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Does it make sense to separate Telangana from Andhra?

By: Gopal Alankar, Ph.D.
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Views expressed here are author"s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

(The writer is a retired freelancer. He holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Management in addition to degrees in engineering. He enjoys writing on community related issues.)

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December 9, 2009 was a defining moment for Telangana. At midnight the Home Minister of India, Mr. P. Chidambaram, announced the initiation of forming Telangana State and instantly Telangana burst into joy and jubilance. Every nook and corner witnessed the spectacle of celebrations that symbolized the culmination of fifty some years of struggle seemingly into fruition. But the news was gloom and doom for opponents of Telangana from Andhra region. They flooded the internet with blurred blogs that reasoned against the formation but those reasons bore very little semblance to truth. They were heavily laced with mistaken facts and muddied truth. They stoked the fears that Andhra settlers in Hyderabad would be driven out to their native places.

Barring a few, the picture was no different with some news papers of national standing that peppered the government on the rationality in forming a new state. Here again the articles were laden with misinformation symptomatic of missing means to unearth the facts. The fact that the first SRC preferred against the merger was simply brushed aside. The fact that Prime Minister Nehru promised to nullify the merger if it proved harmful to Telangana interests was conveniently ignored. So much so it was all hot air and little substance through and through.

This article is an attempt to shed light on the historical facts to substantiate the Government"s move to initiate Telangana formation. As an additional reading I urge the readers to browse through Mr. T.V.R. Shenoy"s article Why is everyone scared of small states?

The incessant trumpeting in the media that Telangana is being carved out of Andhrapradesh or Andhrapradesh is being bifurcated is erroneous. This would be true if Telangana was ever a homogeneous part of Andhra or Madras Presidency. But the fact remains that Telangana had an independent existence as part of Hyderabad State up until November 1, 1956 when it was merged with Andhra in contravention to the Justice Fazl Ali Commission"s report and against the wishes of Telangana people.

Announcing the Government"s decision to merge the two regions, Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister, said on March 5, 1956 in Nizamabad of Telangana,

"Ek masoom ki bachchi (Telangana) ko, ek natkhat (Andhra) ke saath shadi ho raha hai. Ka-yee din ke baad me ittefaq nahi hone ke vaje se talaaq de sakthe hain."
(Ref: Indian Express March 6, 1956)

The above parable says it all. Talaaq was an option offered to Telanganites to secede from the merger if the merger proved harmful to Telangana.

The fifty years of merger has seen Telangana high and dry. Its waters were clandestinely diverted to Andhra. Today its land is dry, parched and un-tillable. Agreed protections against the jobs for Telangana were nixed. The surplus revenue that Telangana had before the merger was all but consumed for the development of Andhra. The present struggle for separation to its original state is an exercise of the option (talaaq) given by Nehru. It is neither carving out a new State nor bifurcating Andhrapradesh.

Culturally the two regions are miles apart. Telangana culture is a unique blend of Adivasi, Mughlai, Maharashtrian, Kannadiga and North Indian cultures. To pitch for togetherness on the basis of homogeneous culture is like trying to sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Although the 54 years of Andhra hold on Telangana has made some inroads into cultural amalgam, the differences are still conspicuous. Vast differences existed in the days of Nizam"s rule. The native dresses of Telanganites still differ from those of Andhras. In the days of yore native Telangana men wore turbans and dhotis while Andhras preferred lungis and bare heads. Telangana women in pre-independence days wore saris in style similar to rural women in Maharashtra. The cuisines of both regions are vastly different. Telangana cuisines reflect Moghlai and Islamic tastes while Andhra cuisines are heavily reflective of Tamilian mould.

There are appreciable differences in languages. Telangana language is more overlayed with Urdu, Maharashtrian and Hindi words. In my growing up years we were taught to address our uncle as kakayya, a Marathi derivative. It was common to address one"s mother as Mataji. Plenty of Urdu words are intertwined into Telangana Telugu such as Pa-ray-shan (worry), Sa-maj (understand). The tones are different so also the verb endings. All in all the Telangana and Andhra Telugu languages are very incongruous. It is fair to say that they are two different dialects.

Many Telangana festivities are not found in Andhra region such as Holi, Bathkamma, Bonalu, Kolatam, etc. Telanganites fly kites during Sankranthi in a frenzy of passion that is comparable to kite flying in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Incidentally Telanganites observe Muslim festivals too. Peerila festival (muharram) is one of them.

The subject of Telangana culture is copious and a detailed discussion of it will be voluminous. But for now I will provide a pointer to a speech of an illustrious Telangana writer Kaloji Narayan Rao

"Telangana life styles are different, Telangana language is different."

Development is a multifaceted task aimed at providing basic human needs at one end and luxurious life styles at the other end. Economy and beautification of Hyderabad are two other facets.

The unabated vociferous chanting by people from Andhra for credit for Hyderabad"s development is a hollow rhetoric. It is a good try but a tricky dick trick. A little development towards a stench-free drive across Musi river would have sanitized their claim for credit. But alas, the stench still stays all the way along the river!

City of Hyderabad was judged as highly developed prior to India"s independence. It ranked high among the beautiful cities in India in terms of cleanliness, underground sanitation, gardens, wide roads, lakes, robust infrastructure and sustainable economy. Nizam of Hyderabad was once the richest person in the world. This does not mean that the people were rich, but meaningfully it could be interpreted that the sweat and toil of the people made him rich.

The precious Kohinoor diamond came from Hyderabad. The old buildings are still the architectural marvels that reflect the fusion of Islamic, Italian and Hindu architectures. Some examples of these are Charminar, Osmania University, Mecca Masjid, Falaknuma palace, Assembly building, etc. Spawned around the city are beautiful lakes - Hussain Sagar, Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar. These developments do not bear the seal of Andhra investors.

The merger of the two regions also saw the slow death of the Telangana indurtries viz: Ajamjhahi mills, Sirpur sirsilk mills, Anthargam spinning mills, DBR mills, Alwyn metal works, Praga Tools, Republic forge. The Nizam Sugar Factory is now on the verge of extinction. This record does not add up to any development.

Huge monstrous ugly cement flyovers eclipsing the beauty of the city do not constitute development either. Adding bricks, mortar and cement to the already overcrowded city leaving debris all over is not a measure of development. Sathyam Computers, sure is an Andhra investment but one mired in fraud and deception. Could this be a barometer for development? Whatever development that Hyderabad achieved through government investment is neither the generosity of Andhras nor that of Telanganites.

Hi Tech city lies way out in the suburb of Hyderabad and it does not constitute part of Hyderabad per say. It survives because of foreign investments such as Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, Motorola, Deloitte, HSBC, GE, and out of state investors like Tata Consultancy, Infosys, Wipro, etc. Should we call these as Andhra investors? It beats me.

It is no denying that ever since the merger of the two, Hyderabad had become a Mecca for shady real estate dealers with expertise in land grabbing and illegal acquisitions of government lands in collusion with the men in power. The expensive media blitz unleashed now by Andhras, whipping the fear of getting evicted if Telangana were to separate has no truth. Instead, it has the lurking fear of losing the lucrative real estate shenanigans in and around Hyderabad, and the chilling reality of being exposed to legal investigation into their ill gotten money by the incoming Telangana government.

Telanganites by nature are passive, submissive, hard working and law abiding - a modus Vivendi cultivated under the suppressive kingly reigns and harsh democratic rules unfriendly to their wellbeing. They learned to suffer and live happily among all Indians - Andhras, Tamilians, Muslims, Punjabis, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Maharashtrians, Kannadigas, and you name it. Their history and culture is a rich derivative from the people from different faiths and regions. They will always welcome any Indian willing to settle among them and that includes Andhras.

In whichever way you look at it, it makes sense to separate Telangana from Andhra. The twain shall live in harmony guided by the principle of "Live and let live."

Gopal Alankar, Ph.D.

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References & Notes:

Andhra = A region separated from Madras presidencyon a linguistic basis. It is now forms a major area in Andhrapradesh
Andhrapradesh = A state formed by merging Andhra and Telangana
Talaaq = An Urdu word that means divorce
Telangana = A region that formed a major part of the state of Nizam called Hyderabad State. It was subsequently merged with Andhra against the wishes of its people.

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