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Construction and Consolidation of the Telangana Identity

The movement for a separate Telangana state has been hailed by many intellectuals as a democratic struggle of the people of a region against political domination and economic exploitation. The central government’s decision to create a new state is seen as an official recognition of the people’s aspiration for identity and self-rule. Interrogating such perceptions, this article examines the process by which a Telangana identity has been constructed and throws light on different factors that contributed to it. The Telangana identity is built partly on fact, and partly on half-truths, prejudices, and false hopes. Apart from intellectuals, the resurrection of the regional identity has been facilitated by the opportunism of political parties, in particular, the unjustifi able inaction of the left.

The idea of a linguistic reorganisation of states in India owes its genesis to the Telugu people who were the first to invoke a common linguistic identity to pressure the central government to create a separate state of Andhra out of the Madras Province in 1953. Three years later, they sought the merger of Andhra state with the Telangana region of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad to form the new state of Andhra Pradesh (AP).

The architects of the idea of Vishalandhra (Greater Andhra) were not unaware of subregional sentiments, but were eager that all Telugu people unite on the basis of a common language and culture, and build a democratic and progressive state (Sundariah 1999).1 It is disheartening to see that such a state, formed with considerable goodwill and hope, is about to be bifurcated. The decision of the union cabinet to form a state of Telangana is interpreted by many political leaders and activist intellectuals as the logical culmination of the struggles and aspirations of the region’s people for identity and self-rule. The decision has, however, roused passions and public protests in other parts of AP, now referred to as Seemandhra, and compelled people to come out in support of Samaikyandhra (United Andhra Pradesh). Alongside agitations and counter-agitations, an interesting political debate is taking place in the state between proponents and adversaries of the Telangana movement. Against the background of these movements and debates, this article studies the process that has led to the construction and consolidation of a Telangana identity and interrogates the premises on which ideologues have sought to justify the movement for a separate state.

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