Thursday, December 17, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Political economy, regional articulation,+regional+articulation&artid=vCwXrrtA/vA=&SectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&MainSectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&SEO=Andhra+Pradesh,+Telangana,+Rayalaseema,+Nizam,+Vis&SectionName=m3GntEw72ik=

By R Uma Maheshwari
17 Dec 2009 12:30:00 AM IST

Political economy, regional articulation

If Telangana were a mere 'sentiment' as it is made out to be, it
wouldn't have evoked this nature of resistance in the Andhra Pradesh
state assembly and elsewhere. Not unless there is a stronger force
with a strong reason on the other side. There is a history to it that
needs to be given due credit, even if not accepted, or even adequately
Regional allegiances are intricately interwoven with
political-economic developments in Andhra Pradesh since 1956. All the
political leaders who have resigned or are crowding to resign are from
the Andhra-'Rayalaseema' belt. A simple statistical survey should show
that historically the coastal Andhra belt has transformed rather
smoothly from a richly provided for agricultural zone (with heavy
commercial farming) to a power centre. Problems in coastal Andhra that
do not always come to light lie in the nature and extent of land
alienation of the tribal communities and exploitation of Dalits who
are mostly daily wage earners. They do not figure in the epicentre.
Most of the older zamindars from the coastal belt gradually gained in
the form of education and set up industries and even post-Independence
retained ownership of vast acres of agricultural land despite various
rules. It is these classes (and upper castes) of Andhra people who
have attained political predominance. On the other hand are the former
factionist leaders from the upper castes from the relatively poor
stretch of Rayalaseema who entered politics through guns and battles
and economic prosperity.
Telangana has had a distinct historical process, having been part of
the Nizam's Dominions, and its own history of oppression under the
Nizam rule and its own nature of encounters with the British, distinct
from the Madras Presidency areas which are included the present-day
coastal Andhra. This difference has its own significant role in
political aspirations and expressions of communities from these
regions and is in no small way a cause for uneven development of the
regions within a merged Andhra Pradesh or Visalandhra of the '50s.
One of the earliest state interventions on Godavari in its own way led
to an entire gamut of change in the agrarian history of Andhra Pradesh
which has played itself up time and again in the context of the
Telangana-Andhra divide. With the building of the anicut on Godavari
Sir Arthur Cotton, the undeservedly deified British engineer, managed
to alter forever the nature of agriculture in the delta districts.
Troubles over management of the river water post-anicut also
indirectly led to formation of Krishna and Guntur districts. It is no
coincidence that some of the most prominent industrialists hail from
this region and opportunities in education, employment, etc were
available to these sections rather than to others in the rest of AP.
The Andhra or Telangana sentiment is not to be underestimated or
brushed aside. Over the years, travelling through the villages across
regions in AP, one realises the importance of regional identities and
histories, which have rarely found space in the Indian democracy. This
goes for communities that feel historically and politically
marginalised as it goes for regions that seek political representation
time and again.
But there is also the question as to how a region is formed or
formulated in the minds of people or in administrative, political
terms — do these correspond or converge, if at all? In the case of
Telangana, is it the region that came under the political umbrella of
the Nizam's Dominions alone? Or is it the region that comes under the
Godavari river basin as a geophysical entity? Perhaps it lies in
people considering themselves part of a regional cohesive whole which
includes cultural, political, economic and social contexts which seem
to unite them.
Telangana statehood today is not so simple to attain. For, in the
meantime, massive investments have gone into both the city of
Hyderabad, which is an integral part of Telangana and is now being
talked of as a free zone, and on Godavari, which is the most important
contested resource between the two regions. Any talk of a new state
will beget talk of the river and other natural resources.
The Godavari river in no small way will decide the future of a state
,and if another is formed, the future of the river itself. Today it is
not the politicians in the assembly alone who are averse to Telangana
but the rich contractor lobby in alliance with the industrial lobby
that is moving behind the scenes.
At stake are crores of rupees invested in irrigation projects, SEZs,
hydel power projects and thereby, real estate activity in and around
Hyderabad. Hyderabad is a metro with business interests and
investments of people not only from the Andhra region but also from
all over India. Most Telangana farmers around Hyderabad (with Greater
Hyderabad apportioned off to at least 60 SEZ) have become landless;
and some of the bigger farmers suddenly turned into the nouveau riche
buying property in areas such as Kukkatpally and its surrounding
While it is true that KCR himself could not have envisaged such a
large spontaneous upsurge across Telangana region, it would be doing
injustice to the students (who initiated this kind of a movement) and
the people to give him the entire credit. Support from teachers, auto
drivers, construction workers from Telangana, lawyers, doctors, and
even a few members of the Telugu cinema industry to the movement in
those 10 days calls for more serious and informed comment.
TRS as a party has more often than not reduced Telangana to more of a
token term used for electoral purposes alone and forgotten thereafter.
Finally, can political articulation of a regional identity clamped by
economic and political developments be a reason for statehood? Are we
somewhere stuck on ideas of nationhood that no longer represent the
reality on the ground, in terms of articulation of citizenship and as
political agents and not subjects or beneficiaries?

(The writer is a journalist based in Hyderabad)


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