A five-decade-old clamour

A five-decade-old clamour

The agitation for a separate Telangana state has been a festering wound for over five decades. Intermittent policy prescriptions to correct anomalies never really helped in healing the wound.

What set Telangana apart from other regions witnessing statehood demand was that it was a separate state in the past, ruled by the Nizams. It was merged with the rest of the Telugu-speaking regions in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh, the country’s first linguistic state.

Since then, the yearning for a separate identity and perceived sense of alienation has repeatedly found public expression in the region comprising 10 districts, including Hyderabad.

Lack of irrigation facilities, industries, educational and employment opportunities has been the bane of the region.

Statehood supporters argue that successive governments have not only neglected the region but also systematically exploited it, denying its share of funds. There has been a discrimination in all sectors, including industrial development, irrigation, employment, education and allotment of funds.

The first major agitation for a separate Telangana state erupted in 1969 and turned violent, claiming several lives. It was countered by a competitive agitation in the coastal Andhra region. However, following the Centre’s intervention, a political settlement was reached between the leaders of the two regions. A set of safeguards for the Telangana region were worked out.

The movement was revived on a massive scale with the launch of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 2001 by K Chandrasekhar Rao, who was then with the ruling Telugu Desam Party. With an aggressive approach, the TRS gave an impetus to the agitation and reaped rich electoral dividends by harping on the statehood sentiment in the region.

A political vacuum caused by the death of charismatic Congress chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy in a helicopter crash in September 2009 came in handy for the TRS to give a decisive push to the Telangana movement. The indefinite fast by Chandrasekhar Rao in November 2009 turned out to be a defining moment in the history of the movement.

Rao’s deteriorating health prompted a dramatic midnight announcement by the United Progressive Alliance government on December 9, initiating the process for formation of a new state.

However, following mass resignations by elected representatives from the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions, cutting across party lines, the Congress had to retract.

Since then, the state has been caught in a turmoil with frequent agitations, shutdowns, resignation threats and competitive display of regional loyalties. Finally, the Congress  has decided to bite the Telangana bullet ahead
of the general election.

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