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Telangana, a long festering wound

DNBAN16993 | 12/8/2009 | Author : KV Ramana | WC :728 | Politics & Governance

Ever since the state of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956, people in the region have felt that they have been given a raw deal — be it in development or in sharing natural resources. And this feeling of injustice has spawned many an agitation for a separate state

If the intensity of the current developments in the state is anything to go by, the Telangana and Andhra regions of Andhra Pradesh are all set to break apart, with the people, particularly the youth, of Telangana pushing hard for the separation.
But, then, this is not the first time that the agitation for a separate Telangana state has reached a feverish pitch. The 1969 agitation, in which 369 people lost their lives, is still fresh in people's mind. In fact the sense of deja vu is unmistakable, with the Osmania University campus, as then, once again turning into the epicentre of the agitation.
Though the States Reorganisation Committee appointed by the first prime minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, favoured the creation of states on the basis of languages, the merger of Telangana with Andhra was never cordial. Even after the country attained independence in August 1947, Telangana was not free, so to speak, since the Nizam was ruling most of the region.
Operation Polo of the Indian government against the Nizam forced the merger of the state of Hyderabad with India on September 17, 1948. But, the trouble was still brewing. The first SRC, headed by Fazal Ali, even though focusing on the linguistic criterion for creation of states, did not recommend the unification of Telangana with Andhra without riders. The SRC had made it clear that the merger of Telangana with Andhra should be only through a democratic process.
"It will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana to constitute into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State with provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961 if by a two-thirds majority the legislature of the residency Hyderabad State expresses itself in favour of such unification."
But, the Congress, which was almost non-existent in the Nizamia land, ignored the SRC opinion. Instead, it went ahead with the unification process and declared the formation of Andhra Pradesh on November 1, 1956. But, the Congress government allowed a gentleman's agreement giving certain privileges to the people of Telangana since they were seen as a deprived lot in the Nizam's rule vis-a-vis the population in the British-controlled Andhra.
Post the formation of AP, the people of Telangana were of the opinion that they were given a raw deal and continued to agitate for separation of Telangana from Andhra. The argument was based on several issues, which the separatists show as evidence for the domination of people from Andhra over the people of the region with 10 districts out of 23 in the state today. Two major rivers — Krishna and Godavari — flow from the Telangana region. But, the waters are taken directly to the Andhra part of the state and little flows to the fields of Telangana.
This triggered a major movement in 1969 for separation of Telangana and caused major trouble for the ruling Congress. Osmania University in Hyderabad had turned into a defacto headquarters for the separatist movement. The leaders of the then separate Telangana movement are still seen as traitors. M Channa Reddy, one of the leaders of the movement, subsequently joined the Congress and even became the chief minister of AP.
In 2001, K Chandrasekhara Rao, a senior leader of the Telugu Desam Party of N Chandrababu Naidu, once again kicked off the movement by forming the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). In 2004, the TRS allied with the Congress. Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, gave assurances to the people of Telangana that the party was in favour of a separate state. This assurance translated into support for both the TRS and the Congress in the region. But, after the elections, the Congress-led UPA government formed a committee, headed by Pranab Mukherjee, to arrive at a "political consensus" on the issue.
However, the then chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy allegedly blocked the proposal for the creation of Telangana due to a variety of political reasons. The Pranab committee was to submit its report in about six weeks, but it has not been done yet. The inordinate delay has once again created unrest among the people of Telangana, even though the sentiment was not reflected in the results of the 2009 elections.
On November 29, KCR gave a major twist to the row by starting his fast unto death demanding a separate Telangana.

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