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Essay: The Telangana movement for statehood

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To understand the significance of Telangana movement for statehood, this chapter intends to analyze its historical background of the region in three phases. For that it focus on some of the findings such as variety of causal factors which have been identified as contributors to separatism, including the sense of deprivation or exploitation, recognition of cultural differences, feelings of neglect, unequal economic development, historical wrongs committed against the people of the area, and so on.
The Background: First Phase (1948 ‘ 1956)
The movement for separate statehood of Telangana has a very long history. The process of the movement offers so many different dimensions of the political system in Indian context. Even though India got independence in 1947, the Hyderabad state did not get freedom at that time. During this time, Telangana was a part of erstwhile Hyderabad state. The princely state of Hyderabad under Nizam consisted of three linguistic regions such as Marathi, Kannada and Telugu. Telangana the Telugu speaking region of Hyderabad has acquired a distinct identity and history. Finally the union government incorporated the Nizam princely state into the Indian union after an armed action popularly known as the ‘Police Action ‘ in 1948. In another side the formation of ‘Andhra State’ took place in October 1953 from Madras Presidency in the south region of India and at this time the demand for creation of other linguistic states also acquired prominent place.
In response to the treatment meted out to Hyderabad by the central government after independence, the demand to preserve the identity of the region with the creation of a separate state of Telangana started immediately. Initially people thought that their socio-economic conditions would improve after the integration of the region into the Indian union. But they were dissatisfied and disillusioned with the administration. Moreover after the process of Police Action for the purpose of administrative convenience officials were brought here from the coastal districts and the districts of the then Madras Presidency . These officials showed a condescending attitude towards the local people and treated Hyderabad as an occupied territory.
Mulki Agitation:
The word ‘Mulki’ means the natives of Telanagna and outsiders are called as ‘Non-Mulkis’. The patronizing sort of conduct towards the local natives led to an agitation against Non-Mulkis (outsiders) in August 1952. The agitation popularly known as the ‘Mulki’ movement lasted for over one month. During this time students from all over the region actively participated in the movement and finally it was suppressed by the authorities. Thus 1952’s muliki agitation is significant because it shaped the attitude of the people towards the issue of state reorganization. Though the demand for a separate Telangana state had its roots in the Mulki movement it was not articulated by the political groups until the question of state reorganization became a reality. At this juncture the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was set up by the Government of India (Headed by Fazal Ali) in 1953. Later the SRC recommended that the Telugu-speaking people of Hyderabad should have separate state by the name of Telangana. One principal cause of opposition to Vishalandhra (United Andhra), according to the SRC report,
‘Seems to be the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of coastal areas’.
By taking these fractions into the considerations the commission felt that any safeguards to protect the interests of the Telangana in Vishalandhra may not work longer. Therefore the commission recommended that Telangana should continue as a separate entity. It also noted that the commission had come to a conclusion after considering a ‘complete cross section of public opinion’. In another side the Andhra leaders not only supported Vishalandhra but also actively pursued it. To begin with they appealed to the Telangana leaders to give up the idea of a separate Telangana state. Way back in 1950 itself the Andhra Congress Committee declared this committee (ACC Executive) is not unconscious of the undeveloped state of Telangana both economically and culturally and hasten to assure our brethren in Telangana that it will be the special concern of future government of Vishalandhra to pay special attention to their legitimate interests and rights and their effective share in the administration of that government and to develop such progressive economic and social institution as it will pave the way for the establishment of a cooperative common wealth.
In this context the Andhra leaders prepared to convince the Telangana leaders and peoples by providing written safeguards and guarantees to Telangana people. Moreover in the beginning it seemed that the central leadership was not in favour of Vishalandhra. In October 1953, Nehru criticised the idea of Vishalandhra ‘as bearing a tint of expansionist imperialism’. But consequently he changed his views due to pressures from the leaders of the Andhra region. At this time the Andhra region was actively involved in the national movement very actively. Hence the Congress leaders from the region had strong ties with the national leaders. They used their contacts to persuade Nehru to accept the demand for Vishalandhra. The struggle for representative government led by the Hyderabad State Congress in the erstwhile Hyderabad state remained outside the national movement. In fact the Hyderabad State Congress was not part of the Indian National Congress. Therefore the Congress leaders from Hyderabad had only tenuous contacts with the national leaders. After the central government took a firm decision to form Vishalandhra, the protagonists of the separate state could not continue their battle any further as Chenna Reddy; a staunch separatist admitted ‘Nehru’s stature loomed large. It was difficult to oppose him. Now we believe that we had made a mistake. Had we insisted for a separate state, without fear, it would have emerged’.
By February 1956, the idea of creating separate state of Telangana was dropped and eventually formed a single state called Andhra Pradesh comprising of Andhra and Telangana by Gentlemen’s Agreement. There was also an experiment with Regional Committee under these circumstances to placate the opposition to Vishalandhra in the Telangana region and the leaders of Andhra offered certain safeguards. Through an agreement, known as the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, certain safeguards were guaranteed to Telangana.

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