Hyderabad, Jan 31 — For 56 years they have lived in the same state and spoken the same language. But this linguistic affinity may not keep them together for long.
As the movement for a Telangana state enters a decisive phase, the divide between the economically backward Telangana region and Seemandhra (as the rest of Andhra Pradesh is known) appears deep and complete.
Despite many commonalities, the people of Telangana and Seemandhra came from different historical, geographical and socio-economic background.
There are vast differences in linguistic accent, culture, customs, food habits, festivals and even the deities they worship.
Andhra Pradesh is India’s fifth most populous state with 84.6 million people. Telangana accounts for 35.28 million. Andhra region and Rayalseema are home to 34.19 million and 15.13 million people respectively.
For Telanganities, the movement is a fight for “self respect” and against “exploitation” by others in the state. Andhra leaders deny this.
The proponents of a separate state cite the Telugu film industry as a classic example of the divide.
All the top actors and producers are from Andhra and the films make fun of the language spoken in Telangana with Deccani accent. It is usually the villain or the comedian in the film who speaks this accent.
Rayalaseema comprises four districts while the Andhra region is made up of nine coastal districts. Most are prosperous because of fertile land and industrial development.
While Telangana, comprising 10 districts including Hyderabad, was part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State, Andhra state was carved out of Madras Presidency in 1953 for Telugu-speaking people with Kurnool as its capital.
Telangana remained as Hyderabad State from 1948 to 1956 when it was merged with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as the capital.
Ignoring the reservations over the merger of Telangana with Andhra, then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave his nod for a new Andhra Pradesh.
He did comment that “an innocent girl called Telangana is being married to a naughty boy called Andhra. It is their choice to continue or to get separated”.
Those fighting for Telangana insist the time has come for separation, alleging that the constitutional guarantees given at the time of merger to protect the region’s interests were never honoured.
Though Telangana region witnessed violent protests seeking statehood in 1969-70, the movement fizzled out.
It was revived in 2000. The goal was almost achieved in 2009 when massive protests forced the central government to announce that the process for formation of Telangana state would be initiated.
But the backlash in Seemandhra made the central government backtrack.
Many deadlines were set but the goal remained elusive. Some say that some 1,000 pro-Telangana youths committed suicide in the last three years.
Officials admits that the region is on the boil. Many believe that a separate state will be a reality in the near future.
Some in Seemandhra have no objection to a Telangana state. But the bone of contention is Hyderabad.
While pro-Telangana groups insist the new state should have Hyderabad as its capital, the powerful Andhra lobby is not ready to give away a city in which its businessmen and industrialists made huge investments in the last five decades.
Many believe it is the status of Hyderabad that is delaying a final decision on the issue.
Telangana groups are ready to share the city as capital with Seemandhra for some time but are against the idea of making it a union territory or a separate state by itself.
Political analysts warn that unless a formula acceptable to all is evolved on Hyderabad’s future, there are no hopes of an early solution to the Telangana imbroglio.