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Rediff.com  » News » In US, Telugus don't see any impact of Andhra's division

In US, Telugus don't see any impact of Andhra's division

December 11, 2009 11:59 IST
The announcement to create a separate Telangana state has taken the Telugu people in the United States by surprise. Nobody is sure how to respond to the sudden development in their home state, but all insist a new state will not have any impact on the community in the US.

Generally, it seemed that the Telugu community, which is one of the largest Indian groups in the US, does not support a division of the state. Also, many felt that the state may not materialise at all, at least in the near future.

Another notable thing was the reluctance of community leaders from the Telangana area to speak about the issue.

The major organisations, the Telugu Association of North America and the American Telugu Association, represent all Telugus in the US and the membership in both is open to everyone from Andhra Pradesh. But a closer look at the membership pattern of the two will reveal the regional differences too.

According to Jayaram Komati, president of TANA, the organisation has 30 percent of its membership from the Telangana area and the rest are from the remainder of the state. In ATA, the percentage could be 60:40, he noted (60 pc from Telangana and rest from Andhra).

But Hanumanth Reddy, a founder and past president of ATA, said both organisations follow the regional lines. "Ninety percent of the members of TANA is from Andhra area. Five percent each from Rayalaseema and Telangana. In ATA, 75 percent is from Telangana and 20 percent is from Rayalaseema area. Only five percent is from Andhra," he said.

Komati said the bifurcation of the state will not have any effect on TANA. "TANA is an organisation for the Telugu people to encourage Telugu language and culture. Politics in the home state is not a subject here."

Prasad Thotakura, executive vice president and president-elect of TANA, agreed. "For the Telugus in the US, their language and culture are more important and politics is immaterial," he said.

Komati and Thotakura, both of who hail from Andhra, said personally they don't favour a bifurcation of the state. They insisted that it was their personal view only and has nothing to do with the organisation.

New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, who hails from Nellore in Andhra, said a new state is not a panacea for the economic ills of Telangana. "It always takes a long time for new states to develop infrastructure. For example, look at East Germany and its economy. Telangana has an uneven share of poverty and constant fight for water resources."

Reddy said he was involved with agitations for the rights of Telangana people when he was a student there, and that he is not afraid to welcome a new state. "It has all the resources needed for a state. Big rivers like Krishna and Godavari are flowing through Telangana. The only thing we lack is the coast," he said.

Though the language and culture of both areas are the same, there are minor differences. "You can recognise a person's native area from the way he speaks. In Telangana area, the Telugu has more Urdu words as the area was under the Nizam. In Andhra area, more Tamil words are used. There are some differences in the festivals celebrated in both areas,' he noted.

He believes the state will become a reality sooner than later. "Hyderabad was always the capital of Telangana. It should remain so. All the industries are not centered around the city as some allege," he said.

Well-known New Jersey-based photojournalist Mohammad Jaffer is a native of Hyderabad, which comes under Telanagana. But he does not want Hyderabad to become a part of Telangana and demands a Union territory status for it, like Delhi or Chandigarh. He noted that Telangana does not have enough resources to support a separate state, nor does it have the potential to become a successful state too.

Chivukula said he is more worried of the poor if a new state is formed. "It will immediately create a struggle for power. During the transition period, people will suffer even more. A united Andhra is doing well now. Rather than seeking a separate state, people should demand more resources and seek help for development."

"Unlike the US, states in India depend on the central government for most of their revenues. Depending on which party is in power in the central government and the state government, the state's development varies," he said.

Chivukula said he went to Nalgonda area in Telangana, which suffers from fluorosis, in 2002 and 2007. He introduced programmes to fight it and after each drought, the soil is contaminated with more fluoride that causes bone decay. "I have seen 28-year-old men looking like 60-year-olds due to this problem. The governments should focus on such things," he said.

Thotakura said some of the complaints of the people of Telangana about the lack of development and neglect by the authorities may be true. They also complain about not getting water from the Krishna and Godavari rivers. But some parts of Andhra too face the same problems and neglect. "Dividing a state on the sole basis of economic underdevelopment is not acceptable. Sreekakaulam or Vijayanagaram areas in Andhra and the districts in Rayalaseema are as backward as any district in Telangana," he noted.

He said smaller states will not make things any better. As long as the politicians are corrupt and dishonest, smaller states too will not bring any benefit to the people. Moreover, smaller states will create more expenses by creating one more official machinery and bureaucracy.

Thotakura noted that Hyderabad is the backbone of all of Andhra. In the last 50 years, thousands of crores were invested there. Almost all the major industries are centered around it. To whom the city belongs and who will control the assets will also create problems, he said.

Komati said most people do not support a division of the state. He agreed that the people from Telangana have some legitimate complaints, many of which were created by politicians. But a majority of the people do not want a division.

He said the first generation of Telugus in the US were mostly from the Andhra area, but gradually more people from Telangana arrived. But people in the US forget their differences and work together, he noted.

He noted that one-third of the state's income comes from Hyderabad. So which state it belongs will also be a problem. Hyderabad is the centre of everything, will the people from Andhra become less welcome there in the future? Currently the state has 42 members in Parliament. That strength too will go down with bifurcation. If other areas too clamour for separate state status, where will it all end, he wondered.

TANA secretary Mohan Nannappaneni, who is from Telangana, said he cannot comment on the political problems back in India but added that the problems there will have no effect on the organisation, as it was formed to serve the Telugu-speaking people in the US and in India. The focus is mostly on language and culture. It will not change with a new state. TANA helps people from all regions and it will continue the work in future too, he said.

Indian American Forum for Political Education's past president and secretary Prasad Vanguri is not enthusiastic about a new state. "The Government of India is setting a bad precedent. Just for the benefit of few politicians they have taken a wrong decision rather than preserving a unified state," he said.

In Jaffer's opinion, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and its president K Chandrasekhara Rao and other politicians are a spent force and could not even win in the last election. The Reddys are the predominant community in Telangana and everyone wants to be a leader, and so are creating all these problems, he noted. In his opinion, TANA consists of the rich people from Andhra area, while the ATA represents people from Telengana, mostly Reddys.

Noted dancer V P Dhananjayan, in an email message, expressed his disapproval of the new state. 'An Andhra legacy continues splitting the country into fragments.  For good or bad, to a true Bhaarateeya nationalist it pains to know that the politicians are fragmenting the country for their selfish interests.

'All started with an Andhra man Potti Sriramulu and yet another politician from Andhra continues the legacy of  dirty politics of splitting their own homeland. Bifurcating regions according to language was the gravest mistake Nehru had made to succumb to political pressure on one man's death belying the trust of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who struggled for an integrated Bhaaratadesh. Sorry, the whole nation mourns the birth of yet another state,' he said.

George Joseph in New York City