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The end of the Second Telangana Movement

By Mohan Guruswamy
December 11, 2009 12:13 IST
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The second Telangana movement for the creation of a separate state seems to be in its final act now, with K Chandrasekhara Rao ending his 'hunger strike'. This will hopefully see the culmination of the Telangana statehood movement, which actually began way back in 1956 when the composite Andhra Pradesh was created by dismembering the old Hyderabad state, and joining its Telangana region with the Telugu-speaking areas of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.

At that time, the people of Telangana expressed apprehensions about being forced into a shotgun marriage with the Andhra region. The Andhra region was much more developed and wealthier than Telangana, with the British having invested a good deal in education and infrastructure, while the Nizam of Hyderabad seemed more preoccupied with collecting baubles like the Jacob diamond and accumulating a huge personal fortune.

He was reckoned to be the richest man in the world. In fact, this took him to the cover of Time magazine well before Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with truth placed him there. So wealthy was the Nizam that he gifted an entire Spitfire squadron to Britain when it was being pushed to the wall by the German Luftwaffe.

As the Nizam thrived, so did his court and the feudal bureaucratic elite. Hyderabad blossomed into a beautiful and well laid out city. What began as the Muslim citadel in the Deccan had now acquired its famous cosmopolitanism. But the common people of Hyderabad, like other princely states, remained excruciatingly poor. The Hyderabad model of development ended a few miles out of the city where the wide and smooth concrete roads terminated into narrow and pock-marked bitumen topped roads. There was little irrigation and the presence of a police station was the only sign of any government!

Thus, in the aridness of the Deccan, a fertile ground was created for a popular Communist movement which morphed into India's first armed insurrection. This was the first Telangana movement, which was terminated on orders from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin himself.

Stalin also saw in that Telangana movement the glimmerings of the Maoist dogma which postulated that the villages will strangle the cities and take over the State. The Communist Party of India then reverted to trade unionism, which, it discovered, was a far more lucrative proposition than the grind of revolution in the hinterland. This was why Charu Mazumdar, who spawned Naxalism in India, denounced the CPI and the Communist Party of India-Marxist and took to waging the 'People's War'.

The apprehensions of the people of Telangana and the Hyderabad elite in 1956 were not entirely unfounded. At that time, Jawaharlal Nehru assuaged their concerns with safeguards like reservations in educational institutions and government for mulkis, as the locally-born were known. But most of these assurances remained on paper and the people of Andhra gained ascendancy over Hyderabad's and Telangana's social and economic life.

By the mid-1960s, the situation began heating up again. I remember long afternoons in the canteens of the Nizam College and later in the Arts College of Osmania University involved in heated and passionate discussions on the desirability of a separate state.

Many of our more ideologically committed contemporaries took to the gun and joined the now resurgent Naxalite movement in the forests of Telangana, inspired by Communist ideologues like Vempatapu Sathyanarayana and Adhibatla Kailasam. When they were killed by Jalagam Vengala Rao's reign of terror, Kondapalli Sitaramiah took over and greatly expanded the Peoples War group. The original Telangana movement was revived in this manner.

In 1969, the bleak prospects in the real world agitated the students of the Osmania University enough to launch a movement for a separate state This movement was seized by Congress dissidents like Dr M Channa Reddy, a charismatic leader whose commitment to a separate Telangana was only exceeded by his concern for an office of profit.

Under his leadership, over 300 students lost their lives, but the hacks of the Congress party were satisfied with the removal of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy and the promise of office. But instead of Channa Reddy, Indira Gandhi found PV Narasimha Rao more convenient.

The agitation revived soon, but now in both parts of the state. The Andhra side too wanted a separate state and the pro-Telangana supporters resumed their agitation. But in reality, all they wanted was the removal of Narasimha Rao.

Once this was done, the Congress party went back to business as usual, till the advent of K Chandrasekhara Rao, who was a deputy speaker under the Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu. KCR soon had a fall-out with Naidu and guess what he took to next? The demand for a separate Telangana.

After a good show in the 2004 assembly elections, he too settled down to a good life as a cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government, till cries of betrayal turned his party against him.

But by now YS Rajasekhara Reddy was well and truly in charge and had successfully marginalised all rivals. In the 2009 elections, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, now in alliance with the Andhra-dominated TDP, CPM and CPI-M, was reduced to a mere two seats in the Lok Sabha  and ten in the assembly. Then the TRS split once more.

But the untimely death of YSR and the elevation of K Rosaiah to the post of CM, another PV Narasimha Rao kind of boneless wonder, gave disgruntled Congressmen an opportunity to repeat history.

So KCR was persuaded to go on a fast-unto-death and the Congress's national leadership was arm-twisted into bowing to the long dormant and once again aroused sentiments of its Telangana leaders.

Soon, KCR will realise that he will not be the next chief minister of Telangana, and a dyed in the wool Congressman will take that position. And there will still be room for another Congress CM in the truncated Andhra state.

But that still leaves us with the now resurgent first Telangana movement, only the Communists are now called Naxalites? C'est la vie!

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