The Telangana Imbroglio – Part II

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There are many dimensions to the issue of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh - political, infrastructural, cultural, social, bureaucratic, educational and also personal for many. While we have discussed the mostly political, educational and infrastructural dimensions in the first part, I will continue in this part to further elaborate on the same and also touch upon the other aspects.

The Telangana supporters have been relentless for the past few years, whipping up public sentiments and throwing up strong leaders like Chenna Reddy in the past and KCS Rao now. After many ups and downs, now that the union cabinet’s decision has come, there is cautious celebration in the Telangana camp. However, the Seemandhra people were caught napping by this decision. Probably they thought that this phase will also blow over and ultimately status quo will prevail. But Sonia Gandhi had other ideas. Now that the reality has hit them, there is sudden eruption of protests and calls for united Andhra. Even the Seemandhra politicians were caught by surprise, or at least that is what they are feigning.

While Telangana rejoiced, thousands of state government employees in Seemandhra went on a strike to protest the decision of the union cabinet endorsing the formation of Telangana. The strike by the supporters of Samaikyandhra (United Andhra), the non gazetted officers in various departments including courts, the AP State Road Transport Corporation, school teachers, university non-teaching staff and municipal workers has continued for over two months now. Government servants are surviving without salaries for the past two months – on savings or credit cards or bank loans.

Watching the situation first hand, during my prolonged stay in the Seemandhra region for the past one year, I find this strike very strange. Government employees are facing severe hardships - living on provisions bought on credit from the neighbourhood kirana shops and defaulting on credit card payments but the strike continues. There are no city buses or long distance buses, schools and colleges are facing forced holidays and all govt. work is at a standstill.

Still, I don’t see any protest or even grumbling from the general public. People are being fleeced by auto wallahs and taxi wallahs, but they are quietly enduring the pain. Even the recent strike by electricity employees resulting in disruption of trains and severe shortage of electricity and power supply to homes, hospitals, offices and farms did not elicit any mass fury against the strikers. Probably, it is the silent public support for the cause of a united Andhra. Even the state government has shown no urgency to end the strike. There is definitely tacit support for the strikers from the present political dispensation.

There have been short strikes by doctors, auto drivers, shopkeepers and even fishermen. However, I see no solid reason for various sections of the lower bureaucracy and other sectors to go on strike. How the bifurcation is going to affect them is not clear. Are they being propped up by the self centred politicians?

The Telangana region too has seen some disturbance recently, with the secretariat NGO employees belonging to Seemandhra protesting against the bifurcation in Hyderabad and the strike by electricity employees in Seemandhra affecting the entire state including Hyderabad. This has created a lot of bad blood among colleagues. This sort of animosity among people of the same state, speaking the same language is unheard of in modern India. Politicians at work again? Maybe.

That brings us to the issue of language and culture. Seemandhra people consider themselves as the bearers of true Telugu culture and don’t hold very high opinion about their brothers in Telangana. Telugu language and culture certainly has a great tradition of literature, dance, drama and music. On the other hand, the Telangana region, influenced by the Nizam’s rule and Mughal culture, developed a unique Deccani Urdu, which is great as a functional language, but does not boast of a great literary tradition. Telangana (Hyderabad in particular) also developed a unique culture of art, architecture and cuisine. The Telugu of Telangana is heavily influence by Deccani Urdu. Although, it is welcome to Hindi speakers like us, who can easily communicate with the Telanganites, it is looked down upon as slang by the Seemandraites.

Hyderabad is a great centre for film production. The Telugu stars belong to both the regions, but majority being settlers from Seemandhra. The language spoken in films is mostly pure Telugu with occasional sprinkling of Hyderabadi Urdu or Hindi words. The future of this industry is at stake now.

If the true blue Hyderabadis decide to make a film in their own dialect, there will be no takers in Seemandhra. To retaliate, Telanganites may decide to boycott “Telugu” movies. Already there have been instances of Seemandhra audience boycotting films featuring Chiranjeevi’s brother and son, due to his ambivalent stand on the issue. Movies are a very special part of the lives of the Andhra people. The Telugu movie industry is probably the largest after Hindi. This will play havoc with the social life of people and entertainment industry in general, if not handled properly.

Well, other North Indians do make fun of Bihari Hindi, but we don’t mind, and that doesn’t make us any less Hindi wallah; and we have produced many stalwarts and scholars of Hindi. Similarly, the Telugu people of the two regions must accept and respect each other’s language and culture.

Now that the bifurcation seems inevitable, I think the supporters of United Andhra are making one last ditch effort – many of them for political survival. However, I feel the Samaikyandhravadis will slowly reconcile and settle for bifurcation with assurances of protecting the interests of Seemandhra.

Telangana will also face problems after bifurcation, but probably the sentiments are too strong there to ponder over these potential issues. With bifurcation would come the question of sharing of resources including human resources.

I trust the politicians to at least work out a package to satisfy both the regions with respect to revenue, power and water sharing. I also hope that children from one region are not discriminated against by the other in matters of education and jobs. The bureaucrats, especially IPS and IAS officers, would have their own choices and reasons of selecting a cadre. Hyderabad, and thus Telangana would remain an attraction for them. I feel that fewer bureaucrats would be willing to move to Seemandhra unless they belong to the region.

There is one trivia I would like to share with the readers. Earlier, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh separated from the parent states of Bihar, UP and MP respectively and the existing capital city remained with the parent state. Now, Telangana wants to separate and take away the capital city of the parent state too. A truncated Andhra Pradesh (that is what the residual state will be called) now has to look for a new capital. And there are many strong contenders – Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Nellore, Kurnool.

Some people have likened the Telangana – Seemandhra dispute to the difference between two brothers in a family. Well, I would say, it is better for the two brothers to stay separately and amicably rather than stay together and keep bickering.

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