Telangana: History and economy

G. Naga Sridhar | Updated on March 19, 2011 Published on March 15, 2011

Pro-Telangana activists damaging the statue off Bharama Naidu at Tank Bund in Hyderabad on Thursday as part of the 'Million March' called by the Telangana Joint Action Committee demanding separate Statehood. -Photo by: G.Krishnaswamy   -  THE HINDU

If the Vijayanagara ruler Sri Krishnadevaraya (AD 1509-29), who strived to further the Telugu language and culture, was alive today, he would have jumped into the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. The reason: He would been thrown into despair at the nihilistic cultural attitude displayed by a section of the pro-Telanagana activists, who destroyed 18 statues (out of 33) of legendary personalities of Telugu land during the ‘Million March' on March 10 in support of Telangana State, just because they did not hail from what now is being termed Telangana.

The statues of great saint-composer Annamayya, 19th Century social reformer Kandukuri Veeresalingam and Sir Arthur Cotton (1803-1899), the first British engineer to envisage a complete system of irrigation and canals for India, too faced the same fate. Not that these statues are rare artefacts. They were sculpted and installed just about 25 years ago. But what is alarming is the attitude that refuses to see the distinction between blind jingoism and a sagacious sense of regionalism.

Moving beyond regionalism

Both Krishnadevaraya and Veeresalingam, for instance, had transgressed the narrow confines of regionalism at a time when the concept of nationalism was different from what it was today. The former, who was the first to open up trade with Europe by partnering with the Portuguese, presided over an empire spanning parts of present-day Karnataka and present Andhra Pradesh. A champion of education and reforms for women, Veeresalingam was a fusion of Bengali, Tamil and Telugu cultures.

Given the sense of history and culture in India, it is quite surprising that an unruly mob could identify the ‘nativity' of people who lived in distant past when the definition of country and region were totally different. There could have been some sort of mapping of the targeted statues, the motives behind which need to examined carefully, taking into consideration the rising demand for installation of statues of prominent Telangana personalities on the tank bund.

There is more than a disregard to history and culture. This jingoistic attitude has economic underpinnings too. An ATM of Andhra Bank was also damaged just because there is ‘Andhra' in the name.

Serious repercussions

Going forward, this may have more serious repercussions on the economy of the region. The intellectual leadership of the pro-Telangana agitation must understand that the rhetoric of ‘colonial' exploitation of the region from the ‘outsiders' and ‘drain of wealth' may mislead a common supporter of the cause of Telangana State. If unbridled, the nation could be going back in time by over 250 years when India had no concept of nationhood, at the time of 1857 revolt against the British. India when, like Italy before its unification in the 19th century, was just a geographical expression.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi Chief, K. Chandrasekhara Rao, should have given a thought to his cultural moorings as he took an oath for achieving Telangana before the statue of Potana, a Telugu poet from Telangana, while statues of other great personalities were being pulled down in a frenzy.

It is a different matter, that N.T. Rama Rao, the Telugu Desam Party chief and State Chief Minister, who got the statues erected, did face criticism for the selection of personalities and their number. Definitely, it is neither wise nor feasible to establish a particular group's ownership of a larger culture. If the demand for a separate Telangana is unresolved for too long, there could be bigger problems in future.

Published on March 15, 2011
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