Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Struggle and Betrayal, The Telangana Story - An Autobiography of Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy

Coming from the former Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, one who was born and brought up in Telangana, one who was a leading political figure of high stature during the inclusion of the Nizam's dominion into India (Telangana belonged to the Nizams dominion then) and later on during the formation of Andhra Pradesh, one who has led his life with high levels of commitment, fairness and justice as seen from his deeds and words, this is probably one of the best views on the way Telangana's political affairs unfolded since the end of the Nizam's rule. Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy (Dec 12, 1890-July 24, 1970) wrote and published his work in Telugu in 1967 and it was in 2010, (coincidentally at the height of the movement for a separate state for Telangana), that his son Shri Konda Ramchandra Reddy published translated it into English. Published by Vinyana Sarovara Prachurnalu, this 243 page book priced at Rs. 300, it is available with the Correspondent & Secretary A.V.College, Hyderabad.

The first part of the book devoted to the early days and struggle for education of Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy is as fascinating as the latter when his social and political career unfolds. Born in Peddamangalaram, Chevella district, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, and coming from a humble background of agriculturists, the efforts made by the diligent, focused and intelligent K.V. Ranga Reddy to educate himself after the initial encouragement by his foresighted father are highly inspirational. Living in a lodge near Nampally, hiring a cook, suffering the indignity of being asked to join first standard because he and his cousin knew only Telugu numerals (and not English numerals as was the norm in Hyderabad) it is a tale that must inspire many for his sheer resilience and steadfastness. I loved his disbelief when he realises that one can pass even with 30 or 40 marks out of 100 when he was all the time striving for 100 out of 100. In fact he got 100 out of 100 in all five subjects setting some kind of a record in the fifth standard and earned commendations and compliments from the teachers and authorities. Middle school, legal education and legal practice all followed, once again a result of single minded endeavour to be the best, to learn all the time. The importance of his tutors, Maulvi sahebs, as he refers to them affectionately, and the great dedication that the Maulvi sahebs showed towards teaching one and all without bias, cannot be understated. People's mindsets were innocent and true mostly those days it would appear. In the legal exams Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy was among the couple of hundreds who passed in the thousand odd students that took the exam. Soon after that he started showing his mettle, his intelligence and his independence in forming his opinions - three months after joining a senior advocate he quit and started practicing by himself.

Early on, he was clear that the shastras had not done any justice to women and Harijans. His practice of taking up cases for the underprivileged who had no recourse to justice even if there was little income kept him very busy but with little money. (During this period he also published volumes of judgements passed by the Hyderabad High Court and Judicial Committee from 1886 to 1917.) The moment he got elected to the legislative council (by about 3000 lawyers and advocates all over the state) he introduced 24 bills pertaining to rights of succession for women, to declare children of persons marrying into other castes as legitimate, to prevent child marriages, to declare widow marriage as legitimate, to remove untouchability, to abolish jagirs, to create a Public Service Commission for recruitment of government staff etc. Certainly a reformist in every way. The advent of Shri Madapati Hanumantha Rao and others and their call for increased participation in public service seized Shri. Ranga Reddy's imagination and he committed a lot more time in public service. They formed am Andhra Janasangham and started a library movement as no political activity was allowed by the Nizam what with the increasing popularity of the Indian National Congress and its ideas of a free India. It was later renamed as Andhra Mahasabha.

The commitment of the people of those days towards social welfare was evident in the activities that Shri. Reddy was part of - the Reddy Hostel, schools for boys, Rafe-e-aam Boys High School. Andhra Saraswati Balika Patasala, Girls Multi Purpose High School, Reddy girls hostel, Andhra Vidyalaya, Venkatrao Memorial Trust, Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy Women's College, Narayanaguda Multi Purpose Girls High School, Indira Mahila Sevasadan, Sri Krishnadevaraya Andhra Bhasha Nilayam, Sarvodaya Movement, Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, Golkonda Patrika and so on. He served as the President of Andhra Mahasabha twice. Evidently he was busy handling several important social positions and making a difference to the underprivileged wherever he was.

As President of the Jagir Ryots Union he worked to bring to light some of the atrocities of jagirdars of the Nizam on the people. It is interesting to know that the Nizam's jagirdars levied taxes of which there were more than two hundred - for reasons such as a birth in the house of the jagirdar, a death, a marriage, purchase of horse, car, a tour, for Navratri etc. In 1918 the All India Congress Committee forced the Mahasabhas existing in Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra regions of the Nizam dominion to form the Hyderabad State Congress. Two factions emerged out of it - the Maharahstrian backed Ramananda Teertha group and the Karnataka-Telangana backed Ranga Reddy- Boorugula Ramakrishna Rao group. In 1947 political activity increased alongwith the freedom movement - Teertha was President of the Central Committee and Shri Ranga Reddy of Telangana - and they all courted arrest after offering satyagraha. At this time the Razakar movement was at its maximum as they attacked and killed Hindu families and so was that of the Marxists - the former committed atrocities by day and the latter by night. Hyderabad was a lawless land those days. After two months in jail the leaders were released for negotiations which failed. It was during this time that many people left Telangana and moved to Andhra including Shri Ranga Reddy's family which moved to Tenali. On September 14, 1948 the Police Action was initiated and Gen J.N.Chaudary and General Rajendra Singh led battalions that reached Hyderabad, Quasim Razvi, the leader of the Razakars, and Laik Ali, Prime Minister of the Nizam, were arrested. The Nizam surrendered on September 17, 1948.

Vinoba Bhave's bhoodan movement, seeking donation of land from large land owners had roots in Telangana with Vedire Ramachandra Reddy a landlord of Pochampalli village offering his land first. Harijans also attended this meeting. Shri Ranga Reddy was the Chairman of the Trust formed to redistribute the land offered by Ramchandra Reddy.

On the political front disturbances began as both Ranga Reddy and Boorugula Ramkrishna Rao were suspended from primary membership of the Congress by Swamy Ramananda Teertha due to a misunderstanding. Despite their many pleas their case was not heard and in the wake of their request for a fair hearing, seven hundred other members were stripped of their membership. Left with no alternative they formed a parallel Congress (which was later resolved). When the government to Hyderabad state was being proposed Shri Reddy proposed that since Telanganaites formed a majority and the region was backward, compared to Maharashtra and Karnataka areas under Nizam, the Chief Minister, the Mayor and the President of State Congress be given to Telangana persons. Shri B. Ramakrshna Rao became the Chief Minister, and Shri Madapati Hanumantha Rao became the Mayor. After many shenanigans Shri. Ramakrishna Rao became the Chief Minister in 1951. Shri Reddy and Shri Rao had some differences.

In 1955 the committee for reorganising states was formed with Fazl Ali, Kunzru and Phanikkar. Both Reddy and Rao had been propagating that Telangana and Andhra were culturally different and should not be merged. Swamy Teertha propogated the merger idea. But for some unknown reason Shri. B. Ramakrishna Rao, after a visit to Delhi, changed his stand and started propogating the Visalandhra idea as well. The Centre too had decided in favour of a single state. Left with no option, Shri Reddy proposed a regional committee with safeguards for Telangana. These included issues regarding expenditure, education, elected members among other issues. Andhra Pradesh was formed on April 1, 1956 with Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as the Chief Minister. Shri Reddy was part of his cabinet.

The original Telangana movement began with Assistant Engineers of Telangana failing to get justice from the AP State Government regarding seniority and promotions (a case that the Assistant Engineers later lost in the High Court). At the same time a student agitation started in Khammam and caught on. Shri Reddy realised that the gentleman's agreement signed during the stipulation of safeguards for Telangana was being flouted and the safeguards suggested were not being implemented. (In fact he was to be made Deputy Chief Minister as per the agreement but was not.) Distressed, he made a representation to the government regarding the safeguards. On May 1, 1969, a rally from Charminar to Raj Bhavan turned violent and five protestors, including students were shot dead by the police.  Mr. Reddy's dismay at the Andhra politicians who have duped the Telangana people was complete and it comes through.

Chief among the injustices committed by the Andhra politicians against the Telangana people that are listed in the book are those concerning use of funds for Telangana development (the entire revenue from Telaangana was not spent on the region as promised), Housing Board (80% houses and quarters built out of the Board were given to Andhra employees and proceeds from sale given to Hyderabad and not to Telangana districts), RTC (running on funds of Telangana should first have given preference to Telangana but new buses were bought and given to Andhra and old buses to Telangana, 1800 of 2300 new buses went to Andhra when income of RTC was more from Telangana), Electricity (ratio of villages in Andhra and Telangana at the time of formation of AP was 3:2, but electrification of villages was 52:1, and out of 1664 villages only 1102 were electrified), Medical facilities (medical colleges were established in Kurnool and Tirupati, even while 60 beds were available for every one lakh in Andhra, 18 beds were available in Telangana, 80% of expeenditure under medical was spent in Hyderabad and not districts of Telangana, villagers had to travel 200 kms as against Andhra where they had to travel 60 kms), SCs (promised to spend 4:3 ratio, 28 lakh in Andhra and 20 lakh in Telangana, but had not), Personnel (appointments in Andhra were need based but not in Telangana), Education (out of five professional colleges only one was in Telangana, later on only six as against 12), Polytechnics (ten in Andhra and two in Telangana), Arts and Science Colleges (more teacher training institutions in Andhra led to more trained teachers from that region who got jobs in Telangana), Fee in schools (increased 4-5 times), Municipalities (grant of 75% and loan of 25% was scrapped and full loan system was adopted which was an Andhra system and which Telangana municipalities could not take as they did not have capacity to impose tax and repay loans), Irrigation facilities (ratio of 2:1 for fund allocation for irrigation cannot apply as Telangana is 41% of land, only 1% here is under wet cultivation while 58 % is under wet ciltivation in Andhra), Employees (promotions, vacancies were given to Andhra employees with fake mulki certificates) and so on and so forth. All this is what was written at the time of publication of the first version in 1967.

The book is probably the best in terms of a ringside view of all that happened, the origin of the issue, coming as it does from one of the leading lights of that time. The tone of the book is honest and earnest and one can sense the clarity, integrity and commitment of the author, even in the translated version, and many compliments must go to his son Shri Konda Ramchandra Reddy for keeping the voice honest. I was riveted to the book until I finished it, reading it as I had read no other book in recent times, wanting to know more about the region I was born in and grew up in, wanting to know what really happened from the perspective of the people. The Telangana area had been under the rule of the Qutb Shahis and the Nizam's for more than 4 centuries, a people subjugated by oppressive rulers and jagirdars. (There were reformists and good rulers too but on the whole the population had little rights.) Much of the lack of development of the area came from the days of the Nizam, for centuries, as the area close to Hyderabad suffered from lack of development as its entire revenue was for the Nizam's expenses (Sarf-e-Khas). One third of the dominion was for the jagirdars and the other third had some revenue and development model. The land was ruled by the 10% Muslims, with 90% Hindus under the rule. The culture was unique in that there were three distinct regions - Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana - ruled over by the Mughal, the Nizam dynasty, mingled with that of the English, the Persian and maybe Turkish. The official language was Urdu and all education was done in that language. There were ideological, language and culture issues within the Nizam's state itself (which were ruled over quite well by the Nizam it appears) - the rich and the poor, the land owners and Marxists, Muslims and Hindus  - and so on. In these circumstances, one cannot but help feel for the ordinary people of the land who have always been at the receiving end from the rulers of the land. Perhaps it is also the reason why there are leadership issues in the region - one finds few leaders - which is not surprising since the land has been under some powerful rulers. In the democratic set up, however, the non-adherence to the safeguards and the gentleman's agreement was something where one feels the Telangana leaders and people missed a trick because those two documents and agreements would have ensured parity and justice.

Shri Ranga Reddy is the grandfather of my good friend Sanjay Reddy, whom I know from my days at the Osmania University College of Engineering, and the translator of the book is Sanjay's father Shri Ramchandra Reddy. It is a riveting book for anyone who has any stake in this land and gives an insight into what went on in the initial days and the causes for discontentment coming from someone who was in the thick of things. I was pleasantly surprised to find the names of the grandfathers of two more of my friends from Osmania Engineering College - G.S.Melkote and Suravaram Pratap Reddy, related to Sagarika Melkote and Anil Kumar, both our juniors from the college. There is much for the reader, not the least, Shri Reddy's inspirational life which many students from undeveloped regions can take heart from and work as hard to get to a better station in life. A must read for all those who would like to know about the struggle for Telangana which rages on with the unfortunate suicides of students and civilians even as I review this fine book.

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