N Venugopal, The New Indian Express, 13 Dec 2009
Telangana is today witnessing what seem to be its most momentous developments in the known history of this peninsular Indian pocket. Announcement of fast unto death by Telangana Rashtra Samiti supremo K Chandrasekhara Rao, scuttling of his efforts and detention on various charges including sedition even before he began the fast, indiscriminate arrests of scores of his party legislators and activists, unwarranted excessive use of force on protesting students in Osmania University, students across 10 districts of Telangana joining the warpath, bandh for two days and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s announcement of initiating the state formation process, leading to the withdrawal of KCR’s fast included the fast moving scenes in the eleven-day-long Act 1 of the drama. And this Act took away the precious lives of about 40 students and youths of Telangana.
Then began the Act II in which the players changed to Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema doing almost the same things — burning of buses and public properties, climbing up the microwave towers threatening to commit suicide, politicians threatening to observe indefinite fast, legislators cutting across party lines tendering their resignations, the Union Home Secretary going back on his own statement within hours, etc. The Act II still goes on at the time of writing this. However, in this unfolding drama, what is becoming more obfuscated is the underlying theme on which this drama is being enacted. Even as the root cause of the anguish of Telangana is being shrouded in the mist of vandalism or police’s use of force, the last two days’ agitation in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema tries to add newer elements to completely erase the original demands of Telangana. This context makes it pertinent to note why there is such a widespread agitation amongst Telangana’s people in general and students in particular. It isn’t that the agitation over the demand began on November 29 — the supposed date of KCR’s fast unto death — nor is it that the TRS is the first political formation to raise such a demand. To grasp the present Telangana agitation requires knowledge of at least three important points. The first one is the perception of exploitation of resources and discrimination in resource allocation. The second one is the consistent violation of promises given by the rulers to Telangana for the last fifty years — which is ever since the formation of the united Andhra Pradesh. The third one is the image of a distinct Telangana identity that doesn’t obey any master, doesn’t tolerate oppression and having defiance in its blood. Let us begin with the third. The late prime minister P V Narasimha Rao was also among those who voiced this image. In a convocation address delivered at Kakatiya University some three decades ago, he said there was defiance in the blood of Telangana. A recent study on the social history of the Deccan published by Cambridge University Press also supports the idea. There are at least two legendary figures in each century for the last thousand years who stood against authority and never bowed before misrule. Most of the Telangana supporters claim legacy to this heritage. While it might be discounted as an over-reading of history, it is strongly based on a well-researched and cherished social history. Coming to the first one, the Telangana movement of the past one-and-a-half decades has produced a lot of literature that throws light on the exploitation of natural resources of Telangana — be it land, mineral wealth, particularly coal, or water resources. In terms of educational and employment opportunities and allocations of public expenditure, Telangana was never accorded fair share. While Telangana constitutes 42 per cent of area and 40 per cent of Andhra Pradesh’s population, it never got as much a share in budgetary allocations. While Krishna and Godavari, the two major rivers pass through Telangana covering about 75 per cent of their route, irrigation projects are built to water the districts of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, at the cost of parched Telangana districts on the banks of those rivers. Indeed all these concerns were expressed before the States Reorganisation Commission in 1953. By that time, Telangana was part of feudal autocratic rule of the Nizams for centuries and lacking in all modern facilities like education, in contrast to coastal Andhra which was part of Madras Presidency under the British. Given this historical difference, the SRC admitted the apprehensions of Telangana representatives that the Telangana people might be exploited by their well-educated brethren from Coastal Andhra. The SRC in its final recommendation suggested that Telugu-speaking districts of the erstwhile Hyderabad state be kept as a separate state. However, the SRC recommendation was not heeded to and it was decided to merge Andhra state with Teluguspeaking areas of Hyderabad state on the principle of linguistic states. Then, of course, there was a proposal to write down safeguards to Telangana to assuage the apprehensions and it is known as Gentlemen’s Agreement signed in February 1956. Thus Andhra Pradesh was formed on November 1, 1956, on specific written conditions. Unfortunately each of the 14 safeguards was violated. The one condition that was implemented was the formation of the Telangana Regional Council that should have regularly monitored the implementation of the other safeguards. But surprisingly, the TRC was made toothless and its reports from 1960 itself demonstrate its helplessness. Safeguards in education, employment, budgetary allocations, and sale of land in Hyderabad — every aspect of special treatment, which was an accepted condition for merger, was violated. That’s how the frustration of Telangana people started growing, and by mid-1960s it became visible. The Jai Telangana movement of 1969 was in fact begun with a fast of an unemployed youth asking for implementation of safeguards. When it was not heeded, the movement started thinking of de-merger, and there began the movement for a separate state. Rather, the movement wanted a status quo ante November 1, 1956. The movement was brutally crushed by the government by indiscriminate police firings across Telangana killing 370 students and youth. There was an all-party meeting 1969 which drafted an agreement to address the concerns of Telangana people but the agreement was also dishonoured. However, the movement did not die down and after its political formation the Telangana Praja Samiti humbled Congress in 11 out of 14 parliamentary seats in the area in 1971 byelections. Even so, seeing this victory, the Congress saw to it that the TPS MPs joined the Congress en masse. Later Indira Gandhi announced a six-point formula as a special package to Telangana. The funniest aspect of this formula was the first five points were never implemented, but the sixth point, which removes the two earlier safeguards to Telangana, namely Telangana Regional Council and Mulki Rules, on the plea that they become redundant if the earlier five points are implemented. Even as the first five points were violated, the sixth was implemented in letter and spirit. Then came the Presidential Order and Constitutional amendment in 1975 to provide reservations for Telanganites in public employment but the necessary notification had to wait till 1986. Even the delayed notification was never implemented and till now there are at least five committees and commissions to explore the modalities. The saga of violations and deceptions galore. It would be suffice to cite the 2004 Election Manifesto of Congress, Common Minimum Programme of UPA, mention in Presidential address to parliament in 2005, Pranab Mukherjee Committee, Rosaiah Committee, 2009 Telugu Desam Party Election Manifesto and so on so forth. One has to look into this history to understand what has been going on in the streets of Hyderabad and all other towns in Andhra Pradesh.