Hyderabad, economics are at the heart of Telangana

 The demand for a Telangana state is the oldest in the country that was backed by no less than the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC).
With great foresight the SRC had expressed the fear that in the event of the merger of the two regions of Telangana and the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema districts of Madras Presidency, the more aggressive, educated, wealthier Andhra people would overwhelm the people of Telangana and exploit them. Fifty three years of integration of the two regions has seen the emergence of Telangana as a colony of the resourceful Andhra people. Every promise given to Telangana people to safeguard their interests, whether it was in terms of allocation of resources or water or jobs in government and public sector, has been violated with impunity.

Although Telangana accounts for 40 per cent of the land area and people, its share of the revenues and other resources like water, power, development of education, infrastructure and so on is far less. Importantly, far from forging unity based on language, there is a tremendous disconnect between them as the coastal Andhra people look down upon the people of Telangana as inferior, mock the language they speak, deride their customs and traditions, scoff at their history and heap scorn at their political struggles. Then they claim to be the reason for all the development and growth in the region, especially Hyderabad, which is now on the national and global maps as a metropolis of the future.

The grievances of Telangana and the anger of its people at their systematic deprivation and exploitation are so real that every political party, with the exception of CPI(M), supported the creation of Telangana state. Whether it was the Congress in 2004 or the Telugu Desam Party in 2009, they believed they could retain their presence in Telangana only by forging an alliance with Telangana Rashtra Samiti which was a clear acknowledgement of the rationale for a separate existence. Yet when it came to the crux, after supporting creation of Telangana state an all party meeting held by the Congress government, they had no qualms in opposing the Dec 7 announcement of Union Home Minister P Chidamabaram to initiate the process of bifurcation.

Parties like TDP, Praja Rajyam Party of Chiranjeevi and a powerful section of Congress went back on their commitment to Telangana and led an agitation for a unified state. “That is the typical Andhra mentality... unprincipled and two-timing,” said an activist on condition of anonymity. “They treat Telangana people and their votes as expendable... no wonder that the people got so angry,” he said. The opposition parties who supported Telangana got as many as 57 seats to the Assembly in the May 2009 elections out of 119 in the region.

Telangana revived the sagging political fortunes of TDP while propping up PRP, CPI and BJP.

First movement

Is the current struggle different from the earlier ones for Telangana state? Will it succeed? Or will it be a repeat of the 1971 betrayal when the two- year movement led by Telangana Praja Samiti that was headed by M Channa Reddy came to a nought with TPS merging with Congress under a compromise formula that saw Reddy become the CM? Telangana veteran fighter like Prof Keshav Rao Jadhav believes that a movement will succeed only when it is led by the people at the grassroots and not politicians. “The people have taken over the movement. They are leading it without waiting for politicians. In fact, it has reached the rural people,” he said.

“It is up to the Telangana people, up to us and not politicians to get statehood. I am sure Telangana state will become a reality,” he said. However, Professor S Simhadri of Osmania University believes the combine or convergence of caste, class and political interests of the powerful coastal Andhra lobbies will make all efforts to obstruct Telangana. Individuals and groups with interests in real estate, infrastructure, power plants, irrigation projects have seamlessly merged into politics with the result that they are loath to give up a burgeoning city of Hyderabad or the massive strength of 42 MPs from AP in the Lok Sabha with the resultant profits, contracts and massive commissions.
The hold of the capitalist class over political power has expanded dramatically in recent years and breaking up of AP will equally dramatically cut into their profits and political power. Fifty three years of integration and consequent exploitation by this class, led by the Kamma caste has sharpened the disparities. Now these same forces are saying development will suffer if the state is bifurcated. “Kamma capital has grabbed and monopolises the economic space and politically, Kammas have dramatically expanded their power. These complexities are either not understood or are swept under the carpet by national leadership,” he said.

He believes all out efforts are being made to nullify the students struggle and negate people’s assertions by this combine of upper caste, politically and economically powerful interests. Gita Ramaswamy, activist-writer-publisher-researcher, believes the present movement led by students belonging to the oppressed and backward castes has achieved almost a miracle when a leader of a political party like K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana Praja Samiti had to bend to their power by resuming his hunger strike that he wanted to give up in the first week of December. Also, the present movement is perhaps the first in recent history of Andhra Pradesh not to have been influenced by the Maoists. “The more aware people become, the more democratic they are, the less they will take up arms,” said Gita. So will Telangana become a reality? “The movement has reached a critical mass... it has become a decisive force. Telangana is bound to happen because it is not what they give but what we take,” she said.

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