Telangana Movement - History
A dying feudalism is only a part of the problem. After all, feudalism has been a national problem. But in Telangana, it received hammer blows at the hands of the Socialist and Communist struggles of the forties. It received a fillip at the hands of Andhra rulers in the fifties and sixties who pushed the Hyderabad Tenancy Act under the carpet. But now it is on its last legs slowly getting converted into elitist professions and an incipient capitalism. Caste too is a part of the problem, though the Arya Samaj Movement of the thirties and forties tried to resolve it in its own manner. The weakness of the movement was that it was largely an urban movement, failing to effectively penetrate the countryside. Communalism too is a part of the problem, albeit a small part, being basically an urban phenomenon bound up with history and race memory. The basic problem of the Deccan, of which Telangana is a part, was and is total denial of participation to local people in the affairs of the state. It was not always so. Tribal kingdoms and the Kakatiyas Empire were, to the extent possible then, participatory systems, based on the concept of the welfare of people.
The attack on the participatory system came during Bahmani rule which was basically a military and imperial system. Such a system which depended on foreign mercenaries for its survival had to be exploitative, cruel and anti-local. It depended on foreign recruits even though local soldiers were available. It had to because its aim was not the welfare of people but a luxurious style of life for the foreign ruling class. Locals, both Muslims and Hindus, revolted against this, resulting first in the massacre of foreigners, Iranians and Turks, followed by decimation of local soldiers and subjugation of the countryside. The valiant Yadava queen of Golkonda fought against the Bahamanis with a small force against overwhelming odds and died a martyr. The revolt of the locals in Bidar and the Golkonda battle can be described as the first stirrings for self-rule in the Deccan. Most Qutub Shahis, on the other hand, tried to reconcile their political interests with the well-being of people. The use of the Telangana language as a vehicle both in cultural and administrative matters brought about a sense of participation in the local population. The martyrdom of Akkanna and Madanna at the hands of traitors, the resistance of Abdul Razzak Laari and the arrest and detention of Abul Hasan Tanasha, the last Qutub Shahi king, by Aurangazeb, reversed the process. The system relapsed into imperialism and the militant mentality and people into sullen silence.
The Asafjahis were aliens and their support base was mainly the north Indian gentry. They brought thousands of north-Indians to man the administration. Though Mahbub Ali Pasha, the Sixth Nizam, was a folk king, the process continued till it was challenged during the reign of the Seventh Nizam, by local Muslims who launched what is described as the Mulki (local) movement. The movement was successful and the Nizam created Mulki rules to protect local interests. During the same period Gonds of Adilabad revolted against oppressive rule. The Nizam invited Hammendorf, a reputed German anthropologist, to report on the state of affairs in tribal areas and suggest reforms. His proposals were accepted and martyrdom of Bhim did not go in vain.
Though it was laudatory that Urdu, an Indian language, was used as the language of administration and education, other language like Telugu, Marathi and Kannada also should have been used. It did not happen. The Arya Samajis too taught Hindi in their night schools, avoiding local languages. Local people, both Hindus and Muslims, were ridiculed for not knowing proper Urdu which of course meant Urdu of Lucknow and Delhi and not the Dakhani language. The Dakhani language, a beautiful product of interaction between Iranian settlers and the people of the Deccan speaking Telugu, Marathi and Kannada was totally ignored.
Events before the police Action and after were traumatic. Five thousand socialists, communists and common people died fighting Nizam`s feudal system and the Razakars, a paramilitary organisation of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslameen. Policemen and Razakars also suffered heavy casualties. Then came the Police Action. While there was not much violence in Telangana after the Police Action, Hyderabad-Karnataka and Marathwada presented a different picture.
From 1948 to 1956 Telangana passed through several phases-Military rule, Velodis rule and the induction of a popular government after elections in 1952. with Burugul Ramakrishna Rao as Chief Minister. The Hyderabad Tenancy Act, one of the most progressive acts in the history of modern India, was passed and partly implemented. The period between 1952 to 1956 can be described as the happiest period for the people of Telangana for a long time. The Hyderabad State could have continued its happy existence but for the decision to form linguistic states. Nehru and Lohia, in fact, advocated its continuance. But, as on many occasions in the past the people of Telangana were betrayed by a section of its leadership. Ostensibly on caste grounds. Brahmins belonging to the Congress raised the bogey of Reddy rule. Thus was formed Andhra Pradesh, much against the recommendations of the Fazal Ali Commission and advice of Nehru and Lohia.
The Andhra leadership still smarting at the ill-treatment meted out to them by the Tamil ruling ruling class in the old Madras Presidency, transferred the injury to the people of Telangana. But it was not merely a collective psychological problem. What was important was the lust for power and money of the feudal classes of the Andhra area, Kammas, Reddys and Brahmins. While Brahminic influence was eliminated by kammas, Reddys their own lust for land, power and money increased. They agreed lusted for the river waters of Telangana. Kammas, for a long time had been lusting for power. Their anti-Brahminism had nothing to do with the elimination of the caste system. They only wanted to replace Brahminic rule with their own dispensation. But Reddys of Rayalaseema, in alliance with the frustrated feudal elements of Telangana, checkmated them. Thus, Telangana Reddys of Rayalaseema continued to hold on to their lands and despotic power inspite of land reforms. They subjected Telangana feudals to every type of humiliation imaginable. Yet a character from this class betrayed the great peoples` movement for Telangana of 1968-1972.
As early as 1952, people of Hyderabad had revolted against alien rule. Six students laid down their lives in the anti-non-Mulki agitation. This agitation too was betrayed as also the 1956 agitation against the merger of Telangana with the Andhra State. Such is the character of Telangana leadership. Let the people beware!
The Naxalite movement itself was a product of the betrayal of the 1968-1972 movement as also tardy implementation of land reforms by the Coastal area-Rayalaseema feudal coalition. It is absurd to say that there is no feudalism in Andhra area. It is in fact along with north Bihar, the most despotic feudal system of India. Like North Bihar, it is a totally castist system too. can anybody imagine anything like Karamchedu and Chundur happening in Telangana? While both the feudal system and the caste system in Telangana have become extremely weak, they have been strengthened in the Andhra area with the influence of film capital and misuse of Telangana resources for agricultural development. A marauding capitalism has been superimposed on a casteist and feudal society. The ill-gotten film wealth and colonial exploitation of Telangana water and power resources have created an insane society. This can be seen in the casteisation and feudalisation of the communist parties. The Congress and Telugu Desam of course are the official representatives of this insanity. An attempt is being made to paper over contradictions in the Andhra area by throwing some crumbs to other castes and turning them into a comprador class. All the contradictions of the Andhra area are sought to be resolved by involving oppressed sections into a wholesale exploitation of Telangana link what was done by the ruling classes of West Pakistan in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Wholesale exploitation of Telangana resources for the benefit of the Andhra area is accompanied by attacks on the way of life of Telangana people. In fact, the insistence on the formation of Andhra Pradesh was itself with the intention of taking control of Telangana resources. A separate Hyderabad State or Telangana would have prevented such a take-over. But people can be totally enslaved only when their language and culture are destroyed. The Andhra burden is a continuation of the notion of white man’s burden. Those humiliated by the British and the Tamil ruling class have not learnt any lessons. They imagine that they can lord it over Telangana indefinitely. The British also thought so. The sun however has set on the British empire.
Telangana language is no Telugu, Telangana people are lazy, and they are also fools and criminals at the same time: Such are the officially sanctioned Andhra attitudes. While the entire country lauds Hyderabad and its way of life the Andhra rulers are never tired of saying that Telangana people are uncultured. Thus, the suicidal attempt to subjugate Telangana permanently continues. Even the recent outburst of kapu anger after the planned killing of Mohan Ranga has been forgotten. It is one of ironies of history that oppressors do not seem to learn anything from the searing experience of history.
What is described as the Telangana movement of 1969 actually commenced in December 1968 On 6th December1968, students took out a procession from Vivek Vardhini College in Hyderabad. The procession was attacked both by rowdies recruited by so-called integrationists and the police. In the melee that ensued along, several students were injured. Thus commenced the movement. Soon in Khammam and Warangal demonstrations were organised which later spread to Nizamabad and other parts of Telangana. Integrationists decided to organise a public meeting on 6th April 1969, at Buru Mahadev Hall, Secunderabad. Students gave a call for boycott of the meeting. The meeting to be addressed by a few Congressmen and Communists, was finally held but it was a very small gathering in a small hall. But thousands hand gathered outside the hall denouncing the holding of the meeting. Policemen opened fire on a totally peaceful crowd killing several young men. The martyrdom of young men was the spark that lit the fire all over Telangana. A little before this, at a meeting of intellectuals, it was decided to from an organisation called Tellangana Praja Samithi. Pratap Kishore and Raghuvee Rao were the prime movers behind this move. A.Madan, an advocate, was elected as President. Madan Mohan had no experience in politics and was chosen mainly because most others were employees in some organisation or the other. Under the banner of Telangana Praja Samithi, the movement spread to all corners of Telangana. A remarkable feature of this movement was its totally decentralised character. Praja Samithi and Students` Action Committees were formed everywhere without any direction from above. Whenever funds were required collections were made at the local level. By March 1969, the organisation was in shape to take on the Andhra Government.
After the police firing of 6th April the agitation began building up. Finally, the Praja Samithi decided to take out a rally to Raj Bhavan on 1st May 1969 which can be described as the golden day of the movement. The Government banned the rally. For about a kilometer on all sides of Charminar, movement of people was banned. Yet a night before hundreds had left their localities and taken shelter in Ghansi Bazar, Alijah Kotla, Kali kaman and Pathargatti areas around Charminar. Most of them were from the old city. The writer himself could reach Charminar after persuading armed policemen that he was going to offer pooja at the Charminar “Gudi’ (temple). For that purpose he carried coconut, arti karpoor and agarbattis. Of course, the pooja was performed, the only pooja he preformed in his life. Parikrama too was performed around Charminar and not merely around ‘Gudi’. By that time K.V.Ranga Reddy had arrived. He had become so weak that he could be taken to the Chabutra with the greatest difficulty. He was almost blinded and deaf. Yet when he spoken his voice was firm, not betraying old age. By the time he started speaking hundreds had gathered at the site defying thousands of armed policemen. He spoke very briefly. The last sentence of his speech will ever remain etched in my memory-”Ghulami Ki Zindagi se mouth acchi hai” (death is preferable to a life of slavery). Even before he could be escorted out of the place teargas cylinders were bursting all around.
The grand old man of Telangana had spoken and people spoken with their blood. More than a hundred teargas shells were fired at the procession. But there was no stopping the procession and by the time it reached Afzalgunj it had swelled to a few thousand. The police started firing at Siddiambar Bazar area which continued all along the procession route, till it reached Raj Bhavan. But even then firing continued intermittently and Umrender Rao, President of Secunderabad College Union (Evening), fell to a bullet near Raj Bhavan. It was said later that a section of Telangana policemen had refused to open fire in the Raj Bhavan area. Yet in spite of all the tear-gassing and firing the procession continued to swell and by the time it reached Raj Bhavan there were more then fifty thousand people. It was an amazing spectacle. Generally crowds disperse as soon as policemen open fire. But here was a procession which was swelling with every round of firing. By March itself Congressmen had started infiltrating the movement. Later they proved to be Trojan horses. They started propagating the pernicious thesis that the movement needed a `leader of stature` whatever it might mean. And they started canvassing for Channa Reddy, suggesting the resignation of Madan Mohan from Presidentship. Alternatively, they threatened to form a parallel samiti. At this critical juncture, courage and common sense were needed. White Madan Mohan proved to be totally spineless, B.Satyanarayana Reddy and Badri Vishaal Pittie supported Channa Reddy`s plans. Others followed him. On 21st May 1969, six months after the agitation was launched Channa Reddy who had nothing to do with the movement, became the President of Telangana Praja Samiti. The Trojan horse had entered the organisation. He started dismantling the organisation at every level, disbanding student, trade union, NGOs and women`s Committees. Centralised collection of funds started. Corruption seeped in. Yet the movement continued since it was still alive at the grassroots level. A call had been sent out to boycott examinations to be held from 1st June onwards. The NGOs` strike was continuing. The entire administration had been paralysed.
There was heavy police firing on 1st and 2nd June. Aruna a high school student, who was picketing an examination centre near Chandarghat was killed on 1st June, 1969. Several more student fell to police bullets all over Telangana. It was then that Indira Gandhi, healding a weak minority Government, paid a flying midnight visit to Hyderabad to pacify people, perhaps also to purchase some leaders. In the meantime a parallel Samiti was formed with M. Sridhar Reddy as Chairman who soon left for America. Channa Reddy announced the suspension of the movement even though Nagam Krishna Rao and Madan Mohan had been elected to the Assembly as people’s candidates. With the approach of 1971 midterm poll, the TPS decided to contest the election and won, inspite of Channa Reddy`s leadership. Channa Reddy in a volte-face announced the merger of TPS with the Congress. Students stormed the TPS office but Channa Reddy had escaped. The merger was a stunning blow to the people of Telangana and their aspirations. More than 370 had fallen to police bullets., hundreds more had been crippled. The people of Telangana were overcome with a sense of despair and hopelessness. They had made immense sacrifices even the movement was with drawn. What else were they expected to do ?
The Socialist Party, the Republican party and a few unattached intellectuals revived the agitation under the banner of TPS and gave a call for Telangana Bandh on 23rd November 1972, which was total. A young man was killed in police firing near Charminar. In the meantime, an agitation had been started for a separate Andhra State. Congressmen soon took over the reins of that movement also which was originally led by Tenneti Vishwanathan and Gouthu Lachanna. In fact. a joint committee to fight for two separate states of Andhra and Telangana was formed of which the writer was a member. Using the Channa Reddy model Congressmen took over the Jai Andhra movement, sabotaged it and demanded cancellation of all Telangana safeguards. Channa Reddy and his Congress followers collaborated with them and all the safeguards were taken away to be replaced later by the six Point Formula.
In the meantime 1972 Assembly elections had arrived and Sampurna Telangana Praja Samiti whose President was B.Satyanarayana Reddy and the writer, the Secretary, decided to contest 49 seats. Three candidates of STPS were victorious and a large number lost with narrow margins. All this without any resources. But the decline had started and by the end of 1972 the agitation petered out. It was the longest, most spontaneous, non-party, toughest, most-intense and the greatest movement of free India. It was a totally peaceful movement. Yet those who are never tired of calling themselves followers of Gandhi unleashed the most terrible violence on the movement. Telangana had been turned into a National Police Museum. Malabar Special Police, Maharashtra Armed Police, Uttar Pradesh Armed Constabulary, Jammu Kashmir Militia, Karnataka Armed Police, Tamil Nadu Armed Police, Bihar Armed Police companies were posted all over Telangana. The Gorkha Marhatta regiments of the army were also deployed. In fact officers of the Gorkha Regiment were amazed at the ability of Telangana people to improvise new forms of agitation. Gorkhas came face to face with a 8 feet high barricade in Hussaini Alam area and could not believe that it was erected by civilians !
Yet most horrible atrocities were inflicted on the citizens. Lakhs went to jail. Most school and college buildings in Telangana had been turned into prisons. With Telangana jails full, detainees were sent to Rajahmundry and Vizag jails. White no Andhra was touched in Telangana two Telangana citizens were burnt alive in the Andhra area. We were witnessing the unfolding of regional fascism of the worst kind.
I cannot forget a few incidents. In the 1952 agitation the shirt of a slain student had been turned into a flag-the red flag of anger, martyrdom and relentless battle was fluttering in the air and policemen were firing at the procession on the Abids Chowrasta. On women’s satyagraha in 1969 day I saw hundreds of women, from the age of 15 to 75 marching along the Puranapul-Hussaini Alam road towards Charminar and being lathicharged by policemen, On another day about twenty young men singing, an Urdu song “Telangana, Telangana Telangana ki Jai” were marching towards a police platoon posted near Charminar to stop processions. There are thousand of such stories. A leaderless agitation head emerged morally victorious even though politically betrayed. But the movement continued, undaunted by betrayals. Twice every year large numbers gathered at the Martyrs Memorials in Secunderabad and Hyderabad and paid tributes to martyrs. In January, 1986 some activists decided to form `Telangana Information Trust`. Soon “Ma Telangana” was launched, which was closed down after seven months due to financial troubles. More then a thousand people had gathered at its inaugural function at Basant Talkies, Kachiguda,. Around 1991 two organisations, Telangana Student Front and Telangana Liberation Students Organisation were launched in Osmania Universty. In 1992 the Kakatiya Unit of Telangana Students Front was formed. A national seminar on small state was held in Landscape Gardens and Tagore Auditorium in August 1993 . Surendera Mohan inaugurated the conference and Justice Madhav Reddy addressed the gathering. George Fernandes addressed the concluding session. Delegates from various parts of the country including Vilas Bhongade from Vidarbha and Laxman Dasti from Hyderabad-Karnatak attended the conference. Both TSF and TLSO organised demonstrations on and outside O.U.campus and forced Osmania University to sanction 15 per cent supernumerary seats to Telangana students.
Stirrings of a new movement could be clearly seen in Warangal on 1st November 1996 at the Telangana Praja Samiti convention attended by more than five thousand delegates from all parts of Telangana. The Hyderabad convention was held on 1st December 1996 and after that a series of conferences, group and public meetings have been held at Godavarikhani, Karimnagar, Siddipet,Jangaon, Aler, Ghanpur, Nizamabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, the old city of Hyderabad and Bhongir. The Bhongir conference and the public meeting proved to be a turning point. The Bhongir conference was addressed among other by Kaloji Narayan Rao, Dr. Jayashankar, Prof.P.L. Vishweshwer Rao, Dr.Srinivasulu, Sidda Reddy, Dr.Simhadri and many others who had come from all parts of Telangana. The public meeting presided over by shri Mallayya Gupta, a respected Communist leader and addressed by Gaddar among others was a huge gathering, much beyond the expectations of organisers. Gaddar called upon the people to launch a totally peaceful agitation for achievement of a separate state while the writer called for a new type of leadership from grassroots upwards, emphasizing total control over leaders by masses. A mong parties opposing the Telangana movement of 1969 were the Communist party, Jan Sangh and Majlis-Ittehadual-Muslimeen. While the first two represented upper-caste, upper-class section of the Andhra area, the Majlis represented upper-caste, upper-class, and non-Daccani section. However both Hindus and Muslims supported the movement and dealt a crushing blow to all the above mentioned parties in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections. The role of Daccani and Urdu in the Telangana movement cannot be ignored. While Telugisation is a historical and necessary process it would be a folly to ignore Urdu and Daccani. Such an act would be a repetition of Nizam`s mistake in ignoring Telugu, Marathi, Hindi and Kannada. Hindi and Urdu are based on Dahhani and Khadi Boli. They are a part of our heritage. Who can forget the part played by Maqdoom Mohiuddin, Ibrahim Jalles, Sulaiman Areeb, Raja Dube, Jeelani Bano, Om Prakash Nirmal and many others who have enriched the politics and culture of Telangana through their. writings. The Andhra elite in their linguistic chauvinism of regarding Guntur Telugu as the only Telugu have tried to rodeo roughshod over Telangana Telugu and Daccani as also Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, and Kannada, Similarly tribal language were sought to be destroyed. New Telangana will nurture all these languages which are a part of our cultural and literary heritage.
Telangana now stands on the verge of another movement for liberation from aliens and for participatory politics. What the people of Telangana do now and how colonialists react will decide the future course of Indian politics. The demand for small states is a demand for responsible and participatory politics. The Telangana movement of 1969 was the first Indian struggle for economic and cultural autonomy. The movement going on now has added a demand for social emancipation. This is as it should be. The whole world is moving towards liberation from racism, sexism and casteism. Telangana has stood in the vanguard of such movements for the last fifty years and awaits correct leadership. What then shall we do now? The job is not to liberate Telangana from a colonial system but also to liberate Andhras from their selfishness and greed which is increasing in leaps and bounds. The liberation of Andhras, however, can only commence with the formation of a separate state of Telangana. How do we visualise Telangana? Because people are asking us for whom Telangana is sought to be formed? What is the point in fighting for Telangana if nothing is to change? One thing that will change for sure is that we will have control over our resources, jobs and education. But, that has to be only the beginning. Other policies have to be visualized and projected