By: Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Telangana is set to become the 29th State of India. After much dilly-dallying the Congress Party finally approved the formation of Telangana State but before that there was a lot of heart-burn among the people. New ideas were floated for inclusion of Ananthpur and Kurnool into the new State against the wishes of the Telangana people. The biggest issue was Hyderabad where a lot of conspiracy theories were working such as declaration of joint capital or Union Territory. However, it is good that the Centre decided to give 10 years period for the Andhra Pradesh Government to function from Hyderabad and after that it will become the capital city of Telangana alone.
Hyderabad is undoubtedly the heart of Telangana but over a period of time it has grown multifold and attracted loads of foreign investment. Today, it has become a cosmopolitan city like Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi. It is already developed and will attract more funds and investment. Political leaders, who are against the division of Andhra Pradesh, have their huge properties in the city and hence they are resisting the bifurcation. The fact of the matter is that the Andhra leaders would never have opposed the division of the State had it not been for the issue of Hyderabad. There are other issues such as sharing of river water resources but those do not affect the politicians more than the status of Hyderabad where they have invested everything right from real estate to business and the entertainment industry. The grim reality for them is that Hyderabad cannot become a joint capital as it is situated in the heart of Telangana and the distance of any Andhra city would be nearly one hundred fifty kilometres to say the least. In such a situation, the State cannot be run smoothly whose capital is surrounded by and situated at the heart of another State.
The protest by the Andhra Pradesh leaders and people are highly unnecessary and show one thing: that those who enjoy the fruits of power do not want to share those at all. The merger of Telangana with the Andhra Pradesh State was never complete and the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was neither respected nor implemented. The feeling was that the State continued to neglect the Telangana region. The fact is that Telangana had more resources than many other parts of Andhra Pradesh but it is also a reality that none of the Telangana cities was as developed as, say, Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupathi, Guntur, Kurnool etc.
The reality is that Hyderabad was the focus and the realtors actually wanted that only. In the past 30 years, since we adopted the so-called ‘economic liberalisation’ policies, the focus of most of the States has been to develop the capital cities along with a few other cities and ignore the vast rural towns and villages. While the cities are modernising themselves with cosmopolitanism, the villages are sought to be strengthening the caste identities. A majority of these areas remain undeveloped despite the grave fact that the leadership of the States are still controlled by the rural caste elite and their continued interest has been to keep the villages subjugated in their own contradictions while they enjoy the ‘maharaja’ life in the capital cities. In the name of Andhra, actually a few cities got developed but the maximum amount came for Hyderabad. We all feel proud of a ‘jewel’ but that is feudal. What does it mean that the people living in the capital city are more pampered and become the ruling class, with more facilities as not just the political leaders, bureaucrats, businessmen, mediapersons and the academia also hail from these parts and hence the rural towns do not get our attention?
During the Nizam period too, Hyderabad was the symbol of his ‘prosperity’ and hence his entire focus was on that, resulting in wide-scale superstition, poverty and feudalism among his subjects in places like Gulbarga, Bidar (now in Karnataka), Medak, Nizamabad and Adilabad etc. in Telangana, Aurangabad and other regions of Marathwada which are now in Maharastra. The Muslims, who were picked up to lead the Nizam’s government as well as army and other services, were never really the sons of the soil but always hailed from outside the country. The development that time was uneven resulting in a huge gap between towns and cities, rich and poor. Moreover, the conditions of the most marginalised people like Dalits, adivasis, and even Muslim Dalits were aboninable and they all were worst off. The impact of that regime continued as the political class had just changed but the ‘subject’ remained the same.
That is why the condition of Dalits and even Muslim Dalits in these regions is a matter of great concern and the fruits of development have not reached them. Their socio-economic conditions remain difficult and they are being used by religious parties for their own ulterior political agenda. Hindu communalism was gaining ground in this region as the power elite realise that that is the best way to counter ‘Muslim’ parties like that MIM of the Owaisies who feel Hyderabad is their traditional fiefdom. Therefore, the rest of the people in the Nizam’s period became victim of his ‘lavishness’ for Hyderabad which was considered to be one of the best cities, most prosperous among the Indian princely states but the conditions of the people in the remote regions of Nizam’s regime were most pathetic and that impacts on their socio-political conditions even today.
A very similar situation is arising now. The political class has been focusing on capital cities and use different tactics to bring people into their ‘false’ nationalistic vision. Some time it is the ‘others’ who are responsible for your plight and when you become leader and questions are raised about your leadership qualities, then some other issues will crop up. So till now, the Andhra leadership was to be blamed though there were many from the Telangana region who were Ministers and hence they cannot be absolved from their acts of omission and commission in various governments of which they were a part. The point here is that the fight for Telangana cannot be confined to Hyderabad. It is very much part of the State and it has the required infrastructure which is a very positive feature. For our political class, the Nizam has already built huge palaces and other luxurious buildings; hence they will have no worry about the residences, secretariats etc. of the new State. So, we will have democratically elected Rajas, Maharajas to rule the State. The point is that now Telananga and Andhra need to focus on their multiple cities and rural populace. Let the capital cities remain the seat of Assembly but let them not become hub of everything that is happening. If everything has to happen from Hyderabad or any other capital city then 20 years later, people will have nobody else to blame except themselves.
Hyderabad was already developed and will develop any way but the focus needs to be on the heart of Telangana’s rural populations who have been denied and who were the real ‘warriors’ of this movement. As this movement for a separate State has raised hopes, it is basically not for the people of Hyderabad but for the people of other regions who had been kept away by the power elite all these years. The power needs to go to them, understand their issues and problems and implement the policies like comprehensive land reform, people’s access to water and forest resources. The development of the people is not just through ‘investment’, real estate and capital cities but more for the people who have struggled for long. They felt betrayed by others but now they need justice. Will our leaders show some statesmanship? Their real test lies ahead.
In the olden days, the capital city, the palaces, the wealth of the kings and queens were synonymous with the people of those States. Living in those feudal days, we have become habitual of being proud of the ‘wealth’ of our ‘political class’. We walk around the cities and feel proud at the loot of people’s resources. If Rajasthan has some of the best palaces today which we appreciate, I can assure you, the result is the deeply feudal system of that State. What is the human development index in Rajasthan today? Has social equity found a way there? And probably that is a reality of all those States which were ruled by Rajas and Maharajas. We feel ‘proud’ of them and defend them according to our ‘ideological’ or ‘religious’ locations and they have become the instruments of spreading the vicious political agenda of the communal forces too but the fact remain that most of these Nawabs, Rajas were feudal and enjoyed lavishly ruthlessly exploiting their own people subjecting them to deep poverty and superstition.
The British regime was different. They focused on developing institutions and not buildings alone. This the princely states were not fond of as the King was a law unto himself. We can find the difference between the two regions of Andhra Pradesh itself. The Andhra part, which was part of the Madras Presidency, had more colleges and institutions and in the Telangana region, there was nothing much except the development of Hyderabad. Anyway, my attempt is not to discuss the difference between the princely states and former British dominions but to point out that it is time now we get out of those notions of ‘nationalism’ which revolved around one political family, religion and capital cities and their development.
The people of India have paid a heavy price for these kinds of nationalism which have resulted in uneven development and unbreaking of our social system that is iniquitous. The leadership of the Telangana State will have to show more maturity because till date they have blamed the Andhra lobby but now they will have to work on their own. The blame-game must end but the fact is that for politicians it is never-ending and that is the tragedy of India.
One hopes that the Government of India will be sincere this time and not succumb to any pressure. This is rather unfortunate and very manipulative when you see the Andhra lobby trying its best to scuttle the process even today. India cannot be strengthened if the issue of one State should be decided by someone else. Since independence, the issue of Kashmir in India has been a political hot potato for non-Kashmiris. It became our ‘symbol’ of secularism for the Congress and for the BJP and Hindutva lobby it was like loss of India’s might; but what is disturbing is that none asks the Kashmiris: what do they think? Similar situation prevails in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Darjeeling and elsewhere.
The problem with the corrupt political class is that they ask the question of division outside those areas which have nothing to do with the issue except to ‘fancifully’ claim it as ‘India’. What will a person in Kolkata say about Darjeeling or the Gorkhaland issue? Why should Mamata Banerjee seek answers from the Bengali population of Kolkata and not from the people in Darjeeling? It is the same tactics of the ruling elite when we ask the Telangana question to the people in the Andhra and Seemaandhra region. When the Telangana people have for the past five years with their persistent demand declared their opposition to be in the State of Andhra Pradesh, why is the political class not ready to respond positively? And here lies the colonial mindset of the Indians. Yes, we are happy to colonise people and feel happy to showcase it.
In the coming days, when the information technology reaches homes, when education changes our minds, these questions will further disturb us. We are a huge country and every nationality here is seeking answers. Some of the areas have not been developed and others feel different culturally. India will have to respond to them. It will have to sit with those people who feel betrayed and ask questions and not those who enjoyed the fruits of their colonialism. It is time we change our perception as it will be counterproductive and create further divisions and hatred among the people. Let us learn some lessons from not just the struggle of Telangana but also from the mess created by an absolutely shameless political class whipping up passions of the people against it despite the known fact that the unification of two different regions actually never happened mentally. It is better for everyone to separate peacefully, respect each other and not stick together for the sake of a ‘unified’ family, fighting daily and blaming each other for every fault.
No State can run on uncertainty and strike every day. It is time to get down to work and build our regions brick by brick without living in concealed hatred. Let the people focus on their work, cities, towns and people who laid down their lives for the State of Telangana rather than focusing too much on Hyderabad which is already developed and is not the same as what it was during the Nizam’s regime. The infrastructure that was developed during that period remained the same and the population might have grown ten times more and hence it is crumbling. Thus it is important that Hyderabad be relieved from the burden of ‘hope’ and ‘despair’ of the new State so that the focus of both the new States is more on their populations and towns which deserve attention from the power now.