In our euphoria to restore our history and our identity we have been discarding everything that was imposed onto us in Andhra Pradesh by the Andhras. One such idol we discard is the icon of Telugu Talli, an unmistakably Hindu lady with jewels and bhindi carrying Hindu symbol of devotion in one hand. She looks no different from contemporary images of a Hindu goddess. Telanganas replaced Telugu Talli with Telangana Talli, who doesn’t look any different from Telugu Talli except some small variations. Once again she is distinctly Hindu lady. Any casual observer will pass her for a Hindu goddess.
Continuing the same exercise of discarding Seemandhra symbols, Telangana leaders are ready to discard the official state song Maa Telugu Talliki, which is a devotional song sung in most official programs, celebrations, government offices, schools, across the state. The argument from Telanganas is the same – it is an imposition of Andhras onto Telanganas.
While we are ready to challenge the imposition of Seemandhra domination in icons, symbols and songs, we need to ask some hard questions. When trying to correct history, shall we use the opportunity to correct it the right way, or shall we replace one imposition with another? This is a serious question that will act as a litmus test to everything that is going to happen once the new state of Telangana is formed. Will a new class of Telanganas usurpers emerge to occupy the dominating positions vacated by Seemandhras to pounce upon rest of Telangana, the way Seemandhras occupied the positions vacated by Nizam’s government? Will we correct ourselves not to become like Seemandhras or is this movement only to topple the erstwhile masters to replace them with our own, so that nothing changes for the common man?
The statue of Telugu Talli and the song of Maa Telugu Talliki, in addition to being an imposition of Andhras onto Telanganas, was also an imposition of Hindus onto other religions, like Muslims and Christians. There is no reference or allusion to the symbols and leaders of Muslims who comprise a huge portion of Telangana population. The references in this song to Amaravathi, Tyagayya, Rudramma, Thimmarasu, Krishnarayala, do not include contributions of Muslims of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu Talli idol is distinctly Hindu, and Maa Telugu Talliki is a Hindu devotional song, which has no references to a Muslim icon, poet, or king. Like the song Vande Mataram, which apotheosizes India as a Hindu goddess, the song Maa Telugu Talliki apotheosizes Telugu region as a Hindu goddess. The way Muslims find problem singing Vande Mataram, they find the same problem in singing Maa Telugu Talliki. While we Telanganas tend to believe that it is an imposition of Seemandhras, what stops Muslims from thinking it is an imposition of Hindus?
Since we are ready to correct the mistakes of the past and overthrow such impositions, should we not discard all such images and songs, instead of replacing one imposition with another?
India is a secular country and all images and symbols of religion should be disavowed by the state administration. And yet, we continue to equate India with Hinduism without any qualms and expect the minority religions to tow the diktats of the majority. The struggle for Telangana is the struggle of one such minority which rejects the overwhelming domination of a majority that imposed all its symbols, its dialects, its ideas of what is right and what is wrong, their festivals, their histories, and their heroes. How can we then justify the imposition of the majority religion’s symbols and icons onto a minority religion in the same struggle?
It will be a travesty of a genuine people’s movement if we were to continue this path and embrace Telangana Talli as our icon and if we were to replace Maa Telugu Talliki with another Hindu devotional song.
We should discontinue the practice of erecting Telangana Talli statues right away and remove the Telangana Talli statues that we have already installed before it is too late, and stop introducing new songs which have religious fervor or intonations. That will be dream come true for justified cause of Telangana, its genuine people’s movement, its rightful place in the dominion of India, embracing the Indian Constitution, its ideals and principles which we so strongly advocate in our struggles. Otherwise, it will be another failed movement where one master will be replaced by another.