Background to the Struggle for a Separate Telangana
Posted by Ka Frank on December 16, 2009
This article was published by the Democratic Students Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University on December 11, 2009.
Stand by the Struggle for a Separate Telangana!
Once again the people of Telangana have come to the streets with their age-old demand for separate statehood. Like any other democratic movement is dealt with by the Indian ruling classes, the AP government is resorting to massive repression of the struggling people.
Students are brutally assaulted and illegally detained; several false cases are registered against them. Educational institutions such as the Osmania University, Kakatiya University and Hyderabad Central University, which have been the epicenters of the struggle, are being forcibly vacated and virtually turned into police barracks. “A holiday has been declared in all the colleges in the region till Dec 18 and there is no reason why any student should stay on campus,” the AP Inspector General of Police said (Economic Times, 9th Dec).
Prohibitory orders have been imposed by the state government over the entire Telangana region under the draconian and colonial Section 144 to prevent any mass mobilisation demanding separate statehood. Hundreds have been arrested and even journalists are being brutally lathi-charged in an attempt to silence any voice which stands for a separate Telangana. DSU condemns the brutal repression of a people’s movement by the state, and reiterates its solidarity with the aspirations of Telangana people for separate statehood.
Separate Telangana Movement: Geographically, the state of Andhra Pradesh consists of three regions: Rayalaseema, Coastal Andhra and Telangana. Telangana remains the most under-developed among the three after being systematically exploited by the dominant classes of the other two regions. Telangana is a land of poor people with rich natural resources.
The people here have been historically denied their rights over resources, deprived of opportunities for political, economic, and cultural autonomy. The demand for a separate Telangana state is a long standing one, with the majority of the people from the region firmly supporting its creation. However, this democratic aspiration of the people of Telangana has been trampled underfoot by the various ruling class political parties in power, be it in Delhi or Hyderabad.
Given the popular support for the demand, parliamentary political parties have been making promises for creating Telangana, especially before elections. However, this promise has been routinely broken by all the political parties after coming to power. There is also the hostility of the ruling classes from Coastal Andhra against carving out of Telangana from present Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, none of them has taken any concrete step to materialize it. In this respect, the present Congress government too is no exception. But despite the denial of separate statehood after a prolonged struggle, it refuses to die down. The Separate Telangana movement continues to live on, now with renewed vigor, and will continue until the Indian government is made to fulfill the demand.
Historical Background: The present Telangana region was under the rule of Nizam’s Hyderabad state before 1947. Hyderabad state consisted of three regions of the present AP state, along with five districts of Marathwada region and three districts of Karnataka region. Nizam surrendered both coastal and Rayalaseema districts to the British as part of settling debts with colonial rulers in 1788 and 1800 respectively. The districts that constitute present Telangana remained under Nizam State.
Telangana was not under direct colonial rule, whereas the other two regions were exposed to British colonialism, reform movements and English education, among other things. Several irrigation projects were constructed during colonial rule in Andhra region whereas till the date Telangana does not have any major irrigation project. People were exploited and suppressed by the feudal regime of the Nizam. The appropriation of surplus that created through the sweat and blood of people of Telangana made Nizam’s state among the wealthiest of princely states in India. While there were social reform movements in Andhra and Rayalaseema to free the people from its societal shackles, the Nizam state reinforced class and caste hierarchies in Telangana. The seeds of uneven development and regional difference were implanted much before transfer of power in 1947.
People of Telangana waged relentless mass struggles against feudal oppression, at times with arms. The Telangana Armed Struggle is a glorious chapter in the history of revolutionary peasant movements in the subcontinent, which fought the feudal Nizam, the Indian Army as well as the opportunist CPI leadership at the same time. When the Nizam understood the impossibility of continuing as monarchial ruler given the massive opposition from people, he made an agreement with the new Indian ruling class and agreed to join the Indian Union in 1948.
When Indian government put forward the proposal of Telangana joining the Andhra Pradesh state, there was widespread opposition from the people. But this was completely ignored by the rulers by once again violating the political aspirations of Telangana people. Andhra Pradesh state was constituted, and this was the first state to be established on linguistic basis. Whether it is feudal oppression or it is in the name of democracy, the nature and response of the ruling classes has been one and the same.
The people of the land, both in feudal and the so-called democratic rule have remained targets of state repression. People were in no way party to the decisions ruling classes had taken before and after 1947. Voices have often been raised in favor of separate Telangana by parliamentary political parties. They were silenced by ruling class strategy of offering them some positions and they had also betrayed the cause repeatedly. Several opportunistic leaders tried to take advantage of the genuine aspirations of people without taking the movement for statehood forward. Such leaders varied from right wing parties to parliamentary left parties. All these parties used the aspirations of the people and gained out of it.
Underdevelopment of Development: For the present economic system it is necessity to keep certain regions underdeveloped which gradually becomes peripheries, in order to develop some other regions which emerge as centers. The material and natural resources of Telangana region has been diverted for the development of Andhra, while Telangana region has been pushed to a position of continuous dependency due to lack of development. From the time of united Andhra Pradesh Telangana people has been kept socially, culturally, politically oppressed and economically looted by a combination of feudal and comprador-capitalist forces of Andhra ruling clique.
All the major cities in Andhra region have been developed by concentrating the wealth of Telangana there. Even the city of Hyderabad was taken over by the powerful families of Andhra whereas Telangana till the date does not have a single city or major town except Hyderabad. In view of the crucial interest of Andhra ruling class in the city of Hyderabad and the big landlords of Andhra in major water resources of Telangana, they are hell-bent on crushing the democratic movement of Telangana by using force.
Historic injustice towards Telangana: Telangana waters have been diverted to irrigation projects in Andhra. Successive governments have blatantly violated the water-sharing agreements between the two regions. In the name of homogenization of state culture, Andhra rulers have tried to impose its culture particularly in terms of language and food habits. The government public distribution system in Andhra supplies only rice whereas the rain-fed areas of Telangana cultivates bajra, jowar, raagi and such other food grains. This has resulted in extra pressure on Telangana peasantry to grow only rice at the expense of their indigenous crops.
Telangana youths have also been deprived of opportunities in government services. At the level of culture, even the cinematic representation of Telangana is extremely biased and prejudiced, whereby the Telangana language and names are mostly projected negatively in Telugu cinema. Print and electronic media considers only the heartland Andhra language as the official language.
Telangana water resources are diverted to Andhra even if the proposed Polavaram project which is intended to supply irrigation water to Andhra is going to engulf 13 mandals of Telangana with adivasi inhabitants. There have been attempts to divert waters from Telangana to Rayalaseema through the Pothireddypadu project by holding water more than dam’s capacity in Sree Sailam through ‘Jala Yagnam’, resulting in unprecedented floods in Rayalaseema and Telangana districts in the recent past. The huge revenue extraction from Telangana was invested in Andhra region for its development, while Telangana was deprived of basic infrastructural facilities needed for industrial growth.
Parliamentary opportunism and the betrayal of Telangana: The CPI and CPM has taken a stand against separate statehood for Telangana in spite their cadres taking active part in movement, violating the leadership’s decision. These parties cherish the utopia of united Andhra Pradesh even when there is a widespread mass movement for separation. The Telugu Desam party has been keeping silent on the whole issue since the formation of state is going to harm the interests of its supporters from Andhra. Telangana Rastra Samithi, yet another regional party, opportunistically raises the slogan of Telangana whenever they are politically cornered. The misery of Telangana and the exploitation it faces was conveniently forgotten by it when it was enjoying power in center government. Now once again the TRS chief has sat for a ‘fast unto death’ for Telangana.
In the ruling Congress party, some of the Telangana elected representatives wants a separate state where as Andhra representatives are vehemently opposing the demand. Andhra representatives are lobbying with the Congress central leadership not to allow Telangana state in order to safeguard their huge capital investments, and SEZs in and around Telangana. This is supported by some of Tealnganas MP’s too, since they hold land in and around Hyderabad for SEZs.
What is happening in Telangana at present: While there is a democratic demand from various sections of society for separate statehood, the state is responding in the only way it knows to deal with popular movements: by unleashing fascist force. Andhra Pradesh government has deployed huge forces in the state to curtail the movement. Paramilitary forces, Grey Hound squads, Rapid Action Force etc are deployed in the university premises without the knowledge of Vice Chancellors of Osmania University, Agriculatural University, Kakatiya University, University of Hyderabad etc. University students were beaten and two students lost their lives in police crackdown. More than 28 students have committed suicide. Even media personal were attacked. The elected representatives who went to express solidarity with the movement were also brutally beaten up. The Chief Minister has given orders to the police officials to take action on the spot without waiting for any order. In the girl’s hostel premises of Osmania University, women students were chased by the police for giving slogans in favor of separate state. Students were chased out of the campus and dragged to the neighborhood areas where huge force was deployed.
These forces are attacking not only students but also the residents. At present more forces are being brought from different states and deployed in Hyderabad. In the view of the call for “Chalo Assembly” on 10th December by the Joint Action Committee, the government had ordered close down and mass evacuation of students from universities. The state government has blocked different roads to Hyderabad to prevent protesting students form reaching the city.
Fight for an autonomous and democratic Telangana! We know that the mere formation of a separate state does not lead anywhere until and unless there are revolutionary changes in the society. It is not just about achieving a terroritarially separate Telangana. It is about creating of a democratic Telangana free from social, economic and cultural oppression by demolishing relations of caste and class, which can only be achieved by combining this struggle with that of the other oppressed masses of the subcontinent for a revolutionary social transformation.
DSU stands by the people of Telangana who fought the historic armed struggle against feudal oppression and continue to struggle for a separate state.