Posts Tagged ‘Telangana

Keshav Rao Jadhav, 81, and A. Gopala Kishan, 77, were among those who gave shape to the movement for Telangana in the 1960s. They go down memory lane and say that they continue to be sceptical about the government’s promise to usher in the state of Telangana

Across the road, fire crackers and rallies mark the announcement of a new state. On the fifth floor of a flat opposite Osmania University, a quiet calm prevails. Keshav Rao Jadhav, 81, has seen it all — celebrations and despair, hope and death.

Jadhav still does not believe that the Centre is serious about carving the country’s 29th state — Telangana — out of Andhra Pradesh. He, however, has a bowl of seviyan, a popular dessert, to mark the occasion. “But I am sceptical,” he says.

The retired professor of English at Osmania University — which has been the nerve centre of the Telangana movement — is one of the few surviving leaders who gave shape to the struggle in the Sixties.

Like him, Dr A. Gopala Kishan, a well-known city nephrologist who was one of the founding members of the Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS), the first forum to voice the demand for statehood, is not convinced that the wait is over. “Such announcements have been made even in the past,” Kishan, 77, stresses.

The cynicism is understandable, for the two have seen a series of highs and lows from the Sixties when the people of Telangana demanded statehood, fearing that they would be left without their identity and development in Andhra Pradesh, while rulers focused their attention on the Andhra region. “We were humiliated by the people of coastal Andhra for our language, food and clothes,” Jadhav says.

As the state erupts into joyous festivity — and angry agitation — the two are ready to go down memory lane. They flip through the pages of a history that they scripted themselves.

  • Movers and shapers: Keshav Rao Jadhav

Jadhav joined the protests at 14 when he participated in the first Telangana rebellion in the late 1940s as peasants fought against feudal lords and later the State. As a student of Nizam College, he also participated in the Mulki agitation in 1952, when he led protests against government jobs being given to non-Mulkis (non- locals).

In 1953, as Andhra state was carved out of Madras Presidency, the people of Telangana, who did not want to be a part of it, protested. In 1955, the State Reorganisation Commission, formed by the Centre in 1953, said in its report that Telangana should be a separate state and merge with Andhra after the 1961 general elections, if that was the mandate. That didn’t happen.

In 1956, a gentlemen’s agreement was reached between Andhra and Telangana leaders. Provisions were chalked out for power sharing and promises made to safeguard the interests of Telangana. That didn’t happen either.

“None of our interests — relating to health, education, self-governance and sale of agricultural lands — was safeguarded,” says Kishan.

Not surprisingly, there was pent up anger among the youth. A student from Khammam went on a hunger strike after the state government sacked junior engineers of a thermal power project. The protest spread to Osmania, from where students spilled on to the streets.

Kishan recalls an incident that he now deeply regrets. As the rebellion gathered momentum, he instructed four engineering students to burn down the Jamia Osmania railway station in 1969. While attempting to do so, three students sustained burn injuries and later died in hospital.

“I feel guilty now for having sent them to do this. But such was their dedication that they refused to name me when the police interrogated them,” Kishan recalls.

That was the year “Jai Telangana” became the slogan of the movement. On May 1, 1969, lakhs of people started a march from Charminar to Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad to submit a memorandum to the Governor demanding statehood. Jadhav and Kishan were among them.

“When we were about to start the march, a 16-year-old girl called Aruna came to us and said she wanted to take part in it. She suddenly shouted ‘Jai Telangana’ — and that very moment, the police fired at her. She fell to the ground and died,” Jadhav recalls. “It was she who gave us our slogan. Till then, we had slogans such as ‘Long Live Telangana’ and ‘Telangana zindabad’.”

It was the first time police had fired at protesters. But not the last.

The marchers walked on, some throwing stones at the police. A student leader called Umender tried to pacify the agitating crowd. “But the police fired at him and he died on the spot,” Kishan remembers.

Those were turbulent times, when street protests accompanied public discussions. The TPS organised the first ever convention on Telangana in Hyderabad. It was here that the Telangana flag was hoisted for the first time.

  • Dr A. Gopala Kishan

As killings and curfew continued, the Centre got into the act. In the middle of the night of June 4, 1969, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi landed in Hyderabad and met Kishan and other Telangana leaders. “She told me, ‘Stop the killing, your issue is solved.’ Hearing this, we thought we’d got statehood,” Kishan recalls.

But nothing changed. Some 369 people were killed in police firing in 1969. Leaders including Kishan and Jadhav were arrested.

Jadhav believes that the biggest problem with the movement was that politicians took the credit for it. “They took advantage of the movement and fulfilled their political aspirations,” he says. He also criticises Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s alliance with the Congress in 2004 and the proposed merger with the party.

Kishan agrees. “The biggest weakness of the movement is that we allowed these politicians to lead it. We never got a selfless leader.”

The 1969 struggle died down after the Jai Andhra movement gathered momentum in 1972 as a counter to the Telangana demand. There were sporadic protests in the 1980s, but the Telangana movement lost its zeal. Kishan and Jadhav took a backseat. Telangana got a new lease of life only when Rao formed the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2001.

Kishan, who kept away from the movement for more than four decades, doesn’t like some of the turns it has taken. “Earlier, protesters were killed in police firing. But now they immolate themselves. This clearly shows how leaderless the movement is,” he says. Kishan adds that 700 protesters in the past three years died of burn injuries after self-immolation.

Jadhav is critical of the money that has been coming in. “It’s shocking to see how crores of rupees have been collected from the Telangana diaspora by politicians to keep the movement alive. Money was never important in our protests back then.”

The two veterans look at the struggle from a distance, and wonder if their dream has finally been realised. Till the state takes shape, celebration will be just a bowl of seviyan.

The Telangana Trail

  • The founding members of TPS with Gopala Kishan on the extreme right


Armed peasants of Telangana region fight against revenue collectors


Telangana students agitate against ‘outsiders’

Potti Sriramulu dies after a fast unto death demanding an Andhra state


Andhra state is created


Khammam student goes on hunger strike, Osmania University students agitate demanding Telangana. Telangana Praja Samithi formed

Many killed in police firing as agitations continue


A political settlement is reached with the Centre, but nothing emerges


K. Chandrashekhar Rao revives the Telangana movement


P. Chidambaram announces in Parliament that Telangana state process has started


Telangana announced

Preparations are in full swing in the white three-storey house in Hyderabad’s tony Banjara Hills. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief Kalvakuntla Chandrasekar Rao or KCR is on his way back home. Roses have been prettily arranged in his living room. His favourite tomato dal and spicy chicken curry have been prepared. As Rao steps out of his white Innova, thousands of supporters welcome him with shouts of ‘Jai Telangana.’







Around 12 kilometres away in a somewhat rundown apartment in Adarh Nagar’s new MLA quarters, a bespectacled man sips tea as he talks to a group of men. Professor Muddasani Kodandaram Reddy, the convener of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), is charting out its next course of action. The TJAC is a collective of 20 pro-Telangana non-political groups and three political parties — the TRS, Bharatiya Janata Party and CPI(M-L) New Democracy







In his bungalow ‘Hemlatha’, Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, the five-time Congress MP from Eluru, is attending to guests. He looks relaxed and assures his colleagues who represent Seemandhra — a name carved out of Rayalseema and Andhra –that the Centre will not grant statehood to Telangana.





Meet the three men rowing a boat called Telangana. KCR and Kodandaram, both 58, seek to guide it to a new shore. Rao, 69, is trying to push it back to the dock.




KCR is the political force that spearheads the movement, Kodandaram is its non-political face and Rao its aggressive foe.




Throughout September, they were camping in Delhi, where KCR and Kodandaram met top Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Vayalar Ravi and Oscar Fernandes. Kodandaram also met home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Rao lobbied with the same batch of leaders and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.



Demands for Telangana – which the Centre merged with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956 — first came up in 1969. The people of Telangana felt they were being marginalised in the new state.


Both sides have their arguments. Those supporting Telangana – a 114,840-sq-km region stretching from Adilabad in the north and Mahbubnagar in the south with a population of3.5 crore –believe a new state will bring development to an area that has been traditionally backward. Those against feel that losing the capital of Hyderabad will lead to untold losses and further unrest.





“KCR is demanding a separate state on the sentiments of the people, which is illogical. For the socio-economic development of the region, the Centre can form a Telangana territorial council,” says Rao, as he bites into a fluffy idli for breakfast.






The owner of the Progressive Constructions Limited and Hyderabad’s super-speciality Medwin hospital believes that if Telangana is granted, there will be calls for a separate Rayalseema and perhaps even a division of coastal and north Andhra. “We will not allow any division of Andhra Pradesh,” he stresses.




But KCR, MP from Mahbubnagar, is all ready for a fight. Belonging to the warrior community of Velama, he is known to be a good political strategist and has offered to merge his party with the Congress if it accepts Telangana.




“TRS was formed to get a separate statehood. Once it is achieved, there is no need for the party to exist,” says KCR’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha.




Realpolitics is at play as well. The Congress may be in electoral trouble in 2014.  “In the Andhra region, the rise of (ex-Congressman) Jagan Mohan Reddy will work against the Congress. If the Congress doesn’t announce a separate state by the year-end, it will be impossible for the party to win any seats even in Telangana,” a Congress MP worries.



On the other hand, some believe the strong base of the TSR in the 10 districts of Telangana could help the Congress win 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections if the two parties work together.




But Rao, who represents a team of Seemandhra Congress MPs while lobbying with the Centre, rejects the contention. The Gandhi family loyalist has been assuring the High Command of a sure shot win for the party.




Kodandaram, on the other hand, is seemingly unperturbed. The professor of political science at Osmania University — now on a sabbatical — is more concerned about mobilising masses.




A farmer’s son from Adilabad, Kodandaram was active in the civil liberties movement of the 80s. “Kodandaram is an honest intellectual who feels for the cause but is not a strategist who can get anything substantial out of the Centre,” says political analyst K. Nageshwar.




Kodandaram came into the limelight in 2009 when KCR went on an indefinite hunger strike. When the fast entered its 11th day, then union home minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament the process for the “formation of Telangana” had begun. But the move was followed by a mass resignation of Congress MLAs from Seemandhra, forcing the party to retract. It constituted a committee headed by Justice Sri Krishna to look into the issue.




Meanwhile, KCR floated his own channel T-News and set up the TJAC to mobilise popular support. Kodandaram was asked to head it. He believes it was his “clean” image as a teacher that prompted the party to seek him out. “When politicians say something, the middle class sees it with suspicion. When teachers say something, they believe it,” Kodandaram sresses.




But political insiders believe not all is well within the TJAC. There are rumours of a rift between Kodandaram and KCR – sparked by an assembly by-election in Mahbubnagar this year when the local JAC unit supported the BJP which won the seat.




Sources say KCR was also against a Telangana rally called by the TJAC on September 30, as it was organised when he was negotiating with the Centre. KCR did not participate in the march but his son Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao and nephew Thanneru Harish Rao – both MLAs – were there, apart from Kavitha.



TRS members shrug off talks of a rift. “He has organised bigger meetings than this,” says a senior TRS member.



A graduate in Telugu literature, KCR’s fine oratory skills laced with folklore have always pulled crowds. “He speaks in the local dialect to connect with the people,” says political scientist G. Haragopal.





Everyone agrees that KCR is the sustained political force behind the Telangana movement – a demand that he has been voicing ever since he broke off from the Telugu Desam Party and floated the TRS in 2001.




Some in the TJAC, however, believe that KCR has been making “false” promises. “He has often announced specific dates for Telangana’s formation. But he has not been able to achieve anything. This is eroding his credibility,” says a TJAC member.




There is also speculation that KCR, who suffers from diabetes, wants to exit from local politics and is eyeing a bigger role at the Centre. But Kavitha, who is managing the media for KCR, stresses that he has not expressed any such desire so far. But he is a reticent man who keeps his thoughts to himself, she adds.




Rao too has decided to keep a low profile for the time being. “There is no need for further talks with the Centre as of now,” he holds.



Meanwhile, Kodandaram is busy reading books on civil society and its relationship with political parties. “It will help us work in tandem with parties,” smiles Kodandaram.



Telangana’s three Ks are taking a breather – only so that they can come back with more air in their lungs.