The people of Telangana have fought for creation of a new state for themselves for nearly 60 years now. This legitimate fight for creation of this new state with Hyderabad as its capital, within the legal confines of Indian Constitution, has had a voice since the time of Indian Independence. In 1948, right after the Indian Independence, Indian Army entered the region to liberate the people of Telangana (as part of Hyderabad State) from the Nizam Rule. The newly formed Hyderabad State was a distinct entity in Indian Union and had its elections (in 1953) prior to the formation of Andhra Pradesh (in 1956). Meanwhile, another region next to Telangana, called Andhra, was keen on fighting for a separate state for its people away from Tamil people.
Potti Sriramulu of Andhra region went on a hunger strike in Madras (Chennai) for 58 days and died fighting for creation of separate state out of Madras Presidency called Andhra State with Madras as a capital. After his death, the Central Government in New Delhi conceded to his first demand, that of creation of Andhra State, but it rejected his other demand. Instead, Madras became capital of new Tamil State. We tend to forget that Potti Sriramulu fought for political aspirations of Andhra people of Madras Presidency, not the Telangana people of Hyderabad State.
Andhra People having lost Madras to Tamils looked for an alternative city for its capital and they eyed the glorious city of Hyderabad. Using the slogan that Telugu is the binding factor for both the regions, they renewed their fight to include Telangana into their new dream of Vishalandhra. People of Telangana had a different opinion – they didn’t think it was a wise move. In fact, Hyderabad city saw the first waves of protests against joining Andhra Pradesh (and some protestors died in the shootings).
Potti Sri Ramulu’s death and Andhra people’s demand for creation of a state on linguistic basis led to creation of First State Reorganization Committee (SRC) in India. Though Nehru was averse to this idea, many new states got formed in India on the basis of language. Kerala and Karnataka got formed immediately. Telangana was clubbed with Andhra State to form new Andhra Pradesh though Fazal Ali of First SRC clearly expressed reservations against clubbing together the two regions that were unequal partners.
The history of Telangana after India’s Independence is riddled with false promises and betrayals. The hypocrisy and selfishness of political leaders cannot be ignored. While the Andhra people felt they would not be represented fairly in the Madras Presidency since it would be dominated by Tamils, they fought for inclusion of a reluctant Telangana into the Andhra Pradesh. Though there were many glaring differences between Coastal Andhra and Telangana because of cultural and historical reasons, those were ignored to unite them under linguistic basis. Right from the beginning, it was clearly understood by many that people of Telangana would never get a fair representation in education, opportunity and employment, but those legitimate concerns were ignored.
Prior to Indian Independence Andhra people were under British Rule, and hence had better access to education and employment while the Telangana people under Nizam Rule were less educated or literate in Urdu- and Urdu didn’t have a role to play in the new state of Andhra Pradesh. While the British Rule curbed feudal system bringing in land reforms in Andhra Region, the Nizam ruled Telangana was steeped in extreme feudal system, to such an extent that Pandit Nehru described Nizam Dominion as ‘ancient feudal relic’. The land reforms which were long due in Telangana didn’t happen in spite of a communist rebellion that started in this region prior to the Indian Independence. Zamindars continued to rule the region as before. The poverty was rampant and disparity between rich and poor phenomenal. Landlords and the privileged class soon became the de facto leaders in the new political sphere. They were keen on filling their coffers than on attending to the problems of its people. Leaders of Telangana joined forces with leaders of Andhra Region to betray their own people again and again.
After a prolonged period of discriminatory policies and unfulfilled ‘Gentleman Agreements’, people of Telangana rose in unison in 1969 demanding a new state for themselves. That Telangana Agitation was ruthlessly suppressed killing more than 350 people and sending the thousands into jails. However, the movement did not die in the minds of Telangana people. In the next Lok Sabha elections of 1971, a new party called Telangana Praja Samiti (TPS) bagged 11 seats out of a total 12 from this region on one single agenda – to create a new Telangana State. But the popular mood was hijacked by the corrupt and selfish Telangana leaders who betrayed their people once again. Channa Reddy, leader of TPS, joined Congress Party under Indira Gandhi, renounced the pledge he has given to people of Telangana, and in a clear case of display of avarice became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Though there were many gentleman promises and many GOs passed to protect interests of Telangana people in their region, they were all struck down eventually. The history of Telangana is fraught with unfulfilled promises. Telangana remains backward, in education, in agriculture, in industry, in infrastructure, in employment, and in prosperity.
Even today, Telangana people are discriminated in their own region. Telangana language is ridiculed and its speakers are butt of many demeaning jokes. People of Telangana have a distinct culture, a different history and different temperament in addition to different social and economic status. Now, they seek a new state within the legal confines of Indian Constitution after enduring pain and suffering for over fifty years.
We have come together many a times to seek a separate Telangana. And now we are poised to attain the statehood. Separate Telangana is no longer an elusive dream but a distinct reality. It’s not the matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.
Here is the text of Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech given on the eve of Indian Independence. It applies to Telangana in the current context.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speech to new India on August 15th, 1947
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, …
The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, …, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. … We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.
The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavor? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”
Message to the leaders of Telangana
What shall we do when we get our Telangana? What is our vision and what are our objectives? How shall we correct the mistakes of the past? How shall we better the lives of our people? How shall we make Telangana a great place to live?
Our forefathers who fought for Indian Independence spent many long years to architect our constitution and formed ideas on how they are going to rule this country, what principles they are going to imbibe and what mistakes they will avoid. I don’t see a single political party discussing their vision for Telangana. Are they going to be another set of corrupt and self-centered politicians who will just usurp power to feed themselves, or are they going to be committed leaders who will work for the betterment of this region? Are we going to replace one selfish ruler with another, the way the Zamindars took over where Nizam left off, or are we going to make this truly a government of the people – all people, lower caste or upper caste, Hindu or Muslim, rich or poor, villager or a city dweller, man or woman?
Getting separate Telangana is only the beginning, not the end in itself.
[The related posts are at: Telangana - A New State, Telangana II, Telangana III, Telangana IV, Telangana V: Political angle, Telangana VI: Hyderabad State?, Telangana VII: Political Drama, Telangana VIII: You need to make a case, History of Telangana I, Telangana IX: Riots turn ugly, Telangana X: Congratulations!]