By Mohammed Shafeeq
As the formation of a separate Telangana state is only a signature away, united Andhra Pradesh is now history. Telugus will perhaps become the only non-Hindi community to have two states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the residuary state comprising Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.
The existing state with a total population of 84.6 million (2011 census) and 23 districts will be split into two. Hyderabad, one of the 10 districts of Telangana, will be the common capital of the two states for 10 years. Telangana will have a population of 35.28 million.
The residuary state will be left with 13 districts – nine prosperous districts of coastal Andhra, and four backward districts of the Rayalaseema region.
Despite many commonalities, the people of Telangana and Seemandhra, as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra are together called, came from different historical, geographical and socio-economic backgrounds.
There are vast differences in accent, culture, customs, food habits, festivals and even the deities worshipped.
The people of Telangana always had a grievance that the other regions were not only plundering their resources but also insulting their dialect, culture and customs. They always cite the case of Telugu films, in which only villains or comedians speak in a Telangana accent.
With the passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill in the Rajya Sabha Thursday night, the people in Telangana feel their six-decade-old dream has come true.
The backward region in the north of united Andhra Pradesh was part of the princely state of Hyderabad. Telangana existed as Hyderabad state from 1950 to 1956, when it was merged with Andhra State, which was carved out of Madras state in 1953. With Kurnool as its capital, Andhra was first state constituted on a linguistic basis after independence.
The merger of Telangana with Andhra resulted in the formation of Andhra Pradesh, a bigger state for Telugus. Hyderabad was made its capital. Leaders of Telangana expressed reservations over the merger but agreed after certain safeguards were provided to address the concerns of the Telangana people.
Violations of those safeguards and the alleged neglect of the region by the rulers from Andhra sowed the seeds for a movement for separate statehood. The region witnessed a massive agitation in 1969, when over 300 people were killed in police firing.
The Telangana Praja Samiti (TPS) emerged as a major political force but the people felt betrayed by their own leaders who gave up the demand for a separate state in return for some positions of power.
The Andhra region also witnessed a ‘Jai Andhra’ movement in 1973 for separate statehood. The Congress worked out a formula to keep the state united. Additional safeguards were provided to Telangana in employment and education.
“Every agreement was violated. People continued to suffer as there was all-round discrimination and complete neglect of Telangana,” said Telangana Joint Action Committee convener M. Kodandaram.
The movement revived with the formation of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 2000. It leader, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, was initially part of the UPA-1 government at the centre but quit when it refused to act on the demand for a separate state. He subsequently went on a fast-unto-death and the government announced Dec 9, 2009, that the process for creating Telangana had been initiated. But the government later back-tracked. Telangana groups say 900 people committed suicide or died of shock after the centre’s U-turn.
Political observers say parties on both sides exploited the people’s sentiments. “Parties in Telangana used sentiments for political gains. Similarly parties in Seemandhra used united Andhra sentiments. They are blaming each other but the fact is that all parties are responsible for the division,” K. Nageswar, a professor in Osmania University’s department of journalism, told IANS.
“People may differ on whether the decision was right or wrong but it’s time to move on,” said Nageswar, who is also a member of the legislative council.
Barring Hyderabad, which witnessed rapid development during the last two decades due to the IT boom, Telangana is a backward region. The upland arid region also lags in agriculture due to its geographical disadvantage.
“Telangana is not a panacea for all problems. Unfortunately an impression on the contrary was created by the leaders,” Nageswar said.
“Parties raised aspirations of people in Telangana. The danger is if those aspirations are not met there can be severe backlash and discontent,” Nageswar warned.