The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference.
Open Heart with RK is a popular programme which is aired on Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy. The programme is conducted by channel’s proprietor, Radhakrishna (RK). Recently, he hosted four farmers on his show – one from Telangana, one from Coastal Andhra Pradesh, one from Andhra region and one from Rayalaseema region. This was a welcome departure from listening to the gyan professed by arm chair heroes. We got to hear from the person on the ground on what his/her views are on the ongoing agitations.
Farmer from Telangana: He came into limelight in 2008, when he had an interaction with Chandrababu Naidu and demanded a separate State of Telangana. He owns 1/2 acre of land. After the newspaper Andhrajyothy, highlighted this question, TRS chief KCR promised to give him two acres of land. Needless to say, it never happened. Irrespective of that, Malayya still insists on wanting a separate Telangana. He laments that all their water is merely going to Andhra region, and this is because of the State being united. He believes that their water is going waste and If Telangana were to be formed, this water will be his. He also believes that if he gets his own State, then his children will get better opportunity for education and jobs. He also says that he doesn’t trust political leaders much but very strongly believes that separate State will solve his problems.
Farmer from Rayalaseema: His argument is two fold. One that Rayalaseema will become a desert if a separate State of Telangana is formed. Two, all the progress so far the State has made with respect to jobs, education etc will be lost. Because we have such a good hub at Hyderabad, this progress was possible. He cited the example of his own son who came to Hyderabad, found an opportunity and has now settled well in other regions of the State as an area manager of a bank. He also cited an anecdote. If four brothers put in efforts to nurture a coconut tree, how fair is it that one brother comes back and says, I will take the coconuts, you keep the tree? The coconut tree reference here being Hyderabad.
Farmer from Andhra: She rose to fame during the 2008-2009 election in AP. She gave fiery speech at one of Chiranjeevi’s meetings and he was so impressed that he promised to give her an MLA ticket. RK asked her why she wants the State to be united. She said that it would be nice if all Telugu speaking folks are united. And it would be nice if Hyderabad still remains accessible to poor people like her. RK said that Hyderabad will still remain accessible, so why the fear and doubt? She says the feeling of Hyderabad being ‘ours’ will not be there, and therefore, it’s not the same thing. Incidentally, she has no relative living in Hyderabad and yet she yearns that the State be united for this reason.
Farmer from Coastal Andhra: His views are in consonance with the farmers from Rayalaseema and Andhra. When asked what is the solution to this problem, he said that the day you build one Hyderabad like city per district, then feel free to split the State!
On a recent visit to the north coastal district of Srikakulam, I saw a small welding shop owner displaying a United AP slogan inside the shop. No political party asked him to do so – he put it up on his own. His argument same as the farmers above – all of us should be united and Hyderabad should be accessible for jobs. While travelling in an auto, the auto driver himself asked me – “How is it even possible to build another capital like Hyderabad? Will anyone get as many opportunities that they can get in Hyderabad?”. Students seek to know if they will ever get as many educational opportunities as they do in Hyderabad.
Now you might ask – why this fear? After all, the proposal is to merely split the State – not form a separate country! The reason for this fear is the freak vitriolic atmosphere created by certain leaders in Telangana. Prominent amongst them is KCR and his family. KCR once pompously said, Telangana wale jaago, Andhra waale bhago. In the age of electronic media, it picked up within no time. And within no time, KCR told us that he was misquoted.
In December 2009, his son KTR was asked this same question on NDTV’s We the People” – listen to his response (from around 49th minute). He says that slogan is only meant for those Andhra people who have come here as exploiters and plunderers! When asked how he would differentiate on who came to exploit and who didn’t, he goes about explaining the Visa system in the US in a bizarre attempt to draw a parallel! He then goes on to explain that about 59000 people from Andhra have come and settled here on the Government jobs; thereby breaking the terms of 610 GO issued by Government of AP. He was not ready to withdraw that slogan though.
There were freak attacks on hotels that displayed ‘Andhra meals ready’ – media as usual picked them up. YSR bought up this Visa comparison resorted to by KCR and family, in the 2009 election campaign too. Leaders from the Seemandhra region were quick to launch verbal attacks on KCR, and simultaneously compounding the fear in ordinary folks too by saying that if Telangana comes, we will all be asked to leave Hyderabad.
In 2013, just days after the Congress Working Committee resolution, KCR was at it again. Addressing the Government employees from the Telangana region, he said that the folks from Andhra will have to leave. There are no other options available! This again created a furore – with the media mischievously saying he meant all the people from Andhra! KCR was insisting (and continues to insist) that the Government employees from Andhra haveno option but to leave Hyderabad. Quite obviously, the employees from Seemandhra will not take this lying down. Nor would political leaders, union leaders and common folk.
The clamour for Hyderabad is because it is a hub of education, healthcare, employment, politics and opportunities. You name it and you have it. All premier institutes of education (even a Indian Institute of Oceanic Studies!) are in Hyderabad. All premier institutes of healthcare are in Hyderabad. Innocent folks on the streets of Seemandhra seek to know if they can go to Hyderabad now, for health checkups! So you might ask why was no other city developed like Hyderabad was?
Chandrababu Naidu sold the idea of Hyderabad as an IT destination in the late 1990s. At around 2004, after Hyderabad as an IT destination reached a formidable position, he came up with plans to make hubs in other cities too. After Congress won the elections in 2004, most of these plans were either terminated or executed slowly! Many large land allocations have gone into litigation (because of corruption charges against Congress Governments!) – so much so that the present Congress Government is cancelling land allotted by the previous Congress regime! Amidst all this, it just became easier to setup institutes/offices in Hyderabad itself. And here we are today, where a mere mention of having to give up on this large capital city is not acceptable to a large section.
But the awesome UPA Government and Sonia Gandhi have told us that this will be the joint capital for 10 years and then Andhra Pradesh can have it’s own new capital. So why worry? Simply put – no one remotely believes that it is possible to build a city that is even close to what Hyderabad is, right now. No one trusts any politician to be so efficient that in 10 years, another capital city as good as Hyderabad will come up. Hence the massive reaction against the idea of splitting up the State.
Despite multiple assurances by people in power that every citizen of India has the right to live peacefully in Hyderabad – the fear psychosis has not died down. The utterances of KCR (in whatever context) over the years have not at all helped this cause either. Remember the mass exodus of Northeast residents from Hyderabad and Bangalore? The fear is something similar to that – “how can we even dream of giving up on Hyderabad?” is the constant refrain of the protesting folks. It’s a deep sense of belonging that has become emotional now. What if, tomorrow, these people start blaming Andhra folks for losing jobs in the private sector too?
We need an inspired and transparent leadership to achieve a smooth bifurcation. Neither of which is being provided by Sonia Gandhi at the moment. If this continues, the fear factor will only increase – not subside.