I landed in Hyderabad on the day Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s President K Chandrasekhar Rao (infamous KCR of TRS!) began his fast unto death, demanding statehood for Telangana. Those winter days of 2009 exposed me to a period of maximum strife, which I had not witnessed any time in my career. My family shifted house from Bangalore to Hyderabad during those days and our entire belongings was stuck in a warehouse for days!
For a person who was unexposed to issues of Andhra Pradesh (AP), I was quite taken aback by the violence during the statehood agitation. I always thought when we fight against our oppressors we become violent, but Telangana and the rest of Andhraites (Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) are supposed to one Telugu brethren. I was perplexed by the anger displayed by Telangana supporters in their agitations. Particularly, the slogan shouted by TRS was baffling – “Telangana wale jago, Andhra wale bhago!”
Talking to my neighbours and colleagues, I found that the T-issue is extremely divisive. I found that there was extreme distrust among each other right from economic development to cultural issues. As an outsider, I always assumed that there was one uniform Telugu culture across Andhra Pradesh. Isn’t this the same state that was first united in 1956 on the basis of linguistic reorganisation of states? The numerous socio-economic terms floating around adds to the confusion –
• Telangana – the 10 northern districts of Andhra Pradesh that was ruled Nizams of Hyderabad
• Rayalaseema – the 4 southern landlocked districts of AP
• Seemandhra – the 9 coastal districts of AP
• Samaikya Andhra – The United Andhra movement to retain the current status of AP
My discussion with my colleague, Satish made me realise that Telangana culture is actually different from the Seemandhra and Rayalaseema. Although many festivals overlap on each other’s traditional calendar, there are festivals like Bathukamma and Bonalu, which are celebrated only in Telangana. Similarly, the Telugu spoken by Seemandhra is considered pure and based on the textbook grammar, while the Telugu spoken in Telangana is considered impure since it borrows Urdu words. The food eaten by Seemandhra is dominated by rice and dhal, while it is roti and chutney in Telangana.
The divisive issues of Andhra seem to originate before India’s independence. My colleague Shalini Nair, a journalist with good grip on history, revealed that it all started with Hyderabad Nizam’s opposition to join the Indian Union. When the Indian Army move in, it routed the Nizam’s Razakar militia and established a new government. Due to Nizam’s autocratic rule, there was no democratic movement in place in Hyderabad region at that time. Soon after, when the Andhra state movement picked up momentum, Telangana leaders were easily manipulated by Andhra politicians who had learnt their art of politicking in the then Madras Presidency. While the “Peddamanushula Oppandam” or the gentlemen’s agreement was signed between Telangana and Andhra leaders before the formation of the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, it was never respected.
On the other hand, Srinivasa Rao, another friend of mine from Guntur feels that the lack of development in Telangana originates from the Nizam’s days, when the Muslim ruler only focused on developing certain pockets of the state which enhanced his revenue generation. The lack of infrastructure across Telangana and Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Hyderabad Karnataka stands testimony to the Nizam’s misrule. Particularly, Srinivasa Rao highlights the fact that most businesses in the state are established by Seemandhra businessmen, which highlights their enterprising nature. However, Srinivasa warns that if the Telangana state is granted, Andhra businessmen will be forced. When I probed why or how a legitimate business will be forced out of its immovable properties, I got to know that most of their lands are illegal!
Even an outsider like me could sense that there is a clear socio-economic division among the two communities. All the well-placed infotech professionals I interacted were from Seemandhra, while people doing menial jobs like security, housekeeping were from Telangana. Similar to politics, almost all the Telugu movie heroes originate from the Seemandhra region. The rustic Telugu mixed with Urdu spoken by Telanganaites is seen used by the movie villains!
All said and done, the differences between the two communities have now become irreconcilable today. It is high time for the two warring communities to sit down and settle the issue amicably without intervention from Delhi! As it is said in the Mahabharata epic, ‘Yadavi Kalaha’ brought the end of the Dvapara Yuga, it looks like the tussle for Telangana will end up in ruining Hyderabad as a vibrant city and the AP state as a whole. Despite Hyderabad’s original name being, “Bhagyanagar” I feel the city has lost its Bhagya!