Telangana became a State after six decades of long struggle against its merger with Andhra in 1956. The struggle was intense and poignant. Several new States were created in India after independence — some on linguistic basis; some on tribal identities; some on geography and culture. Andhra and Telangana were merged based on their language, Telugu. The States reorganised based on language had mostly gelled together, except in the case of Andhra Pradesh.
In Andhra Pradesh, it was a case of an exaggerated feeling of superiority of majority Andhras over Telangana people, resulting in ethnic domination. It inevitably escalated into a campaign for political freedom. Though the language was one, political, economic and cultural backgrounds of the two regions were different. The State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) was very circumspect about it and had recommended against the merger. Pandit Nehru too had reservations. There was strong opposition from the people of Telangana as well. But somehow, Andhras managed to merge the regions through political manipulation.
There was a Gentlemen’s agreement with several safeguards for Telangana. Some people on both sides, in good faith, believed that the merger would bring emotional integration in Telugu people long separated by history and cement their relations to enrich the Telugu culture. But it did not happen. Both Andhra and Telangana cultures went their own ways resulting in little influence on each other.
Andhras had the experience of politics in the provincial self-government system of British India. Their participation in the independence movement with the Congress and other political parties in mainstream Indian politics gave them a distinct political advantage. It helped create a bias towards them in the then ruling Congress party at the Centre.
The Krishna, Godavari and Tungabhadra canal systems for irrigation gave Andhra the economic advantage. The surplus income from agriculture led to education, investment and entrepreneurial experience. Because of the Urdu medium in Telangana, the import of English-knowing Andhra employees into the administration from 1948 to 1952 and after, placed Andhraites in key positions.
In contrast, the Telangana region was in Nizam’s feudal dominion outside the Indian mainstream political system. Though Hyderabad was made into a first class city for the prestige of rich Nizam, the entire hinterland of Telangana was backward economically with a lack of irrigational facilities and unfavourable agro-climatic conditions. There wasn’t much surplus income from agriculture for education, investment and development of enterprise.
Though the Telugu language was the same, the dialect was different. Andhra Telugu, with a mixture of Sanskrit, was felt to be superior to the Telangana idiom. Because of their economic well-being and language bias, the culture of Telangana was looked down upon. It developed a superiority complex in them. The Andhras started asserting themselves in politics, economics and culture in the State. With this background, the 175 (Andhra) versus 119 (Telangana) members in the Legislative Assembly gave them the political advantage they needed to control Telangana. Regular exploitation of Telangana’s resources by majority Andhra administration continued unabated despite opposition.
Slowly and steadily, the Gentlemen’s agreement was flouted. A severe backlash erupted in 1969 against Andhras for usurping Telangana jobs and Telangana’s surplus revenue. It was viciously suppressed by killing 369 youth in police firing. Then an eight-point development programme was devised. The government promised to correct the violation of the promises in the Gentleman’s agreement in the areas of jobs, budget allocations and educational facilities. PV Narasimha Rao was made the Chief Minister in 1971. Attempts were made to implement ‘mulki rules’ and the eight-point programme. Andhras went to court, but the Supreme Court upheld the ‘mulki rules’.
As a protest, Andhras undertook ‘Jai Andhra’ campaign in 1972. Narasimha Rao was made to resign and President’s rule was imposed. The Constitution was amended to abrogate ‘mulki rules’. A new six-point formula was contrived in 1973. Like other formulas, it was put on the back burner by the indifferent administrations. When Telangana employees complained about its non-implementation, the government issued GO 610 in 1985 but no serious attempt was made to implement it.
Meanwhile, the Andhra-dominated government unleashed several programmes to make Hyderabad the preferred haven, a kind of ‘El Dorado’ for Andhras. The surplus revenue from Telangana was spent in Andhra and to develop infrastructure for enterprises of Andhras in Hyderabad. Vast government and private lands in Telangana were appropriated to Andhras in the name of corporate benefits and other facades.
Whatever development took place in Hyderabad, its fruits were enjoyed mostly by Seemandhras. The colonisation and exploitation of Telangana as foreseen by Justice Fazal Ali in the SRC report vastly exceeded, vindicating the apprehension. This once again ignited the simmering statehood desire in the Telangana people.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was formed in 2001 to fight for separate Telangana. The trials and tribulations of this episode of Telangana udyamam spearheaded by the TRS is history now. Because of it, Telangana State was formed on June 2, 2014. The TRS rightly won the maiden general election in 2014 as well as the election in 2018.
In the last seven years, the State has made rapid economic progress vindicating its statehood struggle. It has a revenue surplus budget. The GSDP was at the seventh position and per capita income at sixth in 2019-20. The State has achieved self-sufficiency in power production and greatly increased its cultivated area under irrigation. Welfare measures have ensured better socio-economic conditions for the people. The government has managed to keep Hyderabad prosperous and make it the growth engine of the State.
Telangana’s rapid progress has become an exemplar of the new States formed after independence. The new State has provided the Telangana people the true political freedom, which was compromised in 1956. It is proved good for the State that it is governed by the regional party which spearheaded the statehood movement.
The post State political experience firmly suggests that Telangana needs to be governed by its own regional parties to evade the fissiparous politics of national parties and cross-border regional parties. A Tamil Nadu and Kerala style political development appears to be the best.
(The author is a freelance journalist)
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