For almost one month now, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh have been on a boil. With little or no leadership from the political class, the agitation against the proposed division has gained a momentum of its own with people coming on to the roads voluntarily and rallying around the slogan of 'Samaikya Andhra (united Andhra)’.
The sudden unrest is the fallout of the announcement by the Congress Working Committee on July 30 last that Andhra Pradesh would be bifurcated to carve out a new state of Telangana.
Though Seemandhra – a recent expression denoting coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema - has a population of 5 crore with another estimated 50 lakhs living in Telangana, their unorganised and leaderless protests have not attracted national attention as the region is far away from the media radar – in contrast to Telangana agitation which has Hyderabad as its centre point.
Even during the peak of Telangana agitation, the voice of Andhra was barely heard, while political parties of all hues (with the exception of CPM and MIM)), national leaders of opposing persuasions, intellectuals of the left, right and centre, activists from Arvind Kejriwal to Medha Patkar found the resonance from Hyderabad more forceful.
With division a fiat accompli, a sense of loss, betrayal and a sense of being wounded in the whole bargain left the people of Seemandhra clueless and dumb-founded.
Why are the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema so upset? Why are they on the roads? What is their problem if the state is divided?
First, it should be remembered that the road leading to the proposed division of AP was strewn with a minefield of misinformation, bitterness, enmity and dubious arguments, all carefully constructed over more than a decade.
Now, the question is whether the division of the state was based on these premises that the proponents of Telangana have been forcefully putting up all these years. No one – neither the CWC nor the UPA - said that it was not so. There lies the problem.
To begin with, take the elaborate falsifications spread by the Telangana protagonists about the backwardness of their region.
Few people are aware that the long-standing contention that Telangana remained a backward region in united Andhra was proved a barefaced lie by no less than an eminent committee constituted by the Centre. One of the terms of reference of Justice Srikrishna Committee was to “review the developments in the State since its formation and their impact on the progress and development of the different regions of the State”. And what did the committee of experts say after exhaustive study?
"It is a fact that most of the economic and developmental parameters show that Telangana (excluding Hyderabad) is either on par with or a shade lower than coastal Andhra; but once Hyderabad is included, the situation in Telangana is far better. Additionally, the rate of growth of most of the parameters of development has shown robust growth in Telangana. Coastal Andhra has natural advantages and a long history of development in agriculture, but it is the Telangana region which has shown commendable growth in agriculture during the past three-four decades. Thus, on the whole, it would appear that the deprived region is Rayalaseema not Telangana".
But the misrepresentation continues to be paraded everywhere as if it is a gospel truth.
And this is what hurts the Andhra people. They feel distressed as the Centre did not even bother to clarify that the announcement of separate Telangana was nothing to do with this false propaganda.
And then, the pile of allegations, accusations, insinuations and indictments that Seemandhra people had to suffer all through the Telangana movement.
TRS, in its relentless pursuit of regionalism, has projected Andhras as the born-enemies of Telangana, resorted to the most abominable abuse, used even the slightest opportunity to hammer existing prejudices, heaped humiliations, blackmailed politicians, officials, journalists, lawyers, doctors etc. by branding them as anti-Telangana, if they as much as made any feeble protest against innuendos.
“Looters, capitalists, land grabbers” were some of the choicest epithets used on a daily basis. “(Telanganawale) Jago-(Andhrawale) Bhago” is a popular expressed used by TRS to target the so-called Andhra migrants.
“CM Kiran can run a curry point in Hyderabad, we have no problem,” is how TRS chief KCR welcomes the announcement of bifurcation, in an obvious derogatory reference to the ubiquitous and popular food joints introduced in the capital by Andhra and Rayalaseema people.
And almost all other political parties remained mute spectators to this caricature of an entire region and people – caught as they were in a cleft stick of politics of expediency.
Given such a long history of manufactured animosity, how can the Centre now take a decision without providing a sense of closure to all the bitterness that was created for nearly a decade? That is the question that rattles Andhra.
Then there is the issue of Hyderabad. Only Telangana has an absolute right over the capital city, aver the T champions. And the Centre seems – from Andhra point of view - to have capitulated to this demand. It is the Seemandhra capitalists with vested interests in Hyderabad who are insisting on equal rights over the city, they allege.
Is it the whole truth?
There has been a huge movement of people, especially during the last 40 years, from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions to Hyderabad in search of education, training, employment, trade and business opportunities. The post-liberalisation period gave further fillip to this trend. The tectonic shift that happened in the movement of people to the capital can be understood from the fact that under the delimitation of constituencies while Seemandhra lost 12 Assembly constituencies, Greater Hyderabad gained 11 Assembly seats. And this is according 2001 census. During the last 12 years, the migration to Hyderabad only increased multifold.
The flow of capital and entrepreneurial initiatives from Andhra and Rayalaseema can by no means be underestimated. Almost the entire film industry, owned majorly by Andhras, shifted from Madras to Hyderabad – their new capital - in 1970s. A significant number of hotels, hospitals, film studios, educational institutions, IT companies, infrastructure companies, pharma industries and media companies were established by people from Seemandhra.
Besides, as capital of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad became the natural choice – at the expense of Telangana and Seemandhra - for the establishment of very important national institutions and big ticket industry in the government sector. So much so that even the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), which should ideally be located in the coastal city of Vizag, is in Hyderabad.
“Hyderabad is ours,” the T protagonists keep on chanting. “No options, geeptions for Andhra employees,” provokes KCR in his maverick style.
It is not merely the sentimental and emotional attachment that has caused anxiety and apprehensions in Andhra on handing over Hyderabad solely to Telangana. Hyderabad is currently the cash cow that makes Andhra Pradesh one of the largest states in the country in terms of GDP. The city rakes in half of the revenue of the state. While the total revenue of the state in 2012-13 is Rs 69,146 crore, nearly half of it – Rs 34,100 crore is accrued from Hyderabad alone.
“..Hyderabad district which is fully urbanized has grown at the cost of all the three regions and is now central to the economies of the three regions in Andhra Pradesh,” Sri Krishna Committee report said.
What will happen to Andhra and Rayalaseema without this lion’s share of state revenue? Would the boys and girls from Andhra continue to have access to national and international institutions based in Hyderabad for both education and employment? Will the big and small businesses owned by Andhra and Rayalaseema be allowed to conduct themselves without fear of blackmail? Without a mega city of their own, what will happen to the present and future generations of Andhra and Rayalaseema? Will their sons and daughters and relatives living in Hyderabad in large numbers – unofficial estimates vary between 30-40 lakh in Greater Hyderabad - from every nook and corner of Seemandhra be safe and sound when the city becomes the sole property of Telangana state?
These are the fears, concerns and worries that have pulled every section of society in Andhra and Rayalaseemar out of slumber and onto the roads. While political parties are desperately trying to catch up with the mood of the people, the Seemandra angst is manifest across the social, cultural and economic barriers.
Many Telangana activists and intellectuals deride that ‘samaikya (unity)’ cannot be a forced affair and that the Samaikyandhra agitation is an ‘artificial’ one. But any keen observer would see that ‘samaikya’ is only a code word in the ongoing agitation for fair treatment in the event of a division. Setting the record straight on accusations of exploitation and reasonable accommodation on Hyderabad are what the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema are looking for.