be another round of struggle before the other castes — the backward classes — find their place in the power structure, writes Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

Daily News & Analysis, Dec 13, 2009

The English-speaking, deracinated metropolitan chatterati are fretting and fuming over the prospect of the formation of a separate Telangana state. They ask with utter incredulity, “What will happen to Hyderabad? How can it be part of Telangana? Why should it not become a joint capital like Chandigarh?”

Clearly, they know no geography. If they did, they would have realised that the future Andhra state cannot access Hyderabad except by corridor through Telangana districts. Some kind of a Danzig corridor that’ll give access to the rich folk from coastal Andhra who have invested hundreds of crores in and around Hyderabad city. But this is much too complicated for the waffle set.

The other horror they express through exclamations such as “What will happen to India if the country is to be carved into smaller states?!” They have never stepped out of their cocoons. They don’t understand that India, which throbs with boundless diversity of language, dialect, region, caste and religion, is ‘safe’ even if there are myriad small states.

Andhras in Telengana

A Telangana state then does not threaten the unity of India. But there are other questions that need to be raised and answered. Why should there be two states which share the same language — Telugu — when the core principle of reorganisation of states was linguistic? Yet there is nothing anomalous about this. There are nine states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Mahdya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — with Hindi as the language base, at least at the official level. The dialects spoken across this belt is bafflingly rich and diverse.

There are variants in Telugu too. The language spoken in Telangana is quite different from that spoken in the heart of Andhra. Telangana Telugu bears marks of Urdu, Marathi and Kannada. Similarly, Telugu spoken in the Rayalaseema districts of Kurnool, Cuddapa, Anantapur and Chittoor, and even Nellore, Potti Sriramulu and Prakasam is different from that in Krishna and Guntur. Again, the language spoken in West and East Godavari districts has a colour of its own. The language used in Telugu films is the Krishna-Guntur variety. The dialects spoken in the other parts are used for comic relief. The reason is that producers, directors, story-writers, actors are all from the Andhra region. This is a matter of cultural detail.

The politics of it all is of a higher order of domination, where the rich Andhras with few outlets for expansion and diversification spread and penetrated into the adjoining region. For example, when the Andhra districts were part of the Madras Presidency and later of the Madras state, the coastal Andhras dominated the then capital city of Madras (now Chennai). As a matter of fact, in 1953, when the Telugu-speaking Andhra state was carved out, the majority in Madras was Telugus, and there was a demand to include the city in the state.

The Andhras moved into Hyderabad city from the early 1950s onwards and obtained ‘mulki’ or ‘native resident’ certificates. Compared to the rich, relatively better educated and entrepreneurial Andhras — represented mainly by farmers and others belonging to the Kamma caste — the Telugu-speaking dominant castes in the Telangana, represented mainly by Reddys and Velamas (Telugu Rashtra Samiti chairperson K Chandrasekhara Rao is a Velama), followed by Brahmins, were feudal in outlook. They adopted the lifestyle of the decadent Muslim nobility of the Nizam’s court in Hyderabad. This was because the Nizams did not encourage the emergence of a Telugu-speaking educated middle class that could be part of government and business.

The Hyderabad Muslims

In contrast, there had been a rich, educated, progressive Muslim middle class in Hyderabad that had kick-started an incipient industrialisation process in the 1920s and 1930s. Former bureaucrat in Hyderabad state BPR Vithal has the interesting thesis that, had not the Muslim elite migrated to Pakistan after the Police Action in 1948, the industrialisation in the state would have been sustained. Even today, Andhra Pradesh remains a predominantly agricultural state.

It is this social and economic background that will determine to a great extent the future development of the different regions. Telangana’s dominant and middle rung castes are still steeped in the feudal ethos of indolence, arrogance and a false sense of honour. They will most likely indulge in political jostling and jousting instead of using the opportunities provided by a new state to build a modern economic base. The backward castes form the majority of the population in Telangana, but they are not yet in a position to dominate. Telangana will remain a backward state, socially and economically, for a few decades more.

A separate Telangana state will only ensure that dominant castes of the region that did not get their due in the power structure in the larger Andhra Pradesh will now be able to enjoy it as a matter of right. There will be another round of social and economic struggle before the other castes – mainly the backward classes – can find their place in the power structure.

What will happen to the Muslims, who form about 10 per cent of the population in Telangana and about 30 per cent in the city of Hyderabad? The communally-minded Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which is in alliance with the Congress in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is worried. Telangana’s dominant castes carry old memories of being excluded by the Muslim upper classes. Today, the Muslims in the old city of Hyderabad are all migrants from the villages and towns of Telangana, with no social or economic advantage. But the old ambivalence remains. That is why, MIM wants special assurances and the BJP hopes to benefit from the prickly Hindu-Muslim equations in Hyderabad and in Telangana. The Congress too exploits this issue as part of its political strategy, which only makes the relations between the two communities worse.

The Communist angle

There is the interesting communist strand in the Telangana story. They claim to have carried out a heroic people’s struggle in 1948 against the feudal Nizam government, much in the manner of present-day Naxalites. It turned out to be an aborted attempt, though much glorified in party and left-oriented social science literature. When members of the then undivided Communist Party of India met Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to seek support for the struggle, Stalin wanted to know where Telangana was on the map. It was his way of dismissing the issue as being of no consequence for the man who believed in socialism in one country and hounded Leon Trotsky for entertaining foolish ideas about world revolution. The Naxalites hope to be important players in Telangana. There is bound to be a bloody contest between the feudal-minded dominant castes and the Naxalites as in Bihar. A section in the Congress is opposed to Telangana because the new state will be exposed to communal and class wars.

There is an unmistakable sense of joy among the common people at the prospect of a Telangana state because of their sense of innate pride in their distinct culture and language which has been a butt of ridicule in the eyes of commercial, rich and insensitive coastal Andhras. This does not however make things easy for Telangana as such because the region is riddled with economic and social problems.





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