Five decades of Telangana struggle
By Syed Akbar
The five decade-old Telangana struggle has now metamorphosed into a movement for self-respect and self-rule. The struggle no longer revolves around the backwardness of the region. The new slogan that's becoming popular these days is "exploitation by settlers".
And this talk of exploitation incidentally revolves around the emotions and sentiments attached to the land. The Telangana movement has finally assumed the shape of a land struggle, a fight against the "occupation" of
"It is now an emotional issue, much more to do with the sentiments of the locals, peasants and the poor," argues Prof Papi Reddy of Kakatiya University.
Like many struggles around the world, the movement for a separate Telangana state is fuelled by the argument that people from other parts of the country, those from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to be precise, have "occupied" agricultural lands, denying the not-so-fortunate local farmers the opportunity to till their very fields. The real estate too "fell into the hands of the settlers", who jacked up the prices to unrealistic levels. This is said to be one of the reasons for the present "heartburn" among the Telanganaites. The
Andhraites, however, have their own tale to tell.
Initially Telangana farmers and land owners benefited from the sale proceeds of their lands, but soon they realised that what they had been paid for their property was a "pittance", given the enormous farm benefits reaped by the so-called settlers. "While the farmers remained poor, those who came in from other areas became rich. This disparity has grown to such an extent that the local farmers now want their lands back," explains senior TRS leader T Harish Rao.
Those who purchased the lands, on the other hand, argue that they invested heavily to make the otherwise barren lands cultivable. Telangana region is at a geographical disadvantage as far as gravitational flow of water is concerned. The only way to make the lands fit for cultivation is through bore well irrigation. The poor Telangana farmers could not invest in bore well irrigation.
"The Andhra farmers pumped in money to create the facility. They did not cheat anyone. They paid the money the local farmers demanded. It is a clear land transaction and no deceit is involved in it," says Prof N Samuel, who heads the United AP Joint Action Committee.
Like many others in Telangana, TRS floor leader Etala Rajender, however does not buy Prof Samuel's argument. "We lost lands, jobs, self-respect under Andhra rulers. The fight for separate Telangana is over five decades old. Unless people of Telangana have self-rule, this region cannot be developed. If we continue to stay in a united Andhra Pradesh, the condition of the people will further deteriorate. Its better we part as friends. The people of Telangana region have realised it is now or never. We have 1000 reasons to separate,
land being the main reason," he argues.
According to sociologists, the first influx (1984-52) of people from other two regions was mainly in search of jobs, though there were quite a considerable number of farm land transactions too. Since people from coastal Andhra, under Madras presidency, were educated in English, they were preferred in Telangana for local jobs that require knowledge of English. They got jobs in government, banks, educational institutions and important companies. Many of them sold away their agricultural lands to purchase lands in Telangana, which were relatively cheaper.
There are allegations that the mulki rule (jobs and education for locals) was observed more in breach, to accommodate people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Under the mulki rule the Nizam ensured that 80 per cent of seats in educational institutions and jobs in government sector are reserved for the locals. The 80 per cent rule was for jobs at district level. At divisional level, which has higher jobs, a 60 per cent quota was fixed for the locals under mulki regime. The Nizam implemented the rules all through his rule, since 1928.
Harish Rao could not hide his displeasure over the "continued violation of the locals only rule" when he says, "people of Telangana region have been victims of loot in every sphere. It’s not just land. It’s in every sphere".
The second influx (after 1982) revolved mainly around real estate. Many individuals came to Hyderabad and surrounding areas in search of employment, while the rich and influential invested heavily in real estate and
Prof Papi Reddy points out that several public representatives including ministers, MLAs, MLCs and capitalists "grabbed" valuable land and acquired assets in Telangana region. Their alleged clout over political and official machinery enabled them to purchase lands from the poor Telangana people at "throwaway prices". They did not leave even the Wakf properties, he adds.
"They constructed entertainment parks and five star hotels. Subsequently, they inflated the land prices and earned thousands of crores of rupees in profits. The government machinery failed to curb ‘land mafia’ and instead facilitated them with regularisation of encroached lands. Our struggle is basically for land and exploitation of our people. There is a gentlemen's agreement signed in 1956 on how much land to buy. But people from other regions have violated the agreement. Thousands of acres of land was given away to corporates and film studios for Rs 2,000 an acre. These are our resources and lands," says OU student leader J Kalyan.
Tracing the genesis of the Telangana struggle, writer Durgam Ravinder observes that "when people of Telangana realised how those from coastal Andhra were taking over their agricultural lands and jobs, they came up with the slogan against the non-locals".
Differing with the Telangana argument, Prof Samuel observes Andhra people are in an advantageous position due to historical and geographical reasons. "Andhra people have more access to English education because the region was under the rule of the British. One should be inspired by the success of Andhra people settled in and around Hyderabad".
Emphasing that the present pro-Telangana and anti-Telangana movements are emotionally linked to the land, SS Shiv Shankar, who is spearheading the movement for a separate north Andhra state, seeks to clarify that while people of Telangana are angry over the alleged occupation of their lands by "settlers", coastal Andhra people, who had invested heavily in and around Hyderabad over the years, do not want to let Hyderabad go as they too are "sentimentally attached to the city".
"Whether it is the people of Telangana or coastal Andhra, the issue is the emotional and sentimental attachment to the land. If Telanganaites are attached to their region, others who have made Hyderabad their home, are also similarly attached to Hyderabad," he argues.
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