Why did Telangana split from Andhra Pradesh?

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

/ by mansuralisaha


The News Cover: In Hyderabad, somewhere between the Lakdikapul area and the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, you would find a small park. It's called the Gun Park. In the middle of the park, there is a memorial. The memorial may not look very extravagant, but it is the site of many major political events. Why is the memorial important? It was built in memory of 369 students who died during the 1969 Telangana protests. Despite the protests, Telangana’s demands weren’t fulfilled. People had to wait for 40 years. And some events were so dramatic that many might not believe them. “While opposing the Telangana Bill, L. Rajagopal sprayed pepper in Lok Sabha.” "This ensued Chaos among the MPs." These scenes are from the Indian parliament where MPs were opposing a bill. The bill is called the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, which intended to establish Telangana state. Despite the ruckus, a few days later this bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. 

A few days later, the President of India signed this bill and on 2nd June, 70 years later, Telangana’s dream came true. Telangana's demand wasn’t unique in India's history. Because there are states in India that were created on the basis of language, but there are states that weren’t created on this basis too. So why were people protesting for Telangana? And why did it take 70 years to fulfill this demand? To answer these questions, we need to delve into history. Not 70 years but a few hundred years back. To the time of this person called Aurangzeb. “Akbar’s success is astonishing...” “…I’ll fight…not only to protect the Mughal Sultanate…” “…but to protect Hindustan from Aurangzeb.” “…the situation has deteriorated beyond comprehension…” “…even during the time of British, Hyderabad used to have an army, a railway service, and a postal service.”

 “There’s going to be an addition in the Indian map.” “A brand new state known as Telangana is being added.” In 1687, the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb seized control of the Deccan by defeating the Qutb Shahi dynasty at the Golconda Fort. After a while, Qamar-ud-din Khan took control over the Deccan and started the Asaf Jahi dynasty with the title Nizam-ul-Mulk. That's why the rulers of Deccan came to be known as Nizams. The reign of Mir Nizam Ali Khan was a crucial phase in Telangana’s history. In the Nizam's territories, the Telugu regions could be classified into three different regions - Telangana, Rayalaseema, and Northern Circars (or Coastal Andhra). We need to keep in mind that Nizam’s territory of Telangana and modern Telangana state are different. Because Nizam's Telangana also included some parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. During the reign of Mir Nizam Ali Khan, the British took control over Northern Circars and Rayalaseema. 

Thus, Northern Circar and Rayalaseema became part of the Madras presidency of the British. Nizam was left with the Telangana region, which came to know as the Hyderabad state. This means that the Telugus were split between the Madras presidency and Hyderabad state. And this continued for 150 years till India gained independence. After Independence, the British territory automatically became part of India. And Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel devoted himself to make the princely states joined the Indian Union. But Hyderabad state refused to join the Indian Union. Nizams were ousted through Operation Polo by the Indian army and Hyderabad became part of the Indian Union. Meanwhile, the Telugus living in the Madras state started a movement. They demanded a separate state for Telugu speakers rather than being part of the Madras state. Several Indian political leaders were against the idea of states being formed on a linguistic basis. For example, the Dar Commission, appointed by the Constituent Assembly, rejected this idea and said that it would be convenient to administer India if the states aren’t created on a linguistic basis. 

However, it became difficult to overlook the demand for a separate state when Potti Sriramulu died in a hunger strike while advocating for Andhra Pradesh. As a result, the Congress leaders had to accept the demands and create Andhra Pradesh in 1953, its capital being Kurnool. Keep in mind that this Andhra Pradesh only comprised of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Telangana still existed as the state of Hyderabad. With the creation of Andhra Pradesh, others started demanding separate states too. Hence, the government had to form the States Reorganisation Commission to handle the issue. What did the commission suggest about the future of Hyderabad state? If you remember, the Hyderabad state wasn’t composed of Telugu-speaking regions entirely. So the commission suggested that the Maratha region should go to the Bombay state. The Kannada region should go to the Mysore state. And the Telugu region should not go to Andhra Pradesh. They said it “should not”! The commission wrote that Telangana and Andhra Pradesh should remain as separate states at least till 1961 and thereafter the people can vote and decide if they want to merge with Andhra Pradesh. Why did the commission oppose the merging of Telangana with Andhra? It said that the people of Telangana were educationally backward, making them vulnerable to exploitation by the people of Coastal Andhra. Even Jawahar Lal Nehru had opposed this merger. 

He called the demand for Visalandhra, a.k.a unified Andhra, as an example of imperialism. And the people of Telangana felt that they had experienced such exploitation. For example, after the Indian army defeated Nizam's forces and took control of Hyderabad, many government officials from Coastal Andhra were brought in. And the people of Telangana said that the officials mistreated them. As Telangana had higher revenue, because it had excise duties on liquor that were absent in Andhra, the people feared that the income could be diverted to Andhra. They also feared that the water from Krishna and Godavari rivers would be used for Andhra. The key reason for these fears was that the Nizam-led Hyderabad was much poorer than the British-led Andhra. The people of Telangana were suffering due to the taxes imposed by the Nizams. While in British-led Andhra, irrigation, and railway projects were being built. Some even received education in the English language, gaining an advantage of getting a government job.

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