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Random thoughts on Telangana : Sanjaya Baru జనవరి 1, 2010

Posted by Telangana Utsav in 1969, agitation, Andhra, Congress, elections, Hyderabad, Identity, Mulki, Naxalite, politics, Rayalaseema, regionalism, Review, Sonia, Telangana, Telugu, TRS.

Random thoughts on Telangana

Sanjaya Baru / Business Standard
New Delhi December 31, 2009, 0:52 IST

Google Telangana and you are likely to find more books on the communist-inspired “struggle” of the 1940s and 1950s than the “separatist” agitation of 1969-70 or the one in progress. While there is no link at all between the “struggle” and the “agitations”, it is becoming increasingly clear that Telangana’s Maoists hope to climb on the separatist bandwagon to further their own cause. So, it is not surprising that both M Bharath Bhushan and N Venugopal — editors of this slim and eclectic collection of essays on various facets of Telangana life, culture, politics and economics — labour hard to link the two and, in the process, denounce the mainstream separatist leadership.

The context of the book is clear — the editors clearly felt an year ago that the Telangana agitation was sagging, which it was as evidenced by the results of the 2009 elections, and so chose to once again highlight the issue. The sub-text of the book seems to be to offer a “left of centre” critique of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). Bharath Bhushan not only offers a bizarre theory linking the “separate Telangana agitation” to the “Telangana armed revolt” led by the communists, but also accuses the TRS of not leading a “people’s movement” but one of “elites”.

In understanding the context and the sub-text, one can easily decode the editors’ pretext to publish this book. It is an attempt to move the separatist agitation closer to the Maoist movement in Telangana. It should be remembered that the two mainstream communist parties, the CPI and the CPM, have for long been opposed to the idea of separatism, given their view of nationalities and regionalism in India, but the Maoists have jumped on the bandwagon.

The book itself is a random collection of essays ranging from former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s classic 1949 fictional account of a Telangana peasant woman fighting the Nizam’s razakaars, to an essay on film stars and politics in the state. There are erudite essays like Duncan Forrestor’s on sub-regionalism in India and Radhika Rajamani’s on “nativity and narrative themes in Telangana art”. An interesting essay by political scientist Dean McHenry Jr on “Do Elections Foster Separatism? The Case of Telangana” comes to the conclusion that they don’t. SV Srinivas’ didactic essay on a Telugu film, Okkadu, labours the point that while most Telugu films are defined by the region in which they are situated, this one doesn’t, erasing geography and cultural specificities in preference to some notional pan-Telugu world.

The only essays that directly deal with the current agitation are N Venugopal’s “Demand for Separate Telangana: Towards Understanding the Core Issues” and Bharath Bhushan’s “Telangana Imbroglio”. Venugopal does not provide a comprehensive account of the agitation but offers a critique of the politics of the TRS. His criticism shows what TRS’ K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) himself is up against the extremism of more radical elements. Bharath Bhushan joins Venugopal in his critique of the TRS and KCR, which partly explains the factors behind the present revival of the agitation by KCR.

Bhushan tries to build a new thesis linking Telangana separatism of today with the Telangana struggles of the pre-Independence period — the idea of Telangana, says Bhushan, is not “geographic” but “ideological”. He accuses the TRS of seeking a transfer of power from the “Andhra elite” to the “local elite” and not to the people!

The editors should have included essays from the ideologues of the mainstream separatist movement like Professor K Jayashankar, a former vice-chancellor and intellectual inspiration for the present agitation. The editors have done well to include an appendix containing key documents on the Telangana issue like extracts from the Report of the States Reorganisation Commission, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 and the Six Point Formula of 1973.

The problem in Andhra Pradesh today is at least in part caused by the non-implementation by successive governments of the various accords reached at the time of the 1969-70 agitation. If a Telangana Regional Committee with a separate budget and plan had been created, things would not have come to such a pass today. Few today believe that the genie of separatism can be put back in the bottle, given the manner in which it was unleashed. The environment today is far too charged with emotion. Even if the state has to be bifurcated or trifurcated, every political leader in Telangana has the responsibility of calming tempers so that rational ideas and solutions resurface. If not, more than anyone else, it is the people of Telangana who would suffer.

M Bharath Bhushan and N Venugopal (Editors)
AdEd Value Ventures, Hyderabad, 2009
210 pages; Rs. 250


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