1 What is Telangana?
It’s a region in Andhra Pradesh. It refers to 10 districts in the north-western part of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad, the current capital, is also in Telangana.
Back in 1947, Telangana was part of the Hyderabad state, which had been ruled by the Nizams since the 18th century. The term Telangana was first used to separate the Telugu-speaking parts of the Hyderabad state from those where Telugu wasn’t spoken.
2So what is Rayalaseema? And how does Andhra figure in all of this?
Rayalaseema is made up of the four districts to the south of Telangana, which are not on the coastline. All the remaining districts that skirt the coast are together called Coastal Andhra.
In 1953, bowing to increasing popular pressure, the Nehru government created the Andhra State – they carved out the Telugu-speaking regions of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema that had until then been part of the Madras state. Then, in 1956 – for many, many reasons we cannot go into here – they merged the Andhra state with the 10 districts of Telangana. The result: Andhra Pradesh.
3Why does Telangana want to split from Andhra Pradesh now?
People from Telangana claim they got a raw deal from successive state governments. That is, enough money hasn’t been invested to develop infrastructure or industry in the region, unemployment is higher in Telangana, and most real estate and industry in and around Hyderabad is owned by people originally from Rayalaseema and the coastal districts.
They also say they are stung by decades of derision – their Telugu is often mocked as a cruder dialect and many of Telugu cinema’s villainous roles are caricatures of Telangana people.
4Are they right?
It’s complicated. And anyway, it’s not for us — at The 545 — to decide.
5How old is the movement for a separate Telangana?
It’s more than 40 years old. The first wave of protests in favor of a separate state broke out in 1969.
Like all movements, it ebbed and flowed. Political compromises, the course of history and N.T. Rama Rao’s swift rise to power in 1984 under the banner of Telugu unity kept separation at bay.
The demand picked up again in the mid-90s and gained momentum in 2001 with the creation of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), a political party devoted to a separate Telangana. But the Congress won decisively in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and 2009. Chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (Y.S.R) never committed to splitting the state, although he had struck an alliance with the TRS before the 2004 polls.
Then, in 2009, Y.S.R was killed in a helicopter crash. A suddenly rudderless party fractured further as the demand for a separate Telangana quickened. K. Chandrasekhara Rao, the TRS leader, started a hunger strike, protests broke out, and the Cabinet announced it would create a separate state. Then, a few months later, they changed their mind when people in other parts of Andhra started to agitate against the split.
Meanwhile, YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, became popular. He soon fell out with the Congress (he allegedly sought the post of Chief Minister), floated his own party and named it after his father – YSR Congress. He even beat the Congress in midterm polls.
Last July, the Congress again agreed to a separate Telangana. Given Jaganmohan Reddy’s rising clout, many see Congress’ nod to Telangana as a purely political tactic to win votes in the region in this year’s election.
7Wouldn’t Congress then lose in the rest of Andhra Pradesh?
One would assume so. But MPs from Seemandhra (Rayalaseema+Coastal Andhra) are kicking up a fuss of such magnitude that one cannot help but wonder if their stubborn refusal will, in fact, win them votes?
It seems like everyone tried their best to either pass the bill or blind the people who were trying to pass the bill. In the end, no one offended their respective voters.
But polls are predicting that Congress’ long held support in Andhra Pradesh is about to dwindle, and regional parties such as TRS and YSR Congress will be the winners.
8Why are politicians and people from Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra opposing the split?
Short answer: Hyderabad.
Long answer: The capital — rich in real estate, industry, entrepreneurship and tourism — will become a part of Telangana. As the capital, it has attracted investment from people who don’t live there, including politicians and industrialists from other parts of the state. And many of the people who live and have invested in Hyderabad over the years aren’t from Telangana originally. They moved to Hyderabad after 1956. So they are wary of what the split might entail, especially since they are often referred to as “settlers.”
9Who decides that Telangana gets Hyderabad?
Well, it’s in Telangana and always has been. But the Cabinet decision says Hyderabad will be a joint capital for the first decade.
It is expected and hoped that Seemandhra will develop a capital in 10 years. The choices range from gilded Tirupati to the lusher Vijayawada.
11What’s up with Lagadapati Rajagopal aka the guy who used pepper spray in Parliament?
It’s hard to say. Although, it’s not the first time he’s resorted to such antics. The year was 2009 and he decided to go on a fast-unto-death against a separate Telangana. When he was detained in Vijayawada in an obscure government hospital, he “escaped” surveillance. He emerged 15 hours later in Hyderabad. Turns out he had rushed to the capital, and snuck into the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences, which was swarming with media because that’s where KCR was striking for Telangana.
He was caught on camera by a local TV station as he sprinted into one of the general wards and lay down on a bed, presumably awaiting treatment.
Aparna Alluri is a freelance reporter, finishing up a graduate degree at Columbia University. For now, she is tinkering with words and sound, and she is always plotting where to travel next. Follow her at @aparnalluri