Most Andhras conveniently assume that Telangana Movement is a ‘purely political’ movement [Read more about “politically motivated” here]. This way they can ignore the protests, bandhs or strikes as an aberration that is sponsored by political parties, but not the norm. This way they can dismiss the entire movement as a mere blip on the radar, something that will fade away with time. And that’s why they are trying to buy time and stall the separation. They think that it is just a matter of time before this whole movement will be blown away with the next wind of political change. After that we can all live together again, like a happy family.
The problem with this convenient and idyllic picture is that it is an illusion.
Telanganas do not think it is a happy family. They believe they need to find their own destiny, however harsh it is going to be, on their own. This they believe, not because their politicians have fed lies to them, not because they are suddenly caught in a bout of feverish regionalism, but because they have either witnessed the discrimination, experienced it, or they have understood this prolonged discrimination meted out to their people. In reality Telanganas are suspicious of their own politicians and that’s why they are taking the lead and forcing their politicians to follow through their promises.
Andhras do not understand this at all. They do not realize that this is a people’s movement. They do not understand what Telanganas believe or feel. They do not even think Telanganas have been discriminated. They ask themselves if they have ever personally discriminated a Telangana person and comfortably conclude that they have not [More about this here]. And therefore they assume that this whole discrimination stuff is a myth.
Andhras and Telanganas are on two different planes on this issue. Any talks with Andhras on separation of Telangana are meaningless. It is like talks with Pakistan on terrorism. India believes Pakistan fosters terrorism while Pakistan denies it completely. If you have not even agreed on the premise what’s the point of having talks? While Telanganas cite copious amount of discrimination, Andhras deny discrimination exists.
Andhras don’t understand Telanganas. That’s because they have never tried to understand them. Their love affair with Telangana was confined to opportunity – in terms of new jobs, real estate in Hyderabad, water that flows through Telangana, etc.
Andhras don’t know Telanganas
Yes, Andhras have incorporated Telangana into their state, but they just don’t know what this region is all about. They don’t know Telangana’s history or its culture or its socio-economic conditions. They conveniently forgot to mention its history and culture in their text books as if it was not even necessary.
Now, when they want a united state they keep shouting ‘Samaikya Andhra’. They don’t even realize that most Telanganas do not even identify with the word ‘Andhra’. For Telanganas, the common element for all the people in the state is the language Telugu, not the word ‘Andhra’ though it appears in the name of the state. Some of us protested during the formation of the state when the word ‘Telangana’ was dropped.
While Telanganas continue to interact with Andhras because many of them come to Telangana, Andhras living in Andhra do not get that chance since the migration from Telangana to Andhra is minimal. Moreover, many Telanganas who migrate to Andhra region change their accent right away to embrace Andhra Telugu to fit in, so that they don’t lose out and don’t get taunted all the time. Even some Telanganas in Telangana who have Andhra superiors at work tend to change their dialect to lose Telangana accent. Telanganas are made to feel ashamed of their dialect. For most people in the state, Telangana Telugu represents lower class, the coolies, the workers, the uncouth, and the rustic. This is also the reason why many Telanganas do not even talk about their support for the Telangana movement- because they are either shy or afraid to admit it.
What are Telanganas?
What kind of people are Telanganas? Are they uncouth and uncivilized, speaking a rustic version of Telugu? Are they lazy - shirkers of work? Are they less hardworking and less enterprising? Do they allow people to rule them – first the Nizam and then the majorities of Andhra Rayalaseema?
For nearly two hundred years, Telangana was ruled by an oppressive regime of Nizam. The whole kingdom was in existence only to serve one purpose – to pay taxes and collect taxes. There was nothing much for Telanganas to look forward to. It was an elaborate zamindari system. Nehru called Hyderabad State an ‘ancient feudal relic’.
There were not many schools. If there were some, they taught Urdu only to serve the administration of Nizam. The only jobs were government jobs. Tax collectors, policemen, administrators, jury, everyone was appointed by the government. Telugu was not encouraged or taught. For a long time, there was nothing to write or read in Telugu.
And yet, there was a rebellious streak of Telanganas that translated into communist movement rebelling Nizam, before India became independent. Even women took an equal role in this rebellion against Nizam. How did the people talk to each other, how did they spread their message? How did they rally the people to the cause?
Similarities are found in the movement of Blacks in Americas. Their frustrations, their rebellious streak, their message was passed on by their songs and their music. Their songs carried a message- political and social. Eventually, they found their self-respect, their freedoms, and their voice through their music.
In India, Telangana has long history of ballads that carried political and social messages to all strata of the society. Even today, young boys and girls in our villages create a tune on the spur and most songs are about our lives, our struggles, our economic conditions.
I am a proud Telangana. I hail from Warangal, Telangana. As a young boy, I knew some of popular Telangana songs and I used sing some of them. Unfortunately, some of them were eventually banned because they were taken up by Naxals in our region. Only in 1990s, the ban was lifted and many songs came back to us. They were sold as cassettes, nowadays on CDs, and circulated on Youtube.
One of the famous singers of that time was called Gaddar. When Gaddar came out of hiding in 1990, more than 200,000 people showed up in Hyderabad to see him. Telanganas identify with him instantly while he is virtually unknown outside this region. The way he used dress himself was taken up by most Telangana singers of the present generation.
His version of the song ‘Bandenaka Bandi Katti’ (One cart after another) moves almost every Telangana or Telugu person who has heard it. There is a rebellious streak in that song. It is about fighting for one’s place against a superior force or authority. It is the story of a common Telangana person for many centuries now. You can listen to it here:
Gaddar has moved many Telanganas with his songs. He was one of the active participants of Telangana Movement of 1969. He went from town to town and village to village to pass the message using his songs. Though he is a communist, and though communists were anti-separation for a long time, Gaddar stood for separate Telangana and his message is not easily lost on Telanganas. Even today, he comments on current movement and supports it.
In the last twenty years, many Telangana songs that endorse separate Telangana have proliferated in Telangana. Villages and towns of Telangana have heard these songs. The songs are played in buses, in autos, at tea stalls. Teachers, school going children, college professors, rickshaw pullers, bankers, administrators, and all kinds of people have listened to these songs many a times. The modern day young boys and girls dance to these songs and they are not ashamed of them. They take pride in singing and dancing to them.
While Andhras conveniently ignored and forgotten Telanganas, keeping themselves happy only with Hyderabad city of Telangana, the Telanganas were on a revival mode. They have created songs, pamphlets, booklets, and created many awareness programs, street-side dramas, etc, to educate its masses. These songs clearly told them the discrimination that was meted out to them by Andhras.
In the last twenty years, many organizations have sprung up in Telangana to bring in a separate state. Right now, there are more than 15 student bodies that are represented in Telangana Students Joint Action Committee (TS-JAC). Telangana Students Front (TSF) was formed in Kakatiya University, Telangana Liberation Students Organisation (TLSO) in 1991, and Telangana Information Trust in 1986. Political outfits include Telangana Jana Sabha and Telangana Mahasabha. Other organizations include Telangana Intellectuals Forum (TIF) Telangana Development Forum (TDF), Telangana IT Forum (TITF), and Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV).
Hundreds of books, copious amount of literature have been released in the last twenty years. The books detail the discrimination that was meted out to Telangana in jobs, in power, in irrigation and many other fronts like budget allocations. Professor Jaishankar and many other scholars, lawyers, poets and artists have been powering the intellectual movement in Telangana.
Pamphlets and Jokes
The message was carried by many pamphlets and jokes that were circulating throughout Telangana. Picture is worth a thousand words, they say.
There are many jokes which convey the picture more succinctly, like these.
Telangana Movement is a real people’s movement, created by the people, for the people, and of the people of Telangana. Its politicians are just one aspect of the whole movement. They are not even in the lead and might have contributed little to the whole movement. The movement is led by the people of Telangana. People outside Telangana have to confront this reality and accept it.
Some of you Andhras who fail to understand Telangana quickly think it is KCR that created this agitation. The actual message is carried by Telanganas through their ballads, pamphlets, stories, booklets, and street-side plays.
Please give credit to the people of Telangana for this movement, not KCR or TRS. And also do acknowledge that Telangana Movement is a people’s movement. Not acknowledging will not allow us to talk on the same table, because you are in a denial mode.