Construction and Consolidation of the Telangana Identity – H Srikanth నవంబర్ 9, 2013Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in 1969, Andhra, CPI, CPI-M, Identity, Jai Andhra, Mulki, Rayalaseema, regionalism, Telangana, TRS.
Construction and Consolidation of the Telangana Identity
H Srikanth, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol – XLVIII No.45-46, November 16, 2013
H Srikanth (firstname.lastname@example.org) is with the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong
The architects of the idea of Vishalandhra (Greater Andhra) were not unaware of subregional sentiments, but were eager that all Telugu people unite on the basis of a common language and culture, and build a democratic and progressive state (Sundariah 1999). It is disheartening to see that such a state, formed with considerable goodwill and hope, is about to be bifurcated.
The idea of a linguistic reorganisation of states in India owes its genesis to the Telugu people who were the first to invoke a common linguistic identity to pressure the central government to create a separate state of Andhra out of the Madras Province in 1953. Three years later, they sought the merger of Andhra state with the Telangana region of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad to form the new state of Andhra Pradesh (AP).
The architects of the idea of Vishalandhra (Greater Andhra) were not unaware of subregional sentiments, but were eager that all Telugu people unite on the basis of a common language and culture, and build a democratic and progressive state (Sundariah 1999).1 It is disheartening to see that such a state, formed with considerable goodwill and hope, is about to be bifurcated. The decision of the union cabinet to form a state of Telangana is interpreted by many political leaders and activist intellectuals as the logical culmination of the struggles and aspirations of the region’s people for identity and self-rule. The decision has, however, roused passions and public protests in other parts of AP, now referred to as Seemandhra, and compelled people to come out in support of Samaikyandhra (United Andhra Pradesh). Alongside agitations and counter-agitations, an interesting political debate is taking place in the state between proponents and adversaries of the Telangana movement. Against the background of these movements and debates, this article studies the process that has led to the construction and consolidation of a Telangana identity and interrogates the premises on which ideologues have sought to justify the movement for a separate state.
AP comprises three distinct subregions – coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema, and Telangana. Given differences in historical, cultural, geographical, and developmental experiences, subregional identities have persisted in the state since its inception. But these subregional identities thrived alongside the overarching linguistic identity common to all Telugu people. Despite the reservations of some Congress leaders, the majority opinion in Telangana in 1956 was in favour of creating AP. The communists, who then had considerable public support in Telangana, were openly in support of the idea of Vishalandhra. The formal decision to merge with Andhra to form AP was taken by the Hyderabad legislative assembly after considerable deliberation on its pros and cons.2 However, a decade later, the state witnessed competing subregional movements demanding a separate Telangana and a separate Andhra (Sen 1970; Gray 1971, 1974; Dasaradha Rama Rao et al 1973). Prime Minister Indira Gandhi refused to yield to the subregional demands and enforced a compromise by initiating a six-point formula, followed by the 32nd Constitutional Amendment, 1973, incorporating Clause 371-D.3 The Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS), formed in 1969 to fight for a separate Telangana, was dissolved and its leaders rejoined the Congress Party in 1971.
Different leaders from Telangana such as P V Narasimha Rao, Jalagam Vengala Rao, Marri Chenna Reddy, and T Anjaiah became chief ministers of AP. In 1982, following the public humiliation of Chief Minister Anjaiah by Rajiv Gandhi, who was then only a Congress leader, N T Rama Rao (NTR), a popular Telugu film actor, roused public passions by appealing to Telugu pride and self-respect. In about six months, his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) rode to power, ending the monopoly of the Congress (Kohli 1988). Although NTR was from coastal Andhra, he and his party received overwhelming support from the people of Telangana. Efforts were made during his tenure as chief minister (January 1983 to September 1995) to encourage the use of Telugu language. Tank Bund, facing the famous Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad, was beautified by commissioning statues of well-known personalities associated with Telugu history, literature, culture, society, and politics. During this period, linguistic identity overshadowed subregional identities.4
It was during N Chandrababu Naidu’s time as chief minister (September 1995 to May 2004) that Telangana sentiments surfaced again with K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) forming the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 2001. Initially, the TRS, which advocated a separate Telangana state, was written off as an insignificant force. But, by entering into electoral alliances with the Congress in 2004 and the TDP in 2009, the TRS increased its clout and emerged as an important political player in AP. The growth of the TRS compelled leaders from Telangana in the other dominant political parties – the Congress, TDP, Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) and Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) – to express support for a separate Telangana. However, electoral compulsions and internal pressures forced the PRP and YSRCP to ditch Telangana and identify with the Seemandhra region. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and some CPI (Marxist-Leninist) (ML) factions began supporting the Telangana movement, the CPI (Marxist) and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) (SUCI-C) stood for a united AP. The Lok Satta Party took the position that it did not matter whether AP was united or bifurcated; what mattered to the people was good governance.5
Role of Intellectuals
Anyone following the political events in AP is aware of the stands taken by different political leaders and parties on Telangana. But apart from them, intellectuals have played a major role in the construction and consolidation of a Telangana identity. The contributions of Keshav Rao Jadhav and K Jayashankar need special mention. After the failure of the 1969 movement, when Telangana politicians virtually gave up the demand for a separate state for about three decades, these intellectuals continued to defend the idea. Jadhav, who taught at Osmania University, was actively associated with the 1969 movement. Unable to accept the accommodative politics of the TPS leadership, he began organising alternative political platforms to achieve a separate Telangana state. After the TPS merged with the Congress, he worked among students, mentoring the Telangana Liberation Students’ Organisation (TLSO) and the Telangana Students’ Federation (Jadhav 1997, 2010).6 Jayashankar, who held high academic positions in and outside AP, became an ideologue and strategist of the TRS. His close association with Osmania and Kakatiya universities enabled him to influence several Telangana intellectuals and students through his persuasive talks and writings.7
In the course of time, as the movement for a separate Telangana gained momentum, other intellectuals – academics, journalists, artists, and professionals – supported it, attaching significance to the Telangana identity in their writings and artistic expressions. In particular, the support and active involvement of left-oriented intellectuals and artists such as Gaddar, Vimalakka, Allam Rajaiah, and Kodandaram helped the movement garner public sympathy. Telangana was once the site of a historic peasant rebellion and had fostered the Naxalite movement. But the left gradually receded to the margins in the region, partly because of opportunistic politics (CPI and CPI(M)) and partly due to factionalism and the state repression. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the rise of revisionism in China further weakened the left parties. Many intellectuals disassociated themselves from party politics and began supporting human rights and identity movements. Some such intellectuals and artists in Telangana joined the Telangana movement. Outside the TRS, these individuals formed separate organisations and helped popularise the idea of Telangana among students and the youth. Some activist intellectuals supporting Ambedkarism also lent their support to a separate Telangana, strengthening sentiments for it among scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST) and backward class (BC) students in the region.8
Course of the Movement
KCR and his TRS were instrumental in bringing Telangana back to the centre of political discourse in AP. But the real impetus came after more and more intellectuals, students, and youth began identifying with the movement and participating in it. Joint action committees were formed among political parties, students, government employees, lawyers, journalists, and other groups to help unite and coordinate the activities of different sections of the people in Telangana. Under these committees, people were mobilised for different types of protest – strikes, rasta rokos, dharnas, mass processions and rallies, gheraos, civil disobedience, vanta-varpu (cooking on the streets), cultural programmes, and political meetings. In the name of reasserting the cultural identity of Telangana, the traditional Bathukamma (goddess of life) festival, where women offer flowers to a goddess and seek her blessings to become good housewives, was organised and celebrated in public with the blessings and support of Telangana ideologues and activists. Along with long-established Bathukamma songs, which have patriarchal overtones, new ones on the plight of Telangana and in praise of those who died for the cause of a state were composed and sung in public celebrations.9
The movement’s leaders consciously use the local dialect in speeches and in writings. Some important landmarks in its recent history include KCR’s indefinite fast in November-December 2009, which forced the central government to declare that it was beginning the process of forming a separate state; the million march organised by pro-Telangana groups on 10 March 2011, which ended on an ugly note with the demolition of statues of Telugu luminaries from Seemandhra;10 and the Sakalajanula Samme (all people’s strike) in September-October 2011, which continued for nearly a month with different sections of people in Telangana joining it.11 The increasing politicisation and participation of different groups, suicides by hundreds of students, police atrocities, and the opportunism of political parties and politicians have given a boost to Telangana sentiments and made more and more people identify with the movement.
There were mass protests and police repression during the Telangana movement of 1969. But what has made the recent movement more appealing and enduring is the supporting role played by communication technologies. Earlier, the dominant modes for transmission of ideas were newspapers, public meetings, pamphlets and books. But the growth of information technology (IT) and the electronic media has revolutionised communication. Easy access to the internet, the growth of online social networks and newspapers, the popularity of websites such as YouTube, and the proliferation of 24×7 television news channels have come in handy for the politicians and ideologues of Telangana. Sitting somewhere in Hyderabad or in some corner of a city in the US, it is possible to communicate ideas, information, and views to people in the Telangana region. New technologies enable people in AP and outside AP to become consumers as well as communicators of ideas and information passed on to them. Different social networks and the comment sections of online newspapers give abundant opportunities to the computer savvy to influence and to get influenced by deliberations taking place in the virtual world.
In addition, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Telangana Development Forum, Telangana Resource Centre, Telangana Jagruthi, and Telangana Information Task Force are actively involved in disseminating the idea of a separate Telangana. Their websites provide free access to academic books and articles, literary works, biographies of Telangana heroes, and video clips of speeches by Telangana leaders and political events.12 To garner the support of all people from the region, including those abroad, efforts are made to popularise all that is considered to be typically Telangana – its folk tradition, literature, food, local festivals, and jataras. Further, films based on issues related to Telangana such as Jai Bolo Telangana and Bathukamma, the launch of Namaste Telangana newspaper and the V6 TV channel, and songs, videos, and documentaries associated with Telangana on YouTube and other websites have helped in promoting a Telangana identity among the people of the region.
Telangana Talli vs Telugu Talli
Governments in AP had sought to keep all Telugu people united by appealing to their common linguistic and cultural heritage. They established academies and universities to pursue studies related to Telugu history, culture, and language. The song, Maa Telugu Talli ki Malle Poodanda (a jasmine garland for our mother of Telugu), written in 1942 is sung at many government functions. Before NTR became the chief minister, many songs in his films glorified Telugu culture and appealed for the unity of the people of all three regions. One such popular song, Telugu Jathi Manadi, Ninduga Velugu Jathi Manadi (ours is a Telugu nation, ours is a flourishing nation) written by C Narayana Reddy, a popular poet from Telangana, says that internal problems should not be publicised just as one does not pluck one’s eyeballs to remove dirt from the eyes, emotional outbursts must die down, and no one should divide the Telugu country.13 In such songs and poems, the names of rivers, important places, and historical figures in AP are usually invoked to create a sense of belonging to one language and community. After the TDP came to power, statues of Telugu talli (mother Telugu) were commissioned in Hyderabad and several other towns and cities. An outsider could brush aside the invocation of Telugu talli as meaningless, but it does evoke positive feelings among the Telugu people.
Any subregional identity that hopes to gain strength in AP has to dismantle the idea of Telugu talli. This realisation drove Telangana ideologues to invent the image of Telangana talli (mother of Telangana). Like other imagined mothers Telangana talli, constructed partly on fact and partly on myth. It has required romanticising the history of the kingdoms and kings that ruled the Telangana region, be they the Shatavahanas, Kakatiyas, Qutb Shahis, or the Nizams. There is no unanimity on how the feudal rule of the Nizams can be incorporated into constructing a regional identity. Some shower praise on the Nizams for constructing historic buildings, water reservoirs, and parks, and for establishing schools and the Osmania University, which are seen as cultural landmarks of Hyderabad city (Narayana Reddy 2013). Others, especially left-oriented intellectuals such as Gaddar, prefer to invoke memories of the peasant rebellion against the Nizams to rouse the people to fight for a separate Telangana.14 The struggles and sacrifices of students and peasants in different movements in Telangana find a place in the numerous songs that seek to construct a Telangana identity.15 Many of these songs and poems mention the beauty of the Krishna and Godavari rivers, the abundance of minerals in the region, and local food, folk traditions, and festivals to build the feeling that Telangana has a distinct culture and is different from other parts of AP.
The romantic representation of Telangana talli as a kind mother capable of taking care of her children is not enough to stir strong emotions because it is in some ways similar to the depiction of Telugu talli. Making Telangana talli stand tall requires vilifying Telugu talli by interpreting the word “Andhra” to mean only the people of Seemandhra, and promoting the notion that Telugu is being used as a ruse by Seemandhra capitalists to fool the people of Telangana. In other words, the people have to know that the idea of unity of all Telugus is a myth invented by the Andhra people to justify their exploitation and oppression of the Telangana region (Srinivasulu 2012). Several songs and poems describe how the promises made to the Telangana people were watered down; how chief ministers from Telangana were never allowed to complete their terms; and how Seemandhra politicians have dominated united AP. The injustice done to the region in sharing river waters and distributing government jobs is repeatedly pointed out. Hunger deaths, diseases, and pollution in different parts of Telangana are attributed to the deliberate neglect of the region by leaders from Seemandhra.
Apart from economic exploitation and political domination, ideologues of Telangana point to cultural subjugation. They allege that the Telangana dialect is demeaned, Telangana festivals are belittled, and Telangana people are negatively portrayed in Telugu films by arrogant people from Seemandhra (Anil Kumar 2007). The near absence of artists from Telangana in the Telugu film industry is also blamed on Andhra people. In academic discourses, Telangana intellectuals refer to the inferior status that the Telugu literary establishment has given to Telangana poets such as Pothana, Kaloji, and Dasharathi. They also point to the absence of statues of many important personalities from Telangana on the Tank Bund in Hyderabad to show that Seemandhra politicians have no respect for the region’s heroes and history.16 Like Bharat Mata in the British era, Telangana talli is presented as a victim of colonial domination, the villains here being Seemandhra capitalists, and she has to be saved by her brave sons through struggle and sacrifice.
The concept of Telangana talli should not only stir emotions, but also rouse hopes. In their writings, speeches, and performances, the pro-Telangana intelligentsia and artists predict a bright future once the region is liberated from the control of Seemandhra capitalists. In this rosy vision, the new state of Telangana will be more democratic and responsive to the wishes of its people, especially the downtrodden. It will be headed by a dalit or a person from a lower caste, and see to the development of all marginalised communities. The economy will be reconstructed, utilising all resources, human and natural, and there will be rapid industrialisation, leading to more jobs for the youth. Uncompleted dams will be finished and the peasants will get adequate water and electricity. The state will acknowledge the contributions of all its heroes and strengthen the regional language, literature, and culture. Thus the dreams of the martyrs will be fulfilled and Telangana will emerge as a progressive and prosperous state within the Indian union.
Hyderabad in Telangana
The city of Hyderabad, viewed as the heart of Telangana, occupies a vital position in the identity discourse. Historical reasons and emotional attachments of the people are invoked to lend credence to the slogan “Hyderabad Sirf Hamara” (Hyderabad is only ours). Rubbishing the claims of Seemandhra people that they too have a stake in Hyderabad city and have contributed to building it (Baru 2007; Bhaskarendra Rao 2013; Sake 2013a, 2013b), Telangana ideologues argue that the city was well developed even at the time of the merger of Telangana with Andhra (Vijayakumar 2013; Narayana Reddy 2013; Chakravarti 2013, Velchela 2013). Countering the argument that the city developed and expanded because of the capital invested by people from Seemandhra, they argue that Hyderabad became the site of rapacious settlement and exploitation by Seemandhra capitalists after the TDP came to power. They allege that some politicians-cum-capitalist entrepreneurs and real estate businessmen have grabbed public land in and around Hyderabad and built empires at the cost of the common people of Telangana. Some assert that far from benefiting the local people, all the economic and infrastructural development that has taken place in recent decades – roads and flyovers, beautification and expansion of the city, promotion of tourism and the IT sector, and work on a metro network – has destroyed the beauty and serenity of the capital (Someshwar 2011). This type of development, they argue, is not meant for the local people, but for the luxury of settlers and tourists. Ending the dominance of Seemandhra in Hyderabad city is therefore viewed as a foremost objective of the Telangana movement.
Though there is clarity about what should be done to the capitalists from Seemandhra, voices are divided as to what should be done with the hundreds of thousands of middle-class and working-class families who have migrated to Hyderabad and settled there. Some take the extreme position that all people from Seemandhra are “parasites”, or to use KCR’s invectives, “Ravans from Lanka” or “Telangana drohulu” (enemies of Telangana), and they should be treated as second-grade citizens, “settlers”, or “permanent tourists”. Others take a milder position that the common people from Seemandhra in Hyderabad are not enemies, and reassure them that they will be treated as equal citizens in the state of Telangana. But this generosity disappears when Seemandhra politicians and employees wish to organise rallies and public meetings in support of Samaikyandhra. They then wonder how the government can permit such things in a city that belongs exclusively to them.
The Regional Identity
The narratives of Telangana ideologues justify the movement as a struggle for identity and autonomy, and rationalise it as a struggle against domination, exploitation, discrimination, deception, and humiliation. Considerable data is presented to validate these claims. However, a close look shows that some of the basic assumptions on which the Telangana identity is built are not that solid or uncontested. As in the case of ethnic identities, the construction of regional identities involve the selective emphasis or erasure of facts and memories; interpretations and misinterpretations; and contestations and claims. In recent months, especially after the Congress Working Committee decided to concede the demand for a separate Telangana, there has been intense debate in AP about the basis of a subregional identity.
Critics point out that Telangana ideologues close their eyes to the linguistic and cultural similarities among all Telugu-speaking people. They ignore the fact that earlier kingdoms, including the princely state of Hyderabad, comprised not only the Telangana region, but also other Telugu and even non-Telugu-speaking areas. To strengthen the Telangana identity, they have to show that linguistic identity was never strong in Telangana and that the term “Andhra” is something alien to the region. But this necessitates overlooking another fact: that social reformers and leaders of Telangana named the first library they built during Nizam’s rule the Sri Krishna Devaraya Andhra Bhasha Nilayam; that the organisation that brought together the people of Telangana against the Nizam’s rule was Andhra Maha Sabha; and that many progressive-minded Telugu people in the then Madras presidency sympathised with and supported the Telangana peasant struggle.17
To rationalise their demand for a separate Telangana, the movement’s leaders argue that they are not separatists. All they ask for is a demerger, not separation. This is based on the assumption that there was a political entity called Telangana state before 1956, which was forced to merge with Andhra against the will of its people. This myth hides the fact that what there was before 1956 was Hyderabad state, which included not only the Telangana region, but also Marathi and Kannada-speaking areas, and also that the city of Hyderabad was the capital of Hyderabad state, not the capital of Telangana. It also obscures the fact that the decision to join Andhra to form AP in 1956 was taken in the Hyderabad legislative assembly, and that at that time many in Telangana, including communist party leaders and sympathisers, were all for Vishalandhra. The allegation that Telangana was forced to join Andhra because of manipulation and lobbying (Jayashankar 2012: 5) is negated by the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) Report, which says, “Important leaders of public opinion in Andhra themselves seem to appreciate that the unification of Telangana with Andhra, though desirable, should be based on a voluntary and willing association of the people and that it is primarily for the people of Telangana to take a decision about their future”.18 The contention that the Telangana region remains underdeveloped and neglected because of neglect and manipulation by Seemandhra politicians and capitalists is vital to the logic of a separate state. So, its advocates have had to reject the report of the Srikrishna Committee (SKC) in January 2011, which showed that many districts in Telangana are comparatively more developed and better irrigated than those in Rayalaseema and the north of coastal Andhra.19 With a partial demolition of the argument of economic underdevelopment by the SKC and some scholars, Telangana ideologues began emphasising the cultural identity and democratic aspirations of the people to justify their plea for self-rule.20 They argue that Telangana’s dialect and culture are looked down upon and that Telangana people are always shown as villains and comedians in mainstream Telugu films, ignoring the fact Telugu films also make fun of the dialects, culture, and people of Rayalaseema and the northern coastal districts. For that matter, one sees people in developed areas considering their dialect and culture superior to others in all linguistic communities. This was so even in the erstwhile state of the Nizams. The Telangana movement’s leaders overlook that the democratisation of culture, not political separation, could be a better solution to such problems.
As with other identity movements, the Telangana identity also needs the construction of an “us” and “them”. Apart from demonising the other, the “us” has to be projected as a homogeneous group. To perpetuate the belief that all the people of Telangana have identical interests and views, advocates of a separate state play down internal differences and contradictions. They make light of the truth that a majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad are not very enthusiastic about the idea of a separate Telangana, and that in the recent panchayat polls, the TDP, which is seen as anti-Telangana, won more seats in some districts of the Telangana region than the TRS, which has been pushing for a separate state. No one gives a thought as to why the working class, the peasantry, and the minorities in the Telangana region are not as animated about the movement as the educated urban middle class. While attacking Seemandhra politicians and capitalists, Telangana ideologues have had to see to it that the opportunism and incompetence of their own politicians and the exploitation by Telangana landlords, contractors, and businessmen do not become issues of concern to the common people of the region.
To counter the claim that the city of Hyderabad belongs to all Telugu people, the Telangana advocates argue that their attachment to Hyderabad is historical, cultural, emotional and spiritual, while the Seemandhra people have only material concerns and motives. The possibility that even Seemandhra people could be emotionally attached to the city, which has been the capital of AP since 1956, has been left out of the identity discourse. It is also necessary to understate the percentage of Seemandhra people living in Hyderabad city and reject any proposal for a referendum to ascertain if the people of Hyderabad want to be part of a Telangana state. While blaming the coastal capitalists for capturing public land and promoting their industries and real estate businesses, it is essential to omit that some capitalists and real estate businessmen from the Telangana region have also purchased government and agricultural land at cheap rates, and that the difference between the two are of degree, not of probity and the lack of it. While censuring the regimes of NTR, Chandrababu Naidu and Y S Rajasekhara Reddy as neo-liberal, no word can be spoken against Narasimha Rao, “the son of Telangana”, under whom India gave up its socialist garb, openly endorsing and embracing the neo-liberal policies of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation.
True, multistorey buildings, flyovers, amusement parks, and metro lines have destroyed the environment and idyllic surroundings that were once the hallmarks of the city of Hyderabad. But would Hyderabad have been any different if Seemandhra politicians and capitalists had not settled there? Do we not see from cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi that irrespective of the region from which capitalists or politicians hail the system being what it is, there is no escape from the neo-liberal path of development in this age of globalisation? Although left-oriented intellectuals supporting the cause of Telangana do know the logic of capitalist development, they remain silent, helping to perpetuate the illusion that once the Seemandhra capitalists are taken care of, Telangana will prosper, resolving the problems of its peasants, unemployed youth, and marginalised communities.
In many ways, the construction of regional identities is similar to the manner in which ethnic identities are created. Glorifying the past; exaggerating concerns about real or imagined deprivations, alienation, and identity; disparaging the other and constructing boundaries to separate “us” from “them” are common to both processes. Like other subregional identities, the Telangana identity is constructed partly on fact and partly on opinion, hearsay, prejudice, and false hopes.
One need not deny that some of the districts in Telangana are underdeveloped and the people of Telangana lag behind the coastal people in education, employment, and economic development. It is true that politicians did not make efforts to develop all parts of the state and subregional imbalances exist. It is also true that adequate efforts were not made to promote positive interaction among the people of the three regions in AP, thus not eliminating feelings of superiority and inferiority. Liberalisation and privatisation have added to insecurity among the educated youth, making them see people from other regions as competitors and enemies. However, regional identities and movements need not necessarily be the only solutions to the problems that Telangana or any other region faces. There are other possibilities, which unfortunately are not considered both by the ruling class and political parties, especially those on the left of the spectrum.
Realistically, one cannot expect opportunistic parties and politicians, who look for short-term political gains, to handle subregional problems in a mature and humane manner. But it was still possible to address most of the socio-economic and cultural problems if the left parties had succeeded in educating and mobilising the masses in all the three regions to fight for solutions to them. They could have reconciled internal differences and disparities between the people and subregions through democratic movements. They could also have communicated to the people that it is not only parts of Telangana, but also the whole of Rayalaseema and parts of coastal Andhra that are underdeveloped, and that there is little that Seemandhra politicians have done for their districts and people. The left parties could have played a proactive role in ensuring positive sociocultural interactions between the people of different regions, thus teaching them to acknowledge differences and respect the dialects, literatures, and cultures of everyone. It should have been their responsibility to tell the people that irrespective of the region they hail from, it is landlords and capitalists who are their enemies, and that they must unite to fight against the problems of poverty, high prices, unemployment, and underdevelopment, all of which have been made worse by the neo-liberal policies pursued by the state and central governments.
Unfortunately, instead of looking at issues from a class perspective, the dominant left parties and intellectuals have adopted the logic and language of the regional intelligentsia. The CPI, which once stood for Vishalandhra, changed its stand on the Telangana movement on the ground that all successive governments in AP have overlooked promises made to Telangana and that the people there are so alienated that they cannot be convinced to remain in AP (Sudhakar Reddy 2013). The CPI(ML) factions such as the CPI(ML)-New Democracy and CPI(ML)-Liberation speak more like spokespersons of the Telangana people. By attributing a progressive character to the movement for a separate Telangana, they help in promoting false hopes of being able to solve the basic problems of poverty, landlessness, unemployment, and unbalanced regional development without doing away the capitalist character of the economy.21 They do not seem to realise that their support and active participation in the movement will ultimately help the disgruntled Telangana elite capture the space vacated by Seemandhra capitalists and politicians.
In contrast to this, the SUCI-C and CPI(M) stand for a united AP.22 The SUCI-C argues that the very nature of capitalist development, combined with the shortsightedness of mainstream politicians and political parties, has resulted in uneven development. Citing the experiences of other small states, the party holds that regionalism can never be a solution to the problems of underdevelopment. Calling for the unity of all labouring masses, it holds that only an objective assessment of natural resources and a rational distribution of their benefits can ensure balanced regional development. The CPI(M) also declares that the problems of Telangana cannot be resolved by going in for a separate state. It contends that the formation of small states weakens the bargaining power of state governments and makes it easier for the federal government and the big bourgeoisie to pursue neo-liberal policies.
The viewpoint of the SUCI-C is hardly heard, as it does not have much strength in Telangana. But the CPI(M), which has a considerable base in AP, could have mobilised all its strength to project and popularise its stand. Despite its formal opposition to bifurcation of the state, its leaders have chosen not to take on the logic of the regional forces. The party justifies its silence by pointing out that all bourgeois parties are engaged in a double game and it cannot therefore align itself with any party fighting for a united AP. Interestingly, the party that has not minded aligning itself with bourgeois parties at the centre and in the states for electoral gains rationalises its silence by citing the duplicity of others. Not aligning with opportunist bourgeois parties is fine, but if the CPI(M) really believes that a Telangana state is not going to benefit the people, one does not understand what prevented it from educating the people on class lines and building support for a united AP from below. To conclude, apart from all the other factors discussed, the stands of the CPI and CPI(ML) factions and the failure of the SUCI-C and CPI(M) to counter the forces of regionalism have led to the consolidation of a Telangana identity and left the masses in Seemandhra directionless. Without knowing whom to trust and follow, the people of Seemandhra have now embarked on a self-destructive and anarchic course, all in the name of Samaikyandhra.
1 Writing on the eve of the Telangana peasants’ struggle, communist leader Puchhalapalli Sundariah expressed the hope that Vishalandhra would be a progressive democratic state that rises above caste and class inequalities. See Sundariah (1999).
2 In the Hyderabad legislative assembly, 103 members consented to the formation of AP, 29 were opposed, and 15 abstained. Some Congress leaders who were for a separate Telangana state changed their stand fearing that this would benefit the CPI. See Pingle (2010).
3 For the full text of the six-point formula and 32nd Constitutional Amendment, seehttp://www.aponline.gov.in/Apportal/HomePageLinks/PresidentialOrder/Pres…
4 See Srikanth (2011).
5 See the website of the Lok Satta Party at http://www.loksatta.org/
6 See interview with Jadhav in The Times of India at http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-12-13/all-that-matters/… telangana-praja-samithi-telangana-region-police-action
7 Some important works of Jayashankar on Telangana include Telangana Rashtram Oka Demand (Telugu), 2004;Telangana Movement: A Demand for a Separate State, 2006; and Viability of Telangana and Andhra as Separate States, 2012.
8 Dalit and BC leaders and intellectuals are divided on the issue of Telangana. Earlier dalit leaders such as Krishna Madiga and Katti Padma Rao supported the bifurcation of the state on the basis of B S Ambedkar favouring smaller states. But after the outbreak of the Samaikyandhra movement, dalits in Seemandhra began opposing bifurcation. Intellectuals like Kancha Ilaiah have taken the position that regional movements led by the upper castes have little to do with the interests of the SCs. See Ilaiah (2013).
9 Many Bathukamma songs have patriarchal overtones. The lyrics of some Bathukamma songs are available on websites such as http://www.telugulyrics.org/. While most Telangana ideologues value these traditional songs in the name of Telangana traditions, some left-oriented artists like Vimalakka are trying to give them a political orientation. Her interviews and performances can be seen on YouTube.
10 See the collection of articles in Telangana Sadhanakai Million March 2011: Pramukhula Vyaasalu, Abhiprayalu(Telugu), published by the Telangana Resource Centre, Hyderabad, August 2011.
11 Several articles were written exhorting the Telangana people to participate in the strike. See Sakalajanula Samme, Vol I (Telugu), published by the Telangana Resource Centre, Hyderabad.
12 Some important websites giving publicity to the cause of a separate Telangana include http://www.etelengana.org,www.telenganar sourcecentre.org, http://www.trchyd.org, and http://www.telenganajagruthi.org
13 This is a free translation of a passage in the song. For the lyrics, see, http://passionoflyrics.blogspot.in/
14 Gaddar and his team have many songs eulogising the peasants and youth who participated in the peasant struggles, Naxalite movement, and the Telangana movement. Most of them are on YouTube.
15 Some other poets and singers involved in Telangana movement are Goreti Venkanna, Desapathi Srinivas, and Vimlakaa. Their songs are available on YouTube and websites of different Telugu TV channels.
16 See the articles by Sangishetti Srinivas, Allam Narayana, Sridhar Rao Deshpande and Bonakurti Someshwar inTelangana Sadhanakai Million March 2011: Pramukhula Vyasalu, Abhiprayalu (Telugu). Apart from rationalising the demolition of statues on the Tank Bund by citing police repression and exploitation and domination by Seemandhra capitalists and politicians, they point to the absence of statues of many important personalities from the Telangana region.
17 For instance, Suravaram Prathapa Reddy (1896-1953), a Telangana writer and scholar who worked for the development of Telugu in Telangana under Nizam’s rule did not evince any hatred towards the people of Andhra and acknowledged the links that Telangana had with the other Telugu-speaking people of Andhra. He did not have any aversion to calling himself Andhra. See Prathapa Reddy (2012), which won the Sahitya Academy award, and also Ramapathi Rao (2013).
18 Quoted from the Telangana Resource Centre’s website, http://www.trchyd.org/
19 See Hanumantha Rao (2011); Ravinder et al (2011). As well as Justice Krishna’s Injustice, published by the Telangana Development Forum, Hyderabad, 2011, and Prajalanu Vismarichina Sri Krishna Committee (Telugu), published by the Hyderabad Resource Centre, Hyderabad, 2011.
20 See Anil Kumar (2007); Ramanamurthy (2013).
21 A TV9 interview with Govardhan, leader of the CPI(ML)-New Democracy, shows that its logic for supporting a separate state of Telangana is similar to that taken of the CPI. But he also speaks of the need for justice, and the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. He expresses the hope that the new state will address the basic problems of landlessness, unemployment, and exploitation. At one stage, he sees Seemandhra and Telangana as husband and wife, and at another, as two brothers who need to separate in a friendly manner. Identifying himself with Telangana, he says that Seemandhra people will be protected in Hyderabad. The interview is on YouTube.
22 For the SUCI-C’s official stand, see the party’s official appeal at http://forums.fullhyderabad.com/viewtopic.php?p=203029. For the CPI(M)’s official stand, see “CPI(M) Stand on Telangana Issue”, People’s Democracy20, 2005. , Vol 29, No
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