The second Telangana movement for a separate state seems to be in its final act now, with K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) ending his “hunger strike”. This will see the culmination of the Telangana statehood movement that actually began way back in 1956 when the composite Andhra Pradesh was created by dismembering the old Hyderabad state and joining its Telangana region with the Telugu speaking areas of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.
At that time the people of Telangana expressed apprehensions about being forced into a shotgun marriage with the Andhra region. The Andhra region was much more developed and wealthier than Telangana, with the British having invested a good deal in education and infrastructure, while the Nizam of Hyderabad seemed more preoccupied with accumulating a huge personal fortune. He was reckoned to be the richest man in the world which took him to the cover of Time magazine well before Mahatma Gandhi’s experiments with truth placed him there.
Hyderabad blossomed into a beautiful and well laid out city but the common people, like in other princely states, remained very poor.
Thus, in the aridness of the Deccan a fertile ground was created for a popular communist movement which morphed into India’s first armed insurrection — the first Telangana movement, which was terminated on orders from Joseph Stalin himself. Stalin also saw in that Telangana movement the glimmerings of Maoist dogma which postulated that the villages will strangle the cities and take over the state. The Communist Party of India then reverted to trade unionism which was more lucrative than revolution in the hinterland. This was why Charu Mazumdar who spawned Naxalism in India, denounced the CPI and CPM and took to waging the Peoples War.
The apprehensions of the people of Telangana and the Hyderabad elite in 1956 were not entirely unfounded. At that time Jawaharlal Nehru assuaged them somewhat with safeguards like reservations in educational institutions and government for the locally born. But most of these assurances remained on paper and the people of Andhra gained ascendancy over Hyderabad’s and Telangana’s social and economic life.
By the mid 1960s things were hotting up again. College canteens reverberated with heated and passionate discussions on the desirability of a separate state. Many of the more ideologically committed joined the now resurgent Naxalite movement in the forests of Telangana, inspired by Communist ideologues like Vempatapu Sathyanarayana and Adhibatla Kailasam. When they were killed by Jalagam Vengala Rao’s reign of terror, Kondapalli Sitaramiah took over and greatly expanded the Peoples War Group. In this manner the original Telangana movement revived and by the late ‘60s was seized by Congress dissidents like M Channa Reddy, a charismatic leader whose commitment to a separate Telangana was only exceeded by his concern for an office of profit. Under his leadership over 300 students lost their lives but the hacks of the Congress party were satisfied with the removal of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy and the promise of office.
But instead of Channa Reddy, Indira Gandhi found PV Narasimha Rao more convenient.
When the agitation revived it was in both parts of the state. The Andhra side too now wanted a separate state. But in reality all they wanted was the removal of Narasimha Rao. This done, the Congress Party went back to business as usual, till the advent of KCR, who was a deputy speaker under the Telugu Desam dispensation of Chandrababu Naidu. KCR fell out with Babu and guess what he took to next?
After a good show in the 2004 elections he too settled down to a good life as a cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government, till cries of betrayal turned his party against him. But by now YS Rajasekhara Reddy was truly in charge and had marginalised all rivals. In the 2009 elections the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), now in alliance with the Andhra dominated TDP, CPM and CPI was reduced to a mere two seats in the Lok Sabha and 10 in the assembly. Then the TRS split once more. But the death of YSR and the elevation of Rosaiah, another PV Narasimha Rao kind of boneless wonder, gave Congressmen an opportunity to repeat history. So KCR was persuaded to go on a fast and the Congress national leadership was arm-twisted into bowing to the newly aroused sentiments of its Telangana leaders. Soon KCR will realise that he will not be the chief minister of Telangana, and a dyed-in-the-wool Congressman will take that position. And there will still be room for another Congress CM in the truncated Andhra state. But that still leaves us with the now resurgent first Telangana movement, only the Communists are now called
Naxalites? C'est la vie!