Telangana statehood struggle is one of the longest peoples’ movements in the world. The six decade struggle, which began in early 1950s, has reached its goal in February 2014.
The first statehood movement of 1950s led to the States Reorganization Commission recommending the Telangana state (then called Hyderabad State) in 1955 itself. But hectic lobbying by Seemandhra political leaders resulted in Telangana being forcibly merged with Andhra state to form Andhra Pradesh state in November 1956.
Telangana leaders, who suspected that Andhra region would dominate Telangana in all aspects, insisted that certain guarantees be given to Telangana before merger. Thus a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with safeguards to Telangana region was signed by leaders of both the regions.
But, even before the ink on the Gentleman’s Agreement dried up, Andhra leaders flouted all safeguards and broke all promises made to Telangana region.
Telangana was discriminated in budgetary allocations, jobs and educational opprtunities belonging to Telangana region were usurped by Andhras.
Students and employees of the region, rose up in an agitation demanding separate Telangana state in 1969. However, this movement for statehood was crushed by the state and central governments in 1969. About 370 youngsters were brutally gunned down by the police.
In May 1971, Telangana Praja Samithi headed by Marri Chenna Reddy won 10 of the 14 Parliament seats in Telangana region. But, very soon, Chenna Reddy merged with Congress party.
TRS takes up the struggle…
While the statehood aspirations were alive in people it took sometime before they found the right platform to intensify the agitation.
In mid 1990s, several peoples’ organizations started organizing meetings on the statehood issue.
Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), who was then the Deputy Speaker of AP State assembly, had started background work on Telangana issue in early 2000. And after detailed discussions and deliberations with a plethora of Telangana intellectuals, KCR announced the launch of Telangana Rashtra Samithi on May 17th 2001.
KCR had resigned to the post of Deputy Speaker and MLA and launched the Telangana Rashtra Samithi party.
Prof Jayashankar, the ideologue of statehood movement extended his support to KCR.
In 2004, TRS entered into a poll alliance with Congress party. The party won 26 MLAs and 5 MPs and entered into both the AP state and Indian government.
Telangana issue found a place in UPA-1 Common Minimum Program. Statehood issue was also mentioned by President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in their speeches.
TRS president KCR, was initially allotted the Shipping portfolio. But another UPA ally DMK demanded Shipping portfolio and threatened to walk out of the coalition, if its demand was not met, KCR voluntarily relinquished the Shipping portfolio to save the fledgling UPA-1 government.
KCR remained as a Union Minister without portfolio, before being given the Labour and Employment portfolio.
As the UPA government did not show any serious interest in respecting the decades old demand for Telangana state, KCR resigned to his ministry in 2006.
When a Congress leader made a belittling statement on the statehood movement in September 2006, KCR resigned to the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat and won it with a thumping majority. The massive majority achieved by KCR in that election proved the strong statehood aspirations in the region.
YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who was then the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh used all kinds of illegal inducements to split the TRS party. A few MLAs left the party during this time.
In April 2008, TRS party MLAs resigned also walked out of the state government in protest against the delay in Telangana formation.
But, TRS could retain only 7 MLA and 2 Lok Sabha seats in this by-election.
In 2009 elections, TRS allied with TDP, CPI and CPM parties. But the grand alliance did not yield the desired result.
Telangana vote got split between TRS, Congress, PRP and BJP. In the end, TRS could win only 10 MLA seats and 2 MP seats.
Intensifying the movement
On Nov 29th, 2009 , KCR had announced an indefinite hunger strike demanding statehood to Telangana. But enroute, the state police had arrested him and sent to Khammam sub-jail. The movement spread like wildfire with students, employees, peoples’ organizations plunging into it. In the next 10 days, the whole of Telangana region came to a standstill.
The state government had called for an all-party meeting on 7th December. Leaders of TDP and PRP parties promised that they would support a Telangana statehood resolution if it was tabled in the state Assembly.
As KCR’s health was deteriorating very fast, on Dec 9th 2009, the UPA government announced that the process of statehood for Telangana would be initiated.
But within 2 weeks, Seemandhra lobby succeeded in making the UPA backtrack on this issue. KCR then brought all political forces in Telangana region together to form the Telangana JAC – an umbrella body of several organizations and parties, with Prof Kodandaram as its Chairman.
TRS cadre and leaders actively participated in several agitations and protests launched by TJAC.
After 4 years of peaceful and powerful protests, the UPA government started the statehood process in July 2013 and concluded the process by passing the statehood bill in both houses of Parliament in Feb 2014.