The Weekend Leader - Righting a wrong

What the history books and the Hyderabadi biryani tell of Telangana movement

Sam Rajappa


Vol 4 | Issue 30

Three years and eight months after Palaniappan Chidambaram, then Union Home Minister, announced in Parliament the UPA government’s decision to restore statehood of Telangana, the Congress, heading the ruling coalition, took the plunge on 30 July, 2013.

The demand of statehood for Telangana should not be confused with that of Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Bodaland or other similar regions.

Telangana movement has a unique history and should not be confused with other statehood demands

Telangana was the first linguistic State of the Telugu people in the country, called Hyderabad, even before the 1956 reorganisation of States on linguistic basis.

At the time of independence, the Nizam of Hyderabad was toying with the idea of retaining his domain an independent country or merge it with Pakistan. A quick police action put paid to the Nizam’s ambition and Hyderabad became another State of the Indian Union.

Potti Sriramulu’s fast unto death was to carve another Telugu State out of the erstwhile Madras Province comprising the four Rayalaseema districts and the coastal districts north of Chennai up to Srikakulam, to be called Andhra with Chennai as its capital.

His death led to the creation of Andhra State minus Chennai in 1953, with Kurnool as its capital, by dividing Madras Province. The two Telugu speaking States coexisted without any problem just like more than one Hindi speaking States exist in the north.

The States Reorganisation Commission in its report in 1956 did not advocate merger of Andhra with Telangana.

While opinion in Andhra, now called Seemandhra, was overwhelmingly in favour of the merger of the two Telugu States, it was just the opposite in Telangana.

The SRC report said in para 378: “One of the principal causes of the opposition to the merger is the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of the coastal area.

“If they join Andhra, they will be unequally placed in relation to the people of Andhra and in this partnership the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately while Telangana itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhras.”

How prophetic these words had turned out!

The post-independence Telangana State as it existed from 1948 to 1956 included the Marathwada region comprising the districts of Aurangabad, Nanded, Parbhani, Latur, Beed, Hingoli, Jalna and Osmanabad, and the Kanada region comprising the districts of Gulbarga, Yadgiri, Raichur, Koppala, Bellary and Bidar.

The SRC recommendation of merging Marathwada with Maharashtra and the Kannada region with Karnataka did not meet with any resistance from the people of Telangana.

Even after ceding eight districts to Maharashtra and six district to Karnataka, the core Telugu speaking districts remained intact as Hyderabad State and there was near unanimity against merging the State with Andhra.

To understand their feeling, one should trace the history of Andhra Desa or the Telugu speaking people of the country.

The fall of the Kakatiya dynasty in 1323 and the spread of Muslim rule south of the Vindhyas, which till then had been ruled by Hindu kings, was a turning point of great significance.

The Hindu era was replaced by the Mughal Empire. Emperor Muhammad bin Tughlak shifted his capital from Delhi to Aurangabad, then part of Telangana, albeit for a short period. All the forts in Telangana were placed under Muslim governors.

After the conquest of Telangana by the Bahmani Sultans, Singama III of the Kakatiya dynasty migrated to the coast and founded another principality with its headquarters at Bellamkonda in today’s Guntur district.

Telugus smarting under Muslim rule went into self-imposed exile in coastal Andhra. Asaf Jah, wazir of the Mughal Empire, established his Deccan kingdom in 1724 and took the title Nizam-ul-Mulk.

Over the last 700 years, Telugus of Andhra and Telangana lived separately. Urdu was the language of administration and medium of instruction in schools and colleges in Telangana. The Telugu spoken by them is quite different from that of Andhra.

Even the cuisine of the Telangana Telugus was enriched by Mughal influence. The best example is the Hyderabadi briyani. Education was a neglected subject in Telangana under Nizam’s rule.

The Telugus who opted for Andhra, became a part of Madras Province during the British colonial rule, and had the benefit of English education which put them well ahead of their coevals in Telangana.

In order to dispel fears of the people of Telangana that they would be dominated by the Andhras in the event of merger of the two States, the Andhra Assembly on 25 November, 1955, passed a resolution moved by Chief Minister B Gopal Reddy assuring special protection for the Telanganites.

As it failed to impress, Neelam Sanjive Reddy, then Deputy Chief Minister, moved another resolution on 1 February, 1956, reaffirming the earlier commitment of the Andhra Assembly to protect the interests of Telangana. Chief Minister B Ramakrishna Rao of Telangana was not convinced.

Announcing the Union government’s decision to merge Telangana with Andhra without the consent of the former, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, during a visit to Nizamabad, said that if the experiment failed, the two States could separate like young bride and groom suing for divorce if their marriage failed.

He entrusted BG Pant, then Union Home Minister, the task of solemnising the shot-gun marriage on 1 November, 1956.

On the inauguration of the composite State of Andhra Pradesh, Nehru said: “Telangana people should have an important place in the newly formed State of Andhra Pradesh. The leaders of Andhra would be on trial and they should adjust themselves and inspire confidence in the people of Telangana.”

Unfortunately, all the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, belonging to the Congress or the Telugu Desam Party, even the ones hailing from Telangana, failed to honour the words of Nehru. Every promise made to the people of Telangana was observed in the breach and the agitation for demerger of Telangana began even before the honeymoon period was over.

The unanimous decision of the UPA and the Congress Working Committee to demerge Telangana from Andhra sets right a historic blunder committed by Nehru 57 years ago. It is better late than never.

The question of Hyderabad city as the joint capital of both the States for the next 10 years remains a sticking point. Geographically it is 200 km away from the nearest point of Andhra or Rayalaseema. It can ill serve as the capital of Seemandhra even on temporary basis.

It may be recalled that Chandigarh was declared as the joint capital of Haryana and Punjab for 10 years in the year 1966. Its status has changed to that of a Union Territory but continues to remain the joint capital of the two States for the last 47 years.

Unlike Hyderabad city, Chandigarh shares common border with Haryana and Punjab which makes administration relatively easy. But that is not the case with Hyderabad which geographically remains in the center of Telangana and far removed from Semandhra territory. Vijayawada is ideally situated to be developed as the capital of Seemandhra.

Having taken the plunge, the government should not waste any time in fulfilling the constitutional formalities. Contrary to popular belief, getting a resolution passed in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly on the demerger issue is not mandatory. Nor does it require any constitutional amendment to make Telangana the 29th State of the Indian Union.

Article 2 of the Constitution empowers Parliament to enact law to admit into the Union or to establish new States. Article 3 empowers Parliament to form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or by uniting any territory to be a part of any other State.

All that remains now for the government is to send a recommendation to the President, and on the basis of it pass a Bill in Parliament which will alter the First and the Fourth Schedules of the Constitution. With the BJP also on the same side as the UPA on the Telangana issue, the way forward is free of any major roadblocks.

Sam Rajappa is Consulting Editor of The Weekend Leader

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