ByÂ Mahitha Kasireddi:
“We often tend to quarrel over petty issues, about our provinces, language etc. If you think like that, you will be giving up this great inheritance of thousands of years of history and culture for the sake of handful of land”- Jawaharlal Nehru in Nizamabad, in 1956 during the merging of Hyderabad with Andhra Pradesh.
On July 30th this year, when the Congress Working Committee cleared all decks for the Telangana formation it did not grab my attention. I was in the hospital taking care of my dad. He had shown symptoms of paralysis. I was all involved in my life, coping up with what happened to my dad, keeping my mom updated on phone. I was not bothered if the state was being divided. And many others did not in the same manner. We are living our regular lives worried about hundred other things from what’s going to happen just tomorrow to far future. For a middle class family which migrated to Hyderabad some two decades ago, how much would this matter? A temporary price rise in basic and other commodities or share market fluctuations? I mean, we would still live in the same house, visit same places, seek jobs here and even spend the second innings of our lives in the city. I was rather impassive when my friends from Delhi and Mumbai pinged me on facebook and asked me how it was being received in my social horizons. My reply was… “Not following that issue dude, it isn’t affecting us directly in any manner”. Well, I was under a strong impression for the following few weeks that I had better important things to update upon, the falling rupee, soaring gold prices, poverty line speculation, stagnant economy, the new RBI chief, foreign policy etc. The vernacular media was most noisy about the developments in Delhi and Hyderabad on the division decision. I insisted my dad not to indulge in those to see that his blood pressure in under control.
Obviously, who would celebrate? Even my friends who are native Telangana people did not react much. The leaders will celebrate. All those politicians who resigned from their positions in support for Telangana will celebrate, their kins will celebrate. All the party workers who lead rallies, agitations, and bandhs, took the bruise from the police latis and got arrested will celebrate. UPA would celebrate for the extra number of seats they would get for the next elections. All the young students whose emotions were titillated and lured into demanding statehood would celebrate. Those families who lost the beloved ones in the fight would celebrate. Others would just heave a sigh of relief. The street hawkers who were deprived of their right to earn on a number of days due to bandhs and curfews since 2002 would now feel relieved. Public transport is back in regular service. Gone are those days when a son could not attend his mother’s last rights because the trains and buses were stalled midway. Gone are those days when exams were not held as per schedule, classes suspended and indefinite bandhs kept MNCs away from coming to your college to recruit you. I was in my second year engineering when I saw my super seniors extremely disappointed and depressed about the campus placement drive being cancelled due to the Telangana agitation. We were forced to participate in the protests, literally driven out of our classrooms, forcibly handed over flags and placards, made to sit the scorching sun on hunger strikes. I remember how my roommates hid inside the hostel rooms and somebody locked the door from outside. The auto drivers need a special mention here who didn’t spare you even if you had a patient to take to the hospital. I heaved a deep sigh of relief for they cannot take the public for a ride anymore with exuberant fares in the name of bandhs. Thank god, Telangana will be a reality at last!
I am in no way undermining the time and history of the great agitation. I respect the democratic right of every citizen to demand autonomy on any grounds to that matter. But, there are number of details that many refuse to pay attention to, out of hypocrisy. Anywhere in the world, upheavals shall be classified into two types: “A movement from above” and “A movement from below”. Movements from below are those which are lead by people at the grass root levels such as daily wage labourers, factory workers, peasants, weavers and students coming from such backgrounds who find it difficult and unaffordable to stand equal with those who enjoy costly education and possess the training to avail lucrative income opportunities. Movement from above is that which is led by the elite classes such as politicians, bureaucrats and capitalists. The 60 years of Telangana agitation has passed through different phases. It started as a movement from below in 1950s and is now driven from above, at least from the past two decades. An average citizen can quite easily grasp this picture. Nobody denies the right to development of the backward Telangana districts but journey towards achieving their piece of land has visibly turned to rather a political necessity.
Our NCERT textbooks do not acknowledge the fact that many people in India and Pakistan were sad when Indian Independence and partition was announced. Same is case here, when Telangana was announced not all were happy. The manner in which the present government is handling the division process since two and half months now is all the more worrisome. The present government under which Telangana was granted has less than six months time in office. The process of formation and its repercussions shall be at the mercy of the new government and the political mood then. Formation of new autonomous states doesn’t mean just redrawing boundaries, it involves issues deeper than they appear. The issue I am talking about is Hyderabad.
The glorious image of a distinct metropolitan culture and a secular society is now tainted with dispute over a piece of land. Above all, the government cannot afford to fail to maintain peace among the locals. Within government offices there are Telangana employees associations formed. This way, regional conflicts have every scope to seep into daily lives of average citizens. The priority concern always is the safety of people of Seemandhra settled in Hyderabad, security of the businesses and other property holding of people who hail from Seemandhra, sharing of water, power, revenue and jobs. There have already been statements from rhetoric politicians asking Seemandhra employees to return to Andhra. The claims on Hyderabad are strong from both sides saying they have equally contributed to the growth of the city. Many compare this situation with Chandigarh and suggest Hyderabad be made a Union Territory and a combined capital following the Chandigarh model. The UT status as all know is in all way an optimum solution but this move is again blocked by objections from politicians of various parties. Acquiring a UT status is advantageous to people in general. This tangle isn’t going to resolve as easily as in case of Punjab and Haryana.
On the other side, is the search for affordable land for formation of new capital city for Seemandhra. A land of around 70,000 hectares is required to establish a capital. An estimate of 4 lakh crores is required to build buildings such as Civil Secretariat, Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council, Raj Bhavan, quarters for CM, minsters, civil servants and other officials, helipads, stadiums, conference halls for big events. The consequences that are already plaguing the state is that number of irrigation and development projects have come to a halt. A budget of 1.62 lakh was passed by the government which may be in disarray. The real estate rates in Hyderabad are very affordable compared to other metro and small cities, with the Telangana announcement investors have kept away. Hyderabad has emerged a major medical hub. On bifurcation, Andhra will take several years for putting in place the required medical infrastructure in the new capital. The mass agitation in Seemandhra advocating United Andhra Pradesh, also another movement led from above has already brought a lot of revenue loss to the government. The RTC alone has suffered 200 crores of loss.
After all the hue and cry for a separate state, what lies ahead to see is if it would actually solve the purpose. It is expected that lowest strata of the society be benefited from new state formation. The discrimination on caste and class which was the main reason shall shrink and poverty upliftment of rural areas and outside Hyderabad should be taken up vigorously. In united Andhra there was a cultural divide, the cuisine of Andhra was entire dominated by Andhra’s. Mainstreaming of cultures of Telangana shall also be paid attention. With Telangana certain to be real, the focus of Â the media should now be shifted back to growth, development, internal security and other important issues.
Coming back to the question of how is it going to affect me directly. I hail from Seemandhra but I was born and brought up in Hyderabad. With Telangana going to form, I suddenly realized that I am caught up with an identity crisis. My father says I am from Telangana, the government should consider me as a Telangana local. But, the scepticism always exists because of my Seemandhra roots. I identity myself more with Hyderabad. Whatever may be the political developments today or tomorrow, nobody can take away my attachment to this piece of land, no government can snatch my right to my city. Nothing will change ever no matter how many times Hyderabad gets caught up in dispute. I will as always enjoy the evening breeze at the Hussain Sagar, grumble about the traffic and heat, crave for the warm gup chups on rainy days, Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani on every happy occasion, grab the delight of watching pothuraju performing during Bonal, the Haleem in the Ramzan month, the theenmar on Ganesh Nimarjan, the silent evenings with the pigeons at Mecca Masjid, buy myself the lovely shining bangles sold at Charminar and conversing in the famous Hyderabadi Urdu-Hindi-Telangana-English mix!