Friday, 4 May 2012

Telangana: Past, Present, Future

Part - 1

The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences (1972) defines a social movement as a variety of collective attempts to bring about change. Social movements are one of the internal forces which contribute to changes in the society. Fate of these movements depends on a varied number of sociological factors. Not all social movements are able to accomplish their desideratum and are eventually suppressed. Only a few are able to sustain their prominence for years to follow. Telangana movement is an exemplar of one such movement. Telangana still remains an issue which hasn’t been able to reach the shores of an amicable solution. The issue still remains a major epicenter of producing flux in the political circles.

Let us now understand in retrospect the historical aspect to assimilate the underpinnings of this movement. Telangana movement refers to the Communists led peasant uprising between 1946 and 1951 in the Telangana region of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. Erstwhile Hyderabad consisted of 16 districts out of which 8 were Telegu speaking known as Telangana Districts while the other 8 formed parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra. The state was ruled by a Muslim King, Osman Ali Khan or popularly known as Nizam of Hyderabad. 

At the beginning of the 20th century (1901) Muslims formed 10% of the population while 90% were Hindus. By 1946, the share of Muslim Populace had increased to 14% as a result of proselytization activities of an organization called Anjuman-e-Taligh-ul-Islam. This created a sense of resentment among the Hindus and Arya Samaj launched a parallel ‘Shudhi Movement’ which further caused polarization between Hindus and Muslims. 

The official language and the medium of interaction in the schools was Urdu which was resented by the Telegu speaking population. The police and civil administration was dominated by Muslims i.e. more than half of the functionaries were Muslims. Hindus felt cheated and demanded proportionate representation. Primarily, it was a backward state with more than 85% of the population engaged in agricultural activities.  The land of the agrarian state was unevenly distributed with 60% under Ryotwari System (where land revenue was directly imposed on the peasants) and remaining 40% under Nizam. The Ryotwari areas were dominated by big landlords called ‘Deshmukhs’ with many of them having thousands of acres of land.

From the year 1910 there emerged a trend of land alienation wherein small farmers lost their lands to big landlords who would forcefully grab the land from these peasants.

Moreover, the highly repressive characteristic of Nizam’s rule didn’t allow political activity in the state. This is evident from the fact that freedom movement at that time was running in full course in the country except in Hyderabad.  

The Turning Point:

In 1921, an official Social conference was held in Hyderabad. A delegate from Telangana region wanted to deliver his speech in Telegu but wasn’t allowed to do so. This offended Telangana community who are known to maintain strong sentiments for their language. There was a call for a mass protest.  An organization called ‘Andhra Jan Sangham’ was created with an agenda to propagate their state language, Telugu. Various activities were undertaken by this organization to promote Telugu like honoring Telugu Pundits, commencement of journals and weeklies in Telugu language. Soon enough these Telugu weeklies and journals became agents of Social Reforms as they talked about social issues like abolition of child marriage, untouchability and other social injustices.

Later in 1930, the above mentioned ‘Andhra Jan Sangham’ was replaced by ‘Andhra Maha Sabha’ which was explicitly reformist in nature and lead by Hanumamanta  Rao. They took up the cause of social reforms in the state and made political demands for representative and responsible government. The initial response of Nizam was positive towards this organization. Since Nizam’s rule directly acquired support from big landlords the reforms were not largely supported. But Nizam soon turned hostile as soon as the organization demanded political reforms. He felt Andhra Maha Sabha was a direct threat to his rule. An organization called Majlis-e-Itthehad-ul-Muslimeen (Majlis) was created by Nizam’s supporters at the behest of Nizam to protect his rule. Majlis started a movement where the students in schools and colleges would have to join prayers for the eternal rule of Nizam. Andhra Maha Sabha retaliated with ‘Vande Mataram Movement’ (1931-38). This was also the phase when the politicization of the movement began. Andhra Maha Sabha accumulated a large support in the form of educated youth. It included the firebrand leader ‘Ravi Narayan Reddy’. 

Ravi Narayan Reddy came under Marxist influence after he joined Andhra Maha Sabha. By this time, wind of radicalization had started to blow within Andhra Maha Sabha. Ravi Narayan Reddy demanded politicization of masses and moved resolutions against rich landlords in favor of small peasants. These demands went against rich landlords. The younger elements were in support of RNR as he talked about land reforms like land for tiller, wages for landless laborers to be raised etc. However land owning members of Andhra Maha Sabha who had a moderate approach distanced them from RNR a far as redistribution of land was concerned.  This rift led to an internal division within the organization. 

In 1944, a Session was held at Bhongir. The senior leaders of landowning background boycotted the Bhongir session. Thus RNR and his group got an opportunity to capture the organization and eventually Andhra Maha Sabha was split up.

In 1945, two parallel meetings of Anhra Maha Sabha were held. One was held at Khammam which was dominated by Commmunists and the other at Warangal, dominated by moderates. The meeting held at Khammam explicitly iterated demands for democracy, problems of poor peasants and landless laborers which is the very essence of any Communist movement. 

The year 1946 marked the beginning of Telangana rebellion due to occurrence of an event in Jangaon Taluk of Nalgonda district. One of the Deshmukhs who allegedly owned more than forty thousand acres of land had sent his henchman to forcibly grab land of a widowed woman. One of the communist followers of AMS tried to defend the widow and opposed the henchman but was killed. The incident acted as an effective trigger and lead to violent retaliation by AMS and in 1946 communist cadres started attacking landlords and even confronted the police who opposed them. Slowly this movement started spreading and the communists lead section developed a base among small and marginal farmers while the rich peasants stayed away. With course of time the activists also procured better weapons and adopted Guerilla war tactics. Nizam didn’t have an army to defend himself from the Communists cadres so he raised an irregular force called the ‘Razakars’. It just took about 1½-2 years for AMS to establish their hold in about 2000 villages with a force that consisted of 2000 regular communists’ cadres and 10000 village volunteers. 

At this point in time Nizam committed a political blunder of declaring that Hyderabad wouldn’t join India under the special provision for princely states. Consequently, the landowning moderates who identified with Congress and advocated for Hyderabad to merge with India came back to support communists to provide them with funds and ammunitions to fight against Nizam.  Nizam and his supporter Qasim Rizvi organized Razakars who supported the state police against the AMS militants. 
By 1948, Communists liberated 3000 villages from Nizam’s control that covered an area of approximately 16000 sq. miles.  

Some of the noticeable changes in the socio- economic sphere of Telangana:-
Vetti’ (forced labor) disappeared.
Wages of agricultural workers were raised.
Land grabbed by big landlords was snatched away and given back to peasants.
Ceiling was declared on land holdings and surplus was redistributed.
Irrigation facilities were developed.
Peoples resorted to courts to provide ways of resolving disputes amicably..
Untouchability reduced drastically.
Status of women improved.

 In September 1948, the Deputy Prime minister of India Sardar Patel decided to send Indian army against Nizam and annex the state into the Indian union. Nizam was left with no choice but to surrender and Hyderabad merged with India.

 Soon after the merger conflicts arose within the communists leaders. They were now up against a much stronger opponent i.e. the Indian army. One section of communists wanted to continue with the rebellion movement as long as land issues weren’t solved and poor landless laborers weren’t taken care of. While the other section sought cooperation by the government to a progressive bourgeoisie state under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru. 

The conflicts in the communist party made it tough for the communists’ cadres to sustain against the Indian army. Finally, in 1951 the Army resorted to ruthless suppression of the movement killing many guerillas in the process. This marked the end of the violent Communists lead Telangana movement.

The States Reorganization Commission was appointed by the union government in December 1953 for the creation of states on linguistic lines. SRC was not in favor of merging Telegu speaking Telangana region with the state of Andhra despite of their common language because it was feared that the educationally backward people of Telangana might be exploited by the more advanced people of coastal areas. But due to public demand all Telegu speaking areas were merged together to form Vishalandhra which is now called Andhra Pradesh.

People of Telangana were provided with safeguards in the form of ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ signed between the leaders of Telangana and Andhra with the purpose of preventing discrimination against Telangana by the government of Andhra Pradesh. But only 12 years after the formation of Andhra Pradesh people of Telangana expressed their dissatisfaction over the implementation of Gentlemen’s agreement due to many violations which exploited their condition. As a result, in 1969 a demand for a separate state of Telangana was aggravated. 

It is now clear how Telangana movement which initially started off as a Communist lead peasant uprising and rebellion against the autocratic rule of Nizam of Hyderabad gradually took the path for a demand of a separate state of Telangana. There were several movements to disintegrate Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra in the late 1960s’ which are continuing till date. The role of political parties has been ambiguous over the years. 

A more comprehensive contemporary view will be dealt with in my next post.

Nitish Bhardwaj on Twitter
@nitish9bhardwaj on Twitter
The Writer is a Civil Services Aspirant and a student of Political Science.


  1. Great job Nitish. Thanks for the informative article...
    All the best.

  2. Really well written Nitish.I never really had any insight over this issue, now i do.
    Great job!