Telengana: A nail in the coffin of colonial India
by Senthil on 17 Aug 2013 11 Comments

The Congress Party’s announcement of a new State of Telengana is a turning point in Indian history; it has shaken our fundamental geo-political perspective. The current demarcation of states is purely colonial. The British first began their trade in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, and as they started colonizing the country, they created provinces based on these three centers on the basis of their administrative and economic control, and not on the nature of the region or the society or history.


Our diverse and decentralised society was based on 56 desams of bharat varsha. This native system was not disturbed even during the Muslim invasions and rule, possibly because they did not have any alternate model.


In 1947, India retained the colonial state structure, including the colonial bureaucracy, thereby keeping traditional Bharat colonised under the same institutions used by the British, but now headed by western educated urban Indians. Later, the Government of India attempted to re-organise states, it merely divided the old Madras, Bombay and Bengal provinces on the basis of language, rather than on the basis of our societal nature and five thousand year old civilisation.


Retaining colonial economic structure


The British created the colonial bureaucratic system to run their colonial economic system, as the political and administrative system has a deep impact on the economic. Up till 1947, the British directly controlled only 40 per cent of the country, and here the colonial economic system ran. The remaining 60 per cent regions were administered by the princely states, and had their own societal and economic systems. This was true of Hyderabad under Nizam rule.


After 1947, in the name of integration, the local administration systems of the princely states were dismantled and replaced with colonial bureaucracy which promoted the corporate economy, manned by the urban Indians. In fact, the great Presidency towns were created for those serving the British East India Company and other business houses; these same towns were the first to develop into metropolitan cities later (Kolkata being an exception for different reasons).


Understanding Telengana


The Telengana issue must be understood in this background. Andhra and Rayalaseema regions were part of the old Madras Presidency directly under British control and administered by the colonial bureaucracy. The Telugu people (mostly Telugu Brahmins) from Andhra and Rayalaseema joined this bureaucracy in large numbers, along with people from Tamil Nadu. Telengana was then part of Hyderabad State ruled by the Nizam; naturally, very few persons from this region joined the British bureaucracy.


At the economic level, businessmen from Andhra and Rayalaseema who established themselves under the colonial economic system began to control the economy of the new State of Andhra Pradesh. At the political level, the British introduced an alien system of democracy in the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, which gave the people of those regions an early advantage in the art of establishing political parties. In the old Hyderabad State, this political model was non-existent. So when the Princely State of Hyderabad was dismantled and integrated with United Andhra, the colonial administration and polity became pre-eminent and the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema who were already entrenched in the colonial hierarchy, occupied the commanding heights of public space of United Andhra.


The administration of new united Andhra was filled with Telugu IAS Officers of Madras Province. The business community of Andhra and Rayalaseema, who were already established in Madras province, took over new united Andhra. Politically, the parties launched by the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema dominated the new State.


All these factors combined to create a situation in which Telengana was left out in all spheres. Inevitably, the westernised elite groups from Andhra and Rayalaseema displayed contempt for this largely rural and underdeveloped region, and Telengana people were dubbed as lazy and their culture made for comedy in films. [Those spearheading the Telengana movement have created a website to explain their reasons for demanding a separate state]


Destruction caused by the Linguistic State


Andhra comprised of four culturally distinct regions based on ancient desams of bharata varsha – Telengana; Rayalaseema; Coastal Andhra (called Andhra) and Uttar Andhra which was part of Kalinga desam.


Each region had its own culture, which can survive and flourish only if the people are able to live in their own region. But the centralisation of political and administrative power at Hyderabad displaced the people from their region, and forced them to work in remote places. This inevitably made it difficult to adhere to their culture and to socialize with their relations and community.


The bureaucrats running the government at Hyderabad have no idea about these social realities, but are vested with the power to make decisions for all four regions. Hence, all development policies made by these uprooted officers were inevitably made ONLY for the benefit of industries and corporates, ignoring societal realities and comforts of the people. Right from marriage, to village festivals, to death ceremonies and many other family functions, all social events became unfeasible in the new capitalistic system.


Andhra should be split into four parts


The solution is the divide Andhra into the four regions as mentioned above. In the current bifurcation, Telengana region will be one cultural state, whereas Rayalaseema and Andhra comprise of three distinct cultural regions and will naturally be unstable and destructive. Hence, at the inception of the new proposed division itself, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra should also be separate States.  (The name Rayalaseema was chosen by the people of the region to indicate their distinctness from the Andhra people).


Uttar Andhra was part of Kalinga desam which extends to southern Odisha; northern Odisha is Oddara desam.  The Kalinga region of Odisha should be separated and merged with Uttar Andhra and a new State of Kalinga should be formed.


Will a separate Telengana solve the problems


It is difficult to pronounce with certainty that separate Telengana will solve all the problems discussed, but it will ensure that the domination by Andhra and Rayalaseema elites will end, and the people of Telengana will get the political power to chart out their own future. Whether they will further exploit their land or preserve their culture cannot be predicted. Much will depend on how external forces act upon them. But henceforth, the Telengana people would be responsible for their fate, as it is their region and their society.


Unlike in United Andhra where there is no social or cultural connectivity between Telengana  people and the officers running the state, in separate Telengana it would be Telengana  officers who would man the administration. They would be expected to be aware of social and cultural aspects of the region.


The formation of Telengana would be a historic landmark. It would mark a break from many of the fundamentals on which the current colonial edifice rests, namely, that India has been the land of invaders; that India has been backward and illiterate from primordial times; that there is no culture of significance in India; and that Indians do not have the capability to rule themselves. All these myths stand shattered by the Telengana movement, which is one of the diverse cultures of India with its own history and rulers.


There are more than 15 demands for new State across India, all based upon historic cultural regions and all reinforce the same message – that current Indian states are artificial and do not represent our original civilisation. The Mythila Society is the continuation of Videha desam of King Janaka, a continuation of the Ramayana civilisation. 


Telengana also demolished the myth of the linguistic state which is an artificial colonial construct and cannot be a basis for administration. So in every way, the breaking up of linguistic states would pave the way for resurgence of our ancient cultural desams.


Many urban Indian nationalists are opposing the division of Andhra Pradesh, fearing it could lead to the disintegration of India. This fear is unwarranted for many reasons. The current geopolitical perspective of India is a British construct. Our ancestors had a different perspective - Bharat Varsha -> bharata kanda -> 56 desams.


Bharata varsha is the entire south Asia; Bharata kanda is what we know as Akhanda Bharat; and the 56 desams are the rajyams created and built by our kshatriyas from the forest lands. So we remain united as Akhanda Bharat, only we have failed to recognise this. The colonial state suppressed our original cultural identities through colonial historic narration.


But now there is a new awareness across India, and people of different cultural regions are asserting their ancient and historic cultural identities. We have to decide whether we want to keep colonial India alive or revert to our original civilisation.

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top