Ironically, the issue of separate Telangana can be traced back to the time when the people of Andhra, part of the erstwhile Madras state were themselves agitating for the formation of a separate Andhra state, the movement reaching a peak with the death of the revolutionary Potti Sreeramulu after a 52 day fast in 1952. The First States reorganization committee that was subsequently formed in 1956 decided to redraw states on the basis of linguistic identities and formed the state of Andhra Pradesh based on a Telugu identity.
At the formation itself, reservations were made and apprehensions expressed at combining a largely backward Telangana region (with a feudal Nizam-era history) with the relatively rich and better off coastal Andhra region. The formation was famously called a “marriage” with the possibility of a “divorce” by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Safeguards in the form of a “Gentleman’s Agreement” were put in place in a hope to keep the economic and political exploitation of the backward region at bay.
Discontentment over the implementation of the Gentleman’s Agreement built up in the ensuing years and an agitation for a separate state erupted in 1969 over the implementation of mulki (local) rules regarding local reservation for public sector jobs in the state. What began as a student movement intensified into a popular movement after a police firing incident took place. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi intervened and came up with an Eight Point Plan to correct for the mis-allocation of funds, jobs and educational institutions that had happened since the formation of the Andhra Pradesh state. Later a Jai Andhra movement appeared in 1972 in light of perceived injustices felt by people of Andhra and Rayalaseema, especially in the allocation of jobs in the capital city Hyderabad. The movement also saw violence and ended with a Six Point Formula put into place by the central government under Indira Gandhi.
Over the next few decades, the Telangana movement saw its share of of ebbs and flows, particularly with the emergence of a Telugu sub-nationalism under film star turned populist Chief Minister NT Rama Rao in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the region continued to be ignored due to the political hegemony of Coastal Andhra. Right through the neo-liberal era of Chandrababu Naidu during the 90s, the region saw further worsening of the conditions of its people, especially the spate of farm suicides in the region. The demand for a separate Telangana was primarily borne out of the exploitation, both political as well as economic, suffered by the region under the Seemandhra political and capitalist class over the years. The region had frequently seen a step-motherly treatment from the political elite in the allocation of industry as well as dams and irrigation projects.
The same trend could be identified in the establishment of educational institutes as well. Even if projects went to the Telangana region, they were frequently concentrated in and around Hyderabad, where the Seemandhra capitalist class had already invested heavily in real estate. So, while Hyderabad developed and furthered the interests of the Seemandhra capitalist class, the surrounding regions of Telangana were often neglected – sometimes, resources were even being diverted from the surrounding regions to sustain the growth of the capital city.
When the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, YS Rajashekhar Reddy of Congress, who was re-elected to power in 2009, suddenly died in a helicopter crash, the Andhra Pradesh political establishment was plunged into political chaos and the issue of a separate Telangana state began to rise as a political demand by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) under K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR). Soon, the movement began to gain support on the ground and there were incidents of protests as well as violence. With the formation of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) at Osmania University, which took up leadership of the movement, the agitation began to find wide mass support. The 2009-2010 period saw a wave of protests, bandhs, strikes, student suicides, political vacillations as well as counter protests in the Seemandhra region.
Even though the Sri Krishna Commission that was subsequently formed to look into the question of statehood acknowledged the economic and political backwardness and exploitation of the Telangana region, it recommended the retention of a combined state with renewed safeguards (putting forth the option of a separate state only as as the second best option). Understandably however, given the history of past promises, the proposal never found political nor popular support in Telangana. After the publication of the report, demonstrations, rallies, non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements continued, including efforts by TRS under KCR in the political arena. Finally, the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act of 2014 was passed by the Parliament of India in February 2014. The state of Telangana was officially formed on 2 June 2014. As per the reorganization act, Hyderabad will remain a a joint capital for both the states for a period of 10 years.
Will a separate state solve Telangana’s problems?
The exploitation and backwardness of the Telangana region can be primarily seen as a failure of capitalism and the inability of the opportunistic ruling class to solve people’s problems. The Telangana movement was undoubtedly intensified during the neo liberal offensive of the last 20+ years. With the lack of a viable socialist alternative in the region or India as whole, the demand for a separate state has found resonance amongst a wide section of people in Telangana in the hope of a better future. The formation of the Telangana state has brought back into focus the nationality question and exposed the weak fabric of the Indian state. Unless the horrific gaps between wealth and poverty is not eliminated, the country will see further destabilization of similar nature in the future. The creation of the new state of Telangana will not solve any of the basic problems related to land, lack of quality welfare programmes or the concentration of wealth/ political power of Hyderabad over the rest of the region.
The 2014 elections brought arch rivals KCR and Nara Chandrababu Naidu to power with TRS bagging 63 of 119 seats in Telangana and the TDP-BJP alliance securing 104 of 175 seats in Andhra Pradesh. Within a month of these rival governments coming to power, antagonisms between the two states began to deepen. While the Andhra Pradesh government began to refuse to honor the Power Purchase Agreements part of the AP Reorganization Act, the TRS government began to kick up the ‘nativity’ issue for issue of fee reimbursements of Andhra students studying in higher educational institutes in Telangana.
Instead of trying to solve the problems in the region together, the constant squibbing between the governments over resources has put people of both the regions at odds against one another and fueling the divide even further. Amidst rising demand, the power crisis continues to deepen in Telangana. Farmers’ protests have been taking place across various districts in Telangana over the power shortage. As the TRS government continues to spend crores of rupees buying power at market price, no solution for the power shortage seems to be in sight. Meanwhile, the neo-liberal reforms continue to make their effect felt – insurmountable debts have driven 348 farmers to suicide since the formation of the new government in Telangana. The shocking silence of the TRS governments over these deaths has come under sharp criticism. Long waits for the loan waivers promised by the ruling parties in both the states continue.
While announcements such as land distribution scheme by the KCR government – by providing 3 acres of land to each of three lakh Dalit families in the state – is welcome. However, the lack of a radical approach to land reforms and redistribution is glaringly evident with reports showing that the Government is facing difficulties in acquiring land amidst soaring real estate prices and has made just 512 distributions as of 15th Aug. This was more than well illustrated in a recent speech where KCR went so far as to plead Telangana NRIs to give their land to the poor by selling it to the state.
All the aspirations that the people of Telangana had hoped to achieve through the formation of Telangana state will be sorely dashed in the coming period. TRS is nothing more than a regional petty bourgeoisie party and will only try to garb all the power for itself playing on the divisions between people of Andhra and Telangana. It has no solution to the problems faced by the working people of Telangana in relation to land, bread and butter question, the question of unequal resource allocation etc., which are all the hallmarks of the failure of capitalism in developing countries.
For the imbroglio on the National Question, there is no solution under present day capitalism. It needs a system that will address the complex issues not from the point of view of the narrow perspective of the wealthy classes who wants the whole pie of development for themselves, but from the stand point of the class that creates the wealth in the first place. That system can only only come about under the revolutionary leadership of the working class which will encompass all the dispossessed sections in the society, which will guarantee the right of self-determination of every nationality which feels oppressed under capitalism and landlord-ism, but will fervently appeal for unity to achieve such a harmonious society through the socialist transformation, and thereby lay the foundation of such a society, where no nationality feels aggrieved.