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The Historical And Cultural Context Of The Struggle For Telangana

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By Vennela Krishna:

telanganamapHistory will tell us that the word ‘Telangana’ was first used at least as early as 1323. Tilangana, an early variant, was used to describe the land between the Three Lingas, three hills that Lord Shiva was believed to have visited. After centuries of rule by dynasties like the Kakatiya and Vijayanagara, the region came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate upon the fall of Warangal. After a few more centuries of rule by Bahamanis and Qutub Shahis, the area came into the control of Asaf Jahs, the Nizams of Hyderabad.

The Nizams were powerful rulers with strong armies, and the area was never under direct British rule. Consequently, this did not allow an anglicisation of the region. Education was in Urdu, and much of the region was backward in terms of literacy. When India became a sovereign country in 1947, the Nizam refused to cede the Hyderabad State to the newly born country. This led to a series of rebellions, by the natives who were already rebelling against an exploitative feudal system, and finally culminated in the famous Operation Polo by Sardar Patel.

Crowd cheering Operation Polo.
Crowd cheering Operation Polo.

Operation Polo led to the creation of the Hyderabad State in India, the region that was later merged into the larger Visalandhra. When the Indian Army marched in to the State and annexed the territory into India, the Coastal Andhra region, later joined by Rayalaseema region, was still in their struggle for a separate Telugu-speaking state. In 1953, when they finally succeeded, the Andhra state did not include the Telangana region, much against popular misconception. It was only in 1956, with the States Reorganisation, that both the regions became unified, against the wishes of a majority of Telangana and against the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission.

It is said that the Telangana people were apprehensive about the unification because they felt they were backward in education compared to the other regions, and hence would lose out on job opportunities and access to power. One of the earliest protests against the unification was called “Idly Sambar Go Back”, clearly indicating that Telangana did not identify with the Telugu food and culture.

In order to appease the tension, a Gentlemen’s Agreement was signed between four members from Telangana and four from Andhra to safeguard Telangana’s interests. However, the agreement is alleged to have been repeatedly violated, and had remained a major cause for the demand of a separate state.

Taking an example from the agreement will help. It provided that if the Chief Minister was from Andhra Pradesh, the Deputy Chairman would have to be from Telangana, and vice versa. This was not followed since the very first day of the creation of the new state: N Sanjiva Reddy, who belonged to Andhra became the CM, however no one was given the Deputy CM post. Later, Reddy went on to call the Deputy CM post a ‘sixth-finger’, indicating that it was not required. Ironically, Reddy was himself a Deputy CM before he became the Chief Minister. In its entire history, Andhra Pradesh had only four Deputy Chief Ministers.

telanganaquoteFor an exhaustive analysis of the violations, please read this.

The history of Andhra Pradesh is dotted with numerous demands from the Telangana people for a separate state. Out of these, the years 1969, 1972, and 1985 saw some loud and vehement protests. After 2000, however, the movement gained much force, and the entire Telangana region witnessed hundreds of bandhs and rallies.

The Telangana people contend that their area was neglected in terms of development, that their people were denied access to power, and that their culture was always considered inferior to the Telugu culture. They feel that the only way to get a better status for themselves is through a separate state of Telangana.


The demand for a separate state of Telangana is rooted in the inherent sense of separateness in the minds of the Telangana people. And they are right: historically, culturally and linguistically, they are distinct from the Telugus of Andhra. They were never under direct British rule unlike the Madras Presidency, they follow many different festivals, and their dialect is quite different from Telugu, with a lot of its vocabulary borrowed from Urdu.

This is in contrast to the claims of the Samaikhyaandhra enthusiasts. The supporters for a united Andhra Pradesh claim that Telanganas and Andhras are like brothers, and that it is only a political ploy to divide them both. While it may be true that the separation now has been done with a political purpose, the demand for a separate state has been present since the very beginning of the inception of Andhra Pradesh and throughout its history. The people of Telangana have always considered the Andhras and their culture as alien. The Telugus of Andhra have not exactly been very inclusive either.

Consider the example of Tollywood movies. In the black-and-white era, inclusion of Telangana speaking characters in movies was virtually absent. The only language that was used was Telugu, as spoken by educated Andhra people, the language in which books were written.

Fast forward a few decades and you will find the infrequent mushrooming of a few Telangana-speaking characters in a few movies. However, it is extremely important to note that these characters were limited to comedians or villains. Their dialogues were laughed at, and their characters disparaged.

Even today, there are absolutely no Telangana speaking characters in lead roles, and they are still limited to comedians. Maybe the 2008 movie ‘King’ might be an exception: the female protagonist and her brother are Telangana people; except, the female character makes a conscious effort to never speak Telangana in front of the hero, and her brother’s role is limited to being a comedian who brings a few laughs with his supposedly funny dialect.


As a Telugu living in Hyderabad for the past eight years, I know how many times my Telangana speaking friends have been laughed at by the Telugus. Of course, this does not happen everywhere in AP, but in a society where only the comedians speak in Telangana, what more would you expect of young people who draw most inspiration from the movies?

Here it is important to note that even the Rayalaseema or Srikakulam slangs (some of the dialects in AP) do not find place in Tollywood except in their limitations in smaller characters. However, when a movie is set in Rayalaseema or coastal Andhra, characters are found to be talking in the dialects of that region. Compare that with the majority of the other movies set in Hyderabad: there are no characters who speak in Telangana dialect except in deliberate efforts to portray the people, which happens only in cases of comedians and villains as mentioned above. This course of Tollywood has led to a woeful under-representation of Telangana people in popular culture, a community which had already never felt quite one with the Andhras.

When a news channel exclusively in Telangana, T-News, was started; I know many people who tuned in just to hear the language for a few laughs. If this is one end of the spectrum, the other end is equally disturbing; much of the news telecast on the channel is done in Telugu, in the form that is used by most of the educated people and widely hailed as the ‘pure’ form. Has the process of reinforcing this superior nature made them afraid to speak their own language in public?

The direct and obvious implication of this process has been this: the Telugu community has never included the Telangana people under its ambit. If anything, it has time and again reinforced the notion that they are inherently different from them. Their language is funny, and their people too inferior to be included in their mainstream culture. Deliberately or not, the cultural process throughout the sixty years of their union has only more firmly grounded the Telangana sense of separation from the Andhras.

While this dissociation process might have treated the Rayalaseema and the other dialects of AP almost similarly, only the course of Telangana took separatist tendencies because they were a people who never identified with the Andhras right from the very beginning. They were unified against their wishes, the Gentlemen’s Agreement most unceremoniously violated, and their culture insidiously disparaged.

This reinforcement of distinction has taken the form of belittling the Telangana culture, often by attempting to establish a ‘right’ language (the Telugu as spoken by the educated Andhras), and at other times not giving due importance to various Telangana festivals. None of the Telangana festivals like Bonalu, or Bathukamma, find mention in the Public Holidays List of the AP government. You can read a local newspaper report that has just one of the many requests to include Telangana festivals as holidays here.

This essay has been an effort to bring out an often forgotten aspect in the Telanagana struggle for a separate state. The demand for Telangana does not spring out just of a denial of right to their power, but of a right to equality of their culture as well. Whether the creation of Telangana will solve any problems is another debate altogether; the fact is that while the Samaikhyandhra claims talk about brotherhood between the two communities, the feeling is not and has never been, mutual. Subsequently, by the Andhras, there has never been a serious cultural attempt to be inclusive either.

Their recent fierce struggle from the late 2000’s must not be looked at in isolation, whether it was the ‘Idly Sambar Go Back’ protests, or the more recent demands for a separate state, their journey has had its roots in their inherent and incessant feeling of separateness, followed by the Telugu attempts (consciously, or otherwise) at reinforcing the distinction.

Today, sixty one years after they were first unified with Andhra, Telangana finally becomes the 29th state in the Republic of India. The creation of Telangana is a story of a fight for the realization of a people’s identity.

This is the story of a movement that succeeded in its cause – a story that had its roots in political history, and its evolution in culture, a story of a people who never felt one with the state they were forced to join in 1956, and the ultimate victory of their struggle for a separate home.

This has been the story of Telangana.

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  1. Vishai

    Dear Writer,
    You have written a very comprehensive article about this matter and I agree as well as Disagree with many of your points.

    I agree When you say that Telangana is backward.That the dialect of Telugu spoken by Telanganites is made fun of in other parts of Andhra Pradesh.I agree when you say that there is a sense of feeling of superiority in the People of Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema and that they see Telangana as inferior people.And I also Agree that the representation of Telangana in Films is highly undermined.

    Here are my points of view,
    When you say that the Andhra People impose their language on the people of Telangana,Which dialect do you mean ? As far as I know,There is no such dialect as an Andhra dialect and that even within the coastal Andhra,The separate regions like Uttaradnhra,Rajamundhry,Krishna etc Have their own dialect of Telugu.And the Telugu which is universally accepted as the Standard version of Telugu is the Krishna telugu i.e- The Telugu spoken in krishna District.If you call promoting The Standard Telugu “Imposition”,Then I support this and here is why:

    All Languages have regional dialects.Be it Indian Languages like Tamil,Kannada,Marathi,Gujarati or Hindi,Which at present in India has the most number of dialects or global languages like French or English,Arabic which have several regional dialects as well.So Telangana firstly is not a unique scenario.

    Secondly,Most Languages or most Linguistic Bodies have their culture divided into two.A Classical Standard culture and a Folk or street culture.
    For Example,
    It is observed with Hindi.It has several regional dialects like Bundelkhandi,Awadhi,Rajasthani,Hariyanvi etc but has one Standard dialect of Hindi which popularly is known Shudh Hindi,Which is thought in all schools,Used in all official speeches and official works etc.A North Indian Hindi speaker will speak his dialect of Hindi with his friends and relatives but do you expect him to write that regional folk Hindi in his exams,or use that in Speeches.

    NO! A it should be such as Classical and Folk are separate and should be treated as separate.

    Or closer home look at Hyderabad.The Hyderabadi Dakhini is distinctive as well.It is proudly spoken by the Hyderabadi’s with friends and family.But when it comes to Education or Mass media like Urdu newspapers in Hyderabad,The CLassical Urdu is used and not the Dakhini Dialect.

    Same Case can be applied to Andhra Pradesh.Telangana dialect should remain a folk dialect and should be encouraged to but not at a classical or standard level.Can you Imagine writing a Exam in the Telangana dialect ? Or giving an official affidavit in the Telangana dialect ? So I disagree with your point of Imposition of a Standard language.

    Secondly,The point of “idly Sambhar,Go Back”

    By uttering and promoting these lines,The Telanganites are saying Go Back to their own ancient Culture.Before The Muslim Rule,The Telugu’s were Culturally very much close together.In fact,Telangana was the cradle of Telugu Culture under the KakatiyasDravidian .Classical arts were flourishing in Telangana region once upon a time.

    But all Changed during the rule of the Muslims,specifically the Nizmas.Temples lost their Patronage and a Persian culture was being spread and encouraged,which explains the Liberal presence of Urdu or Pharsi words in the Telangana dialect.Somewhere during the 500 years of foreign rule,Telangana was separated from its Dravidian Culture.

    After the Nizam rule,The illiteracy rate was high and the knowledge of the Classcial Arts was virtually dead and to this date,In Telangana,remains quiet low as compared to ANdhra or other areas of the SOuth like Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

    So the point is,Yes,If for development,I support the division of Telangana and I encourage Telanganites to use their dialect at home,And would want their language to be represented more and the discrimination be stopped.

    The Telanganites Should keep their folk traditions alive but at the same time also promote the Classical,Standard Telugu Culture of which once upon a time they were the Highest Custodians.

    1. my24thoughts

      @ Vishai:
      1. You are making a good point that a standard language is necessary for communication but my point is ‘Who & How decided Krishna region dialect as the standard Telugu?’
      Why Telangana region dialect disqualified for that status?
      2. I agree with you that Telangana is the credle of Telugu culture at the time of Kakatiya rulers and I am assuring you that it will be also. You are accusing Nizam for his intolerance but you are not recognizing cultural hegemony of same linguistic brother of one region on other region.
      All Telangana people are loved to be part of united Telugu state. Who wants to be divide and weak. We know that 42 MPs can do better than 17 MPs but the thing is we left with no option.
      Responsibility for separation of Andra Pradesh lies only on Andra region people because they behaved with regional discrimination and cultural hegemony.
      They left Telangana people with no option but to demand for separate state. Andra leaders denied them political power, Andra educated middle class captured jobs and Andra elite people imposed culture of a sub region as the culture of Telugu’s. No recognizance for Telangana festivals, social reformers anf for the Great armed struggle against Nizam.
      There were many treaties and promises but non were implemented.
      When united state formed in 1956 Telangana people have only fears about Andra domination but later years hat redness replaced fear because of the treatment they got under united state,
      No leader from Andra Pradesh seriously tried to address the grievances of Telangana people. Starts from N. Sanjeevaiah to YSR, all are tried to pacify the agitation through force or through other means. The worst case is CB Naidu. He used all means to suppress the people’s movement instead of addressing the issues.
      First Linguistic state and linguistic-ism was born in this country because of Andra people agitation in 1952-53.
      Again first linguistic state was separated because of their hegemony in 2014.

    2. Vennela Krishna

      I take your point.

      However, there are two points I’d like to make in this context: One, your argument that classical and folk languages should be treated separately- aren’t you inherently implying that classical languages are in a way superior to the others? Also, what would be the criteria to judge a language as classical or folk? By determining whether the script can be used to write books in? Isn’t it obvious how flawed that supposition is?
      Second: I have not exactly made any language the ‘standard’ one as much as I have merely stated that it has been tacitly imposed by the majority of Andhras. That is exactly the problem I have with it.
      And I really do not see why the Telanganas should not be allowed to write their exams in their own language: the script anyway remains the same as Telugu, it shouldn’t be too hard to permit it as a medium of instruction.
      The entire essence of the essay was to acknowledge that the Telangana people have been asking for a recognition of equality for their language and culture, both which have been undermined until this point of time.

    3. Vennela Krishna

      Also, yes the cultures were similar at a point of time, but the point remains that they’ve evolved to be different now. The feeling of one-ness is not felt by the Telangana people.
      Your point about Hindi is perfectly true: It is the exact reason why it was opposed to become the ‘national’ language.
      By purporting a language to be more ‘proper’ or ‘right’ than another, we will be denying an equality of cultures; whether we do this by calling a language folk (thereby implying that it is too primitive to be considered for official purposes?) or by denying the people of that language a right to take it as a medium of instruction (particularly when it has a script and is spoken by nearly 4 crore people of the population)

  2. Mani

    nice article
    Thank you very much for the insights…

  3. prasad

    Absolutely true!!

  4. Mehul Gala

    Hats Off Writer !! You have made me aware about lot of things and now after reading your article I am in favor of this bifurcation.

  5. imran

    good brother, wel done …..i agree with you ……. they hav thr rights tooo…..:)

  6. Saem hashmi

    A historic struggle that ends perfectly. Nothing could have been more achievable for the people of the Telangana. Its historic and success has come..!! The article is a good read for one if one wants to get acquainted with the history of the the stuggle. Good work. 🙂

  7. Pranjal Gupta

    An informative and detailed article. Cleared many misconceptions regarding the Telangana issue. I see many people having an opinion but not the complete information as to why the state should be bifucated or not. This will surely help since it gives various aspects from both the sides. Great work..:)

  8. à°…à°šà°‚à°—

    Dear Vennela, I wonder if you could explain what is the language (I call it ‘slang’) used in so called Telangana news paper ‘Namaste Telangana’. Have you ever read? If yes did you find any difference between the slang used in Namaste Telangana and so called Andhra news papers like Eenadu?! If you stand by your statements aka opinion could be able to give me a standard Andhra slang (language)? Have you ever observed the phonological differences within standard Telugu and Andhra slang(s)? Have you ever read a poem from Andhra Mahabharatham written by Bammera Pothana (he is from current day Warangal), if yes do you find any Telangana language in his poems?! If you have any definitive answers please let me know. We can take it from there. If it is simply your opinion I would respect it otherwise we must face some facts before we make any statements claimed to be facts!

    1. Vennela Krishna

      Hi. Despite multiple readings of your comment, I have been unable to identify an overarching argument over your questions and hence might be unable to give a satisfactory answer. However, I would like to say one, that I stand by the arguments I have made in the essay. I understand the example you’ve given but it fails to counter the example I have given. Two, the entire argument I stand for is that there is no standard Telugu. The same way as Hindi would not represent India, none of the Telugu dialects would represent a standard Telugu: they are just different and do not represent a hierarchy of sorts.
      Please make a definite point else I will be unable to satisfactorily rebut the arguments.

    2. Mallaiah Anchoori

      Mr Achanga!!!!What u wish to ask/convey is very hasy & nebulous.Kindly write in a focused way.Andhra Mahabharatam was NOT written by Potana;it was authored by three poets with lot of time gap by Nannaya ,Tikkana & ErraapragaDa.What Potana authored was Sreemadaandhra MAHABHAGAVATAM.I fail to understand as to what u mean when u say u find any TelangaaNa poems in it”And precisely,there reveals as to where the chaste Telugu flourished.I do not know as to whether u happened to read the spoken language in the interiors of TelangaNa.In fact,they were the chaste words unheard ..not used any where in seema Andhra,some of the misguded people of which take dubious credit that what they speak is chaste Telugu.Read the series of article published in the early 70s in the “EenaaDu” Sunday editions under the caption “maa vooru navvindi” authored by Dr Ci.Na.Re who beautifully brought out through a fictions character called “Pasula Pashamma” as to how Telugu language originally chaste in its character got crushed under the tyrannical rule of Nizam & got transformed beyond its shape with induction of several Urdu words.And further,even in coastal area,there are umpteen number of urdu words which people unfortunately hardly realise.And to answer ur very first query a language is a means to express one’s communicate to others.I can write endlressly on this but for the constaint of time..both for me & the those at the other end too

  9. murali

    బాగుంది లోతుగా అధ్యయనం చేసి రాశారు .. చాలా మంది వయసులో పెద్ద వారు తెలంగాణ ఉద్యమం అంటే రాజకీయ నిరుద్యోగుల ఉద్యమం అని అవగాహనాలేకుండా తల తిక్క మాట లు మాట్లాడతారు కానీ మీరు సమస్యను అర్థం చేసుకొని రాశారు

  10. Prashant Kaushik

    A very informative article, appreciate your efforts.

    The language part, where fun is made off the ‘non standard’ dialect of language, must be a phenomenon which occurs in all languages. I have seen and felt the same. Eg a Haryanvi, speaks in his family with an Haryanvi dialect and accent but when he writes an exam, he obviously writes it in the standard ‘Hindi’ . The standard Hindi is better known as ‘Khadi boli’.. This doesnt mean that people from Haryana, or Rajasthan or easter Up or Bihar, who dont speak ‘khadi Boli Hindi’ are to be considered inferior.

    1. Vennela Krishna

      Hey, Prashant.
      You’re right, this is not a phenomenon that is particular to Telugu. However, my attempt has been to prove that although it wouldn’t have been an intended process, it has been interpreted as one that has sought to enforce a notion that the Telangana dialect is inferior. In this context, this phenomenon must not be looked at in isolation, but along with the other incidents like the denial of Deputy Chief-Ministership and the others I have talked about in the article that have time and again reinforced such a notion.

  11. Mallaiah Anchoori

    Vennela!!!True to the meaning of your Surname..VENNELA”,what u wrote is really a shower of moon light.It is rich in tone & tenor,content & coverage.Incidentally,normally we donot say..Appease tensions”….I feel it could have sounded well had u chosen to say ..”diffuse”tensions”Kindly do not mistake me for pointing out this.

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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