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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 35, August 17, 2013 - Independence Day Special

Why CPI changed its Stand on Telangana’s Statehood

Sunday 18 August 2013


by S. Sudhakar Reddy

The decision on Telangana’s Statehood by the core committee of the UPA-II and Congress Working Committee has became a controversy in some circles. The CPI, BJP, NCP, BSP, and naturally Congress at the national level supported it, while the CPI-M, SP opposed it. As expected, the Gorkhaland and Bodoland separatist agitations intensified to pressurise the Union Government following the decision on Telangana. There are festivities in Telangana and angry agitations against it in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

Earlier also three other States—Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh—were formed. The formation of Uttarakhand and Jharkhand came after a long struggle. Chhattisgarh’s formation was more smooth without much agitation. But Telangana faced stiff resistance from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema people.

The CPI fought for the formation of the Andhra State from the composite Madras state and later for Visalandhra, that is, Andhra Pradesh. The CPI fought against the separatist agitations in 1969 and 1972 both in the Telangana and Andhra regions. But the CPI changed its stand and in 2008 at the XX Congress of the party at Hyderabad, supported Telangana’s Statehood. I would like to explain the reasons behind this change of stand.

The Telugu people divided in different states like the composite Madras state and Hyderabad state, which was a princely state, had a desire to have a linguistic Telugu State. It was a justified demand. There was a big agitation for a Telugu State in the coastal districts of Andhra. Though with some reservations the Rayala-seema people also supported it and in 1952, after the death of Sri Potti Sreeramulu due to an indefinite fast on this demand, the State was announced. On October 1, 1953 a new State called “Andhra State” was formed.

Coastal Andhra under British rule was comparatively more advanced in agriculture, education, and infrastructure facilities. There was already better irrigation due to projects on the river Godavari and later on the river Krishna. Rayalaseema is a drought prone area and was reluctant to join its rich cousin. There was a Sri Bagh pact between the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema leaders about irrigation facilities, new capital etc. in the 1940s itself Accordingly, Kurnool in Rayalaseema was chosen as the capital city with the High Court at Guntur.

Eight districts of Telangana were part of the feudal Hyderabad state along with five Kannada and three Maratha-speaking districts.

Hyderabad was a prison of languages as Urdu was the administrative language. No Telugu, Maratha, Kannada schools were allowed. There was only four per cent literacy, though there was a university at Hyderabad. Land concentration was so high that some zamindars and landlords had more than one lakh acres each in their possession. There was terrible poverty and semi-slavery of free and compulsory labour to landlords called vetty (no payment labour) was prevalent in Telangana.

After the declaration of independence, the British announced freedom to the princely states as well. Hyderabad, the biggest princely state in India, declared “Azad Hyderabad” (independent Hyderabad) as a separate nation. This was opposed by the people. The Communist Party of India, which was spearheading an agitation against the vetty system and was becoming popular among the poor people, declared armed struggle against the Nizam and his landlords. There a was a semi-military Razakar (volunteers) organisation in support of the Nizam; it attacked and burnt down villages, killing people, to terrorise the Communist-supported masses.

The Telangana armed struggle was successful in getting the support of the vast masses. More than a million acres of land was distributed after the Hindu-Muslim landlords ran away from the villages. Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel, who had signed the “status quo” agree-ment earlier with the Nizam, decided to march to Hyderabad in the name of “police action” to contain the Communists and integrate Hydera-bad into the Indian Union, on September 17, 1948. Communists continued to withdraw the armed struggle and fully withdrew it a little later. The CPI participated in elections in which they received massive support. More than 4000 Communists had laid down their lives to liberate the Hyderabad state.

The Hyderabad state was historically back-ward due to feudal rule, besides the back- wardness due to less rainfall and lack of irrigation facilities.
In 1955 the States Reorganisation Commission took into consideration the apprehensions expressed by a section of Telangana people, and a separate Telangana State was recommended for 10 years after which the decision about merger was to be taken with the two Legislative Assemblies’ approval with two-thirds majority.

The CPI along with others felt a united Telugu State will help comprehensive development of all areas and fought for Visalandhra. Then also there were violent agitations in the Telangana region. An agreement was signed that Telangana will be given its due share in employment, irrigation and other facilities. Telangana was a surplus State and Andhra was a deficit State due to prohibition at the time of integration.

But the agreements and promises were not kept. A political agreement of a Deputy Chief Minister for Telangana if the CM was from the Andhra area was not honoured. The priority of irrigation for Telangana, as it is drought-prone, was not honoured. As the number of educational institutions was less in Telangana, NGOs and teachers were recruited from Andhra and that became a practice in the later period too. The assurance of 40 per cent jobs for Telangana, according to the population ratio, was delibe-rately flouted. The agreement that Telangana’s income will be kept in a separate account and spent here was not implemented.

This led to a violent separatist agitation under the leadership of Dr Chenna Reddy in 1969. More than 360 people were killed in police firings.

The CPI even then stood for correction of mistakes and fought for integration of the State. A six-point formula was drafted as a compromise formula. There was a big agitation in 1972 in the Andhra area against this formula and a separate State was demanded. Both the agitations died down as the Union Government under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stood firm and promised that past mistakes will not be repeated.

A constitutional guarantee was given regarding the promises to Telangana. A powerful Telangana Regional Committee consisting of all Telangana MLAs was constituted to act as a watchdog on Telangana’s income-expenditure and oversee the development. It did work well. This was not liked by the Chief Ministers who felt their political authority was being eroded. Slowly three nominated Regional Development Boards replaced the Telangana Regional Committee which disappeared from the scene.

The same scenario was repeated as in the post-1969 agitation with the flouting of formulas and promises on Telangana. Later, in the period of N.T. Rama Rao, the nominal Regional Committee also disappeared.

NTR appointed a one-man committee—the “Girglani Committee”—to look into the allegations of flouting of the principle of proportional employment to Telangana. Girglani, a senior IAS officer, reported that more 42,000 jobs (in some departments only) from the Telangana quota were given to the people of other areas. Another Committee on Promotions confirmed discrimination towards the Telangana employees. Supernumerary posts were created to set things right. A G.O. 610 was issued regarding jobs for Telangana but could not be implemented. In between more jobs of Telangana were lost; it is estimated that in all about one lakh jobs of Telangana were lost.

Telangana, which is having lesser rainfall and is drought-prone, could not get adequate irrigation projects. There was resentment on distribution of the Krishna Godawari waters and the irrigation projects on these rivers.

The promises of industrialisation of Telan-gana, did not yield results. All these developments started creating dissatisfaction among the Telangana people and another round of agitation started in the year 2000 and slowly gathered momentum. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi was formed. In between also the agitation for Telangana’s Statehood continued on a smaller scale.

Five decades after the formation of Andhra Pradesh, emotional integration of the Telugu people did not take place. Telangana, which was under feudal rule and hence historically back-ward, felt its identity was getting submerged.

As happens naturally in any State, more enterprising rich businessmen, contractors, real estate managers purchased and occupied vast tracks of land in and around Hyderabad. The land was very cheap in those days. In the last two decades the land cost has gone up hundred times or more. Though this is the process of capitalism, the people of Telangana felt cheated. The media, print and electronic, is mostly controlled by businessmen of the Andhra area. They are more worried about their future business in Hyderabad city which developed many-fold with a 6.5 million population.

The CPI realised in 1998 that injustice had been done to Telangana and started a campaign for justice to Telangana within an integrated State. Statewide agitations and struggles were organised pinpointing the wrong-doings.

After the year 2000, the CPI demanded a Rs 10,000 crore special development package, priority for irrigation and industrialisation, more infrastructure, education, health facilities and restoration of the Telangana Regional Committee.

The CPI’s development package got good support from different sections of the people. The then Telugu Desam Government did not pay heed to the agitation. Several rounds of agitation did not yield any result. The CPI raised the issue of injustice to Telangana time and again in the Legislative Assembly and even in Parliament.

Both the Congress and Telugu Desam Government have shown criminal negligence towards Telangana, its development and fulfilment of the past commitments. The people are totally alienated from the government. The Telugu people for no fault of theirs have to fight each other for the grave mistakes and negligence of the government and exploitation of a few business houses.

The ordinary people in the Andhra region wholeheartedhy desire a united integrated State. They think Telugu people should be in one State for allround development. But alienation in Telangana is so deep that an artificially forced composite State cannot exist any more.

The CPI in 2006-07 realised that Telangana cannot get justice in the integrated State of Andhra Pradesh. In 2008, at the XX Congress of the CPI and earlier in the State Conference of the party, it was decided to support Telan-gana’s Statehood.

This decision was taken with a heavy heart as the CPI was in the forefront of the battle for the Visalandhra State and all through fought for linguistic States.

Telangana is not going to be a small State. It has a 3.5 crore population with 10 big districts. The CPI is firmly of the opinion that the Telugu people should continue to have cordial and fraternal relations even after the geographical political division of the State.

The author is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India.

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