By T S Sudhir
The restaurant where we stopped for tea was called Telangana cafe. This was Mulkanoor, a small town in Karimnagar district in Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region. Like most such places, this one too has an Ambedkar statue in the middle of the town around which life goes on.
The name intrigued me. Noticing that I had fished out my camera to take a photograph of the cafe, a passerby remarked. “They changed their name to Telangana cafe last year after the agitation.”
“What was it before,” I asked. “Eenadu,” he replied.
It was obvious that political reasons had motivated the name change. To me, it seemed an irony that reflected prevailing sentiment. `Eenadu’ or `this land’ or `this state’ now would rather be called `Telangana’.
“Telangana Kaavali” (We want Telangana) is a most commonly articulated sentiment in these parts. Almost like a greeting. That could turn into a war cry post January 6, when the contents of the Srikrishna committee will be made public. And the mood is building up slowly, the realisation dawning that formation of Telangana state is not just a dhakka (push) away.
I meet Veerabhadraswamy who owns a photo studio next to Telangana cafe. He has got a map of Telangana `state’ painted in front of his shop.
“Our water, coal, other resources have been looted by Andhra people. They have become more rich while we are becoming poorer. They are taking away our food. Is there any Telangana person settled in Andhra but you will find in every Telangana village, 25 to 40 per cent homes are those of Andhra people.”
Swamy is a angry young man, wearing a white T-shirt, again with the outline of a map of Telangana on the back. His shirt pocket would have been a more appropriate place. As he speaks with emotion and conviction, you feel the integration of Andhra with Hyderabad state in 1956 was perhaps only on paper. Every Andhra person who settled down in Telangana has been seen as a settler, a trespasser who encroached into a neighbour’s land to grab it and worse, deprived the locals of their rights. The hearts never quite met.
Mulkunoor sarpanch Padala Gautam of the Telugu Desam admits his chief Chandrababu Naidu’s two-eyes theory (whereby Naidu equates Telangana and Seemandhra with his two eyes and therefore cannot side with either) is an embarrassment in these parts. “We will do a non-violent agitation for Telangana. We will not cooperate with the government. Like last year, we will cook on the roads,” says Gautam.
“It is a bogus committee,” shouts Rajalingam Naik, letting loose a tirade against the Srikrishna committee and the government. “We hear they may recommend a development package for Telangana. Last 54 years, they did not develop the region, are they going to do now? Give it to us, we will develop Telangana ourselves.”
Development indeed is key. Mulkoonor despite being just 4 km from Vangara, former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao’s native village, is a dusty mofussil town. Telangana gained nothing from a son of the soil like PV’s elevation to the top post, you are told in a chorus. Even if they didn’t, it is pretty evident.
“Procrastination by the Centre will not be acceptable,” says Jayant who works in an agri multinational in Hyderabad. “Telangana people certainly lose out in government jobs to the Andhra youth. The feeling of bias and neglect is very strong.”
“Do you feel emotional about it,” I ask.
“I am not an active participant. I am not emotional about it either. But analysed rationally, I feel it is time to set right the wrongs of over 50 years of living together in an unified Andhra Pradesh.”
As I drive to Warangal, I stop by at a field to hear Telangana songs hummed by a dozen-odd farm labourers sowing paddy on a four-acre field. Each one gets 140 for the day’s work. I ask them about Telangana and what difference statehood will make to their life.
“If we get our own Telangana, we will live our own life,” says Komala. Vimala is more aggressive. “Our lives were ruled by them till now. Either they should live or we should live here. If we get our own state of Telangana, they will be thrown out and we can live here peacefully.”
Aggressive posturing that comes from hopes raised by the dream of a new state.
At the Kakatiya University, I meet a group of students who have been part of the campus for quite many years. One of them has done his B.Com, then M.A and is now pursuing PG in Human Resource management. “For me to get a job as a HR manager, there are no industries. Once we get Telangana, we can set up our own industries and generate employment.”
The common thread running in all these stories is anger, anguish, deprivation, hope. They have been let down enough, they say. None of the Constitutional safeguards that were promised as part of the Mulki rules or the Gentleman’s agreement or GO 610, were adhered to. You can almost draw a parallel in Telangana’s revolt to the Dalit’s anger against the upper castes. Over the last 50-odd years, the feeling of discrimination has become part of every Telanganite’s DNA.
A lot of it is also true. Despite the Krishna river entering Andhra Pradesh in Mahbubnagar, the district has the dubious distinction of mass migrations every year. Crores are pumped into irrigation projects like Pulichintala and Polavaram meant for coastal Andhra. With a fickle raingod the only saviour and borewells offering little hope, Telangana has been the breeding ground for frequent drought, crop failure and farmers suicide. The coastal belt in contrast, reaps the benefit of 75 per cent of the irrigation canals.
As I head back to Hyderabad, I cannot help thinking Andhra Pradesh is already divided. The government of India may or may not draw the line but much of Telangana today has indeed decided to separate even if the UPA `court’ does not grant it a divorce.
One thing is sure. The tea that Telangana cafe is brewing is not a storm in a tea-cup.