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Telangana: Struggle for identity & self respect డిసెంబర్ 13, 2009

Posted by Telangana Utsav in 1969, agitation, Andhra, Congress, Culture, Economy, GHMC, Hyderabad, Identity, Mulki, politics, Rayalaseema, Six Point Formula, Sonia, Telangana, Telugu, TRS.

Gouravam for all

Daily News & Analysis, Dec 13, 2009

From the depiction of Telanganas as villains and morons in films to the denial of power and water to the resource-rich region, Telangana’s gouravam has taken many a hit over the decades. It took a peculiar set of political circumstances to bring the dream of a separate state within reach, writes Usha Turaga-Revelli from Hyderabad
Usha Turaga-Revelli

Twenty six years ago in Andhra Pradesh, NT Rama Rao (NTR) unseated a firmly-rooted Congress on the plank of ‘Atma Gouravam’ or ‘self-respect’ of Telugu people. It could not be more ironic that the people of Telangana, who helped NTR win the election, were soon reminded of their subjugation by a people who speak the same language. It was a random remark in the Assembly by the then Speaker Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, that the word Telangana was not to be uttered on the floor of the House, that revived their sense of betrayal and push for statehood.

“The 1969 movement for a separate state was spontaneous, based on discontent over backwardness. It was only in the 1980s and 90s that the conceptual work was done. Newly-evoked literary works and music helped form a Telanganism,” says Narayana Allam, member of the Joint Action Committee on Telangana. This cultural identity for the region also became the basis for seeking statehood, as a permanent remedy for the backwardness perpetuated by successive governments.


Had the Mulki Rule, the Six-Point Formula or the GO 610 (which, ironically, was issued by a non-Telangana chief minister NTR) — all guaranteeing preferential representation for the people of Telangana in jobs — been implemented in time and in their true spirit, the regional imbalances would never have become such a big issue.

“Irrigation is one of our major grievances. In spite of major catchment areas of Krishna and Godavari being in Telangana, the region has been meted out a raw deal,” explains Professor K Jaya Shankar, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) ideologue. “Plus education, industries, and jobs, of course. Out of the about 15 lakh jobs in the government establishments in the state, those occupied by Telanganas is less than 3 lakh.”

“And if Jalyagnam (a massive irrigation project launched by YSR) is implemented, Telangana will lose its share in the river water permanently,” adds Prof M Kodandaram, president of the Telangana Forum for Educated People.

“It is tragic that the Telangana people were really unaware of these inequities and discrimination until recently when some intellectuals started pointing out historical errors in policies. Those from Andhra bought out the fertile belts in agricultural lands along the irrigation canals and constantly harangued the Telangana people as being lazy with Nawabi ways. This led to a build-up of anger that we are ill-treated in our own land,” says Allam.

The attitude of the Telugu film industry, which shifted base from Chennai to Hyderabad after NTR came to power, compounded this sense of humiliation. The industry, comprising almost entirely of coastal Andhras, from artistes to producers, stereo-typified the villains in Telugu films as belonging to Telangana. The bad men have been depicted as speaking in Telangana slang, and as imbeciles who invariably get out-smarted by those from the coastal region. This continued in spite of several protests, and in spite of the fact that the Telangana region has produced one out of the only two Gyanpeeth award winners from the state — the poet Dr Narayana Reddy who also happens to be a popular film lyricist!

Added to this was the unwritten rule in all media publications that slang from Telangana, or for that matter Rayalaseema, was taboo and Telugu from the districts of Krishna and Guntur was the preferred language for both newspapers and electronic media.

It was in reaction to this milieu that a cultural rebellion spread through Telangana, leading to ostentatious celebration of essentially Telangana festivals like Bathukamma and Bonalu and a revival of literary works. Sometime last year, a district unit of the TRS, ‘counseled’ hoteliers to drop Andhra foods such as Idli Sambar from their menus and add Telangana foods such as Jonna Roti and Ragi Sankati. Lord Venkateswara and Durga were branded ‘Andhra gods’ although hotels were allowed to continue using their names on signboards.

The fight for a social and cultural identity dovetailed into a demand for inclusive development, and of just representation in jobs, called ‘koluvulu’ in Telangana Telugu. The latest flashpoint for koluvulu came during the recent police recruitment in Hyderabad.

And yet, no one was more surprised than the Telangana agitators at the sudden and unexpected yielding of the Congress party at the Centre. While opinions vary, the popular perception is that it was the student unrest that spread to the rural areas, as much as the fasting K Chandrasekhara Rao’s (KCR) sinking condition, that prompted the response.

Interestingly enough, most of the Telangana activists do not give much credit to either TRS or to its leader’s fast-unto-death. “Yes, he did act as one of the triggers but we are sure it was the populist turn to the agitation that got us this victory,” says Rajesh Kota, a key leader of the students’ Joint Action Committee.

It’s not without reason that the people are skeptical about the TRS. KCR, a man who was first attracted to the NTR’s TDP and continued in Chandra Babu Naidu’s TDP, has shown a propensity to resort to dramatic attempts to revive his fortunes whenever he is in dumps. Generally believed to have started TRS on the rebound after he was denied a ministerial berth under Naidu, KCR led a resignation drama last year by TRS leaders, leading to by-elections with just a few months to go for the 2009 general elections. Neither then nor in this year’s general elections did TRS impress people and its strength has been significantly reduced.

His repeated threats and lofty statements about bringing governments down to their knees made even some of the Telangana people look at him with cynicism. So much so that TV visuals of an emaciated KCR in hospital notwithstanding, some people remarked rather uncharitably that he is probably enacting another drama.

“TRS is now a party without a strong organisational structure. Unless they get their act together, there is little chance that the party can play a significant governing role in the new state,” feels Allam.

But it has to be acknowledged that his fast-unto-death, a calculated but risky strategy, paid off. The timing of the fast was crucial given that Andhra Pradesh was in a limbo after YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s sudden death. Rosaiah’s government had just weathered a storm in the shape of ferocious advocacy from many MLAs and ministers for making YS Jagan Mohan Reddy ‘Jagan’, son of the late YSR, the chief minister. TRS recognised the opportunity to strike.

But the question remains if the Congress will carry through with its promise. “We are prepared to deal with any let-down and we have plans for a continuing student movement like that of the All Assam Students Union, with student unions from all the universities in the region coming together. We will take the fight out of the campus. But we want to be not just fighters but future politicians and policy-makers for our state,” says Rajesh Kota.

Not surprisingly, these developments have sent shockwaves through the people from coastal areas living and doing business in Telangana. While almost all the nine districts have a significant ‘settler’ population, with districts like Nizamabad at the top, it is Hyderabad, the proposed capital of Telangana, which obviously rankles the most.

Telangana activists can’t imagine a state without Hyderabad. “It is like a body without the head,” says Gaddar, the revolutionary balladeer. Hyderabad has been the fountainhead of many a righteous battle in the region for the past so many decades, he points out.

Hyderabad is a major IT destination; it’s the pharma and bio-tech capital of the country, and hosts some of the best educational institutions. About 30 major, 300 medium and more than 1,000 small organisations related to information technology and IT-enabled services, are located in the city. Plus, there is a significant representation of people from the coastal and Rayalaseema regions. Even in cricket, the Hyderabad Ranji team for decades now has presented a cosmopolitan picture. The latest Hyderabadi to win the India Test cap, Pragyan Ojha, is actually from Orissa.

As a cosmopolitan metro, the city absorbed everyone, from Andhra businessmen to thousands from northern India in the IT sector. Hyderabad got and still attracts the best of investments, and contributes about 30 per cent of the revenue to the exchequer.
So, for the non-Telanganas owning properties in Hyderabad, there are strong material and emotional attachments that make it hard to envisage an Andhra without Hyderabad. “I have lived here for 15 years and my heart is here. This is home,” says Sridhar Murthy, who is a native of Visakhapatnam. But, “civil war” is the consequence that the government would face if Hyderabad is separated from Telangana, warns Prof Jayashankar.

What are the other complicating factors for Telangana? Caste equations which saw many a battle between the dominant, land-owning Velamas, Reddys and others in Telangana may be a factor but may not be too threatening as “we have seen worse with the Andhra caste hegemony,” according to Rakesh Dubbudu, an RTI activist. NTR did change caste equations significantly bringing in more BC leaders, thus correcting some of the imbalances in AP politics due to the Kamma-Reddy domination, and the move benefited Telangana as well.

There will be other changes. The ownership of media, for instance, is entirely with Andhras, and it remains to be seen how they will relate to a Telangana state’s sentiments. Even the film industry will have to change its line, given the huge stakes in Hyderabad with mammoth infrastructure built up in the last three decades.




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