Parakala Prabakar Interview
The people of Telangana believe that their day has come and the Union Government will finally give in to a 60 year old demand and grant statehood. However today there is a great deal of aggression by those supporting a united Andhra Pradesh. :Refuting an allegation- 101 Lies and Dubious Arguments of Telangana Seperatists,” is a book written by the Visalandhra Mahasabha an organisation supporting a united Andhra Pradesh.
The book examines the claims, assertions, and allegations made by the separatists in Telangana. Read the interview with Dr Parakala Prabhakar, General Secretary of the Visalandhra Mahasabha.
If they genuinely thought that their allegations. Dr Parakala Prabhakar, the general secretary of the Visalandhra Mahasabha says that if the Telangana activists deliberately distorted the facts to advance their partisan agenda, this book will expose them and call their bluff. In this interview with rediff.com, Dr Prabhakar says that there is no reason why the state should be divided.
What are your thoughts on the Union Government’s thoughts of creating a Telangana state?
I don’t think the Union government is thinking of dividing Andhra Pradesh. Our Republic’s essential architecture is linguistic state. From Bengal in the east, down along the coast of Bay of Bengal, along the coast of the Arabian Sea up to Gujarat, our country is made of states organized on the basis of language. All non-Hindi speaking regions were organized into states on the basis of language. Today there is no reason or need for doing away with that kind of an arrangement. Since the States Reorganization Commission, no linguistic state is divided. When new states were formed subsequent to the SRC – Gujarat, Himachal, Haryana – they were formed on the basis of language. The recent division of Madhya Pradesh and formation of Chattisgarh also has language as its basis. In any case, MP was not a linguistic state in the same way as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh. So MP’s division or UP’s division was not a dismemberment of a linguistic state.
This principle of linguistic state was very emphatically reiterated by Smt Indira Gandhi in Parliament during a debate on the Jai Andhra agitation in 1972. If the Union Government has to depart from that well thought out principle, it needs to arrive at an alternative principle to reorganize India. I don’t see that kind of thinking in the Union Government. Nor do I see a need for a rethinking about this principle. There is no need to revisit that principle.
Do you think Telangana will be formed?
Andhra Pradesh need not be divided. It should not be divided. There is no reason why the state should be divided.
In your book you say that political commentators, parties and also the media have not understood the issue. You say this is due to tireless propaganda. Are the Telangana activists lying about their problems?
Telangana has problems. Like every other region in the country. Telangana has no more or no less problems than any other region in Andhra Pradesh or for that matter any other region in the country. Telangana is no more backward or no less prosperous than any other region in the state or in the country. By and large.
The separatists are trying to show that the problems that Telangana people are facing are because the region is neglected or exploited. I am saying that that is not true. For instance, if the rest of the state has no unemployment and only Telangana has unemployment, then you can argue that this is because of negligence. But that is not true. Similarly, if the rest of the state has no malnutrition and Telangana alone has it, you can argue that there is something wrong and the government’s policy is unfair.
The separatist leaders are playing a clever trick. They show a problem and try to say that division/separation is the solution. They then stretch it a bit and say that the reason for the problem is united Andhra Pradesh. You can see how absurd it is. This is simply a trick.
I will give you an illustration. They show the Flurosis problem in Nalgonda. Which is a fact. Then comes the trick. They say that the Andhra rulers have neglected Telangana and that is why the people suffer from it. You must note two things here. Flurosis in the region was first detected in 1930s. And Flurosis is as severe in Prakasam and Nellore districts in coastal Andhra and Anantapur in Rayalaseema regions as it is in Nalgonda. There is no causal relationship between the existence of Flurosis in Nalgonda and the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. I would have given a bit of weight to the allegation if the Flurosis in Nalgonda were a post 1956 phenomenon. They could have said, Look we never had Flurosis before the formation of the state. Andhra Pradesh is formed and here it is we have Flurosis now! We have Flurosis in all the three regions. It is more of a governance problem. It is not a problem of discrimination or neglect of one region.
Existence of a problem may be true. As it is true in any part of the state or any part of the country. But the separatists are using the problems to stoke regional hatred.
The claims that Telangana is a neglected region is untrue according to you. Could you tell us why?
Please look at the economic data. Since 1956 when the state was formed, Telangana region registered enormous growth in all the sectors. Take for instance irrigation. Since 1956, over 15 lakh hectares were brought under irrigation. While this figure is 10 lakh hectares for coastal Andhra, it is only about 2 lakh hectares for Rayalaseema. In percentage terms, coastal Andhra registered 57% growth in irrigation; Rayalaseema had seen only 44%. But Telangana had seen a growth of 191%.
Data on education tell you a similar story of growth and progress. Prior to 1956, 12% of the coastal Andhra population was in the school system, whereas in Telangana it was only 6%. By 2010 the scene has dramatically changed. Today, while coastal Andhra has 15% of its population in the school system, in Telangana the number stands at 21%. Literacy rates in the Telangana region have also witnessed a spectacular 457% growth since the formation of Andhra Pradesh.
Let us look at the data on agriculture. In 1956, area under paddy cultivation in Telangana was about 19 lakh acres. After fifty five years, that number is over 36 lakh acres. More than 80% growth. As a result of increase in the area under paddy cultivation, rice production went up from about 5 lakh tonnes in 1956 to over 44 lakh tonnes, nearly 700% growth. The growth in numbers in other areas of agriculture production is equally dramatic. Maize production is up by over 75% in the last 50 years, pulses production went up by over 200%, cotton production by over 500%, and sugar cane production by over 200%
Don’t you now find that the claims of Telangana separatists that Telangana is neglected and backward are untrue? Aren’t they blatant lies?
You have accused them of propagating a lie skilfully. You have also identified 101 false claims by Telangana activists. How do you plan on defending your claims especially when there is such a mass sentiment?
The book we brought out, Refuting An Agitation: 101 Lies & Dubious Arguments of Telangana Separatists is to expose the false claims, lies, distortions, half-truths, misinterpretations and specious arguments by the separatists.
In fact that there exists a mass sentiment in favour of separation is one of the biggest lies. We expose it with the help of an analysis of electoral outcomes since 1972 onwards.
I must grant one thing. The separatist leaders are very skilful. With their relentless propaganda and demagoguery they incited people of the region. They were able to spread some poison in the minds. They are good at hate speeches.
But this is nothing new. It happened earlier also in all the three regions. But the hate, emotion, or what you call the separatist sentiment are very short lived. Before this present spurt of the agitation, we had seen an agitation in coastal and Rayalaseema regions. It collapsed in 1972. The state had no agitation for 30 long years. Everything was absolutely peaceful until a bunch of politically unemployed cam about and stoked the flames of hatred.
Even today I can tell you that the desire for division in all the three regions is very little. Don’t get carried away by the shrillness and loudness of their voices.
A large majority of the people want unity.
Let me give you an illustration of how the forces of unity remain quiet when the divisive forces create trouble. Recall Pubjab. When the agitation was at its peak, very violent, it looked that every man, woman and child in Punjab are for secession. That’s because those majority who wanted unity were not allowed to speak. Could you have concluded that there were no voices of unity then in the state? That the separatist sentiment is overwhelming?
Separatists always have shrillness and loudness on their side. It misleads you.
I want to tell you if you have a sound argument for division, you don’t whip up passions, do not indulge in hate speeches. In our democracy, one can put forward sound arguments and convince the people and the governments.
What are your reasons to keep Andhra united?
Not my reasons. The overwhelming majority of the Telugu people want to stay in a united Andhra Pradesh. It is a small minority in different parts of the state that might want the state to be divided.
You see, the movement for unity began in 1930s. It started in what is now called Telangana. Because the Nizam smothered the flowering of the Telugu language and culture. He forcibly imposed Urdu on his subjects.
Telugu people lived together for nearly 2300 years of their 2500 years of known history. It was only for about 150 to 180 years they were under separate political dispensations. That is mainly because the Nizam ceded some territories to the French and then to the British in lieu of his dues to them for maintaining his security forces or under other obligations.
It was the strong desire of the Telugu people and their leaders in different regions that led to the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. In fact it was the yearning of the Telugu people that gave shape to the idea of linguistic organization of states. It is this idea that has become the essential defining principle of the architecture of Indian Republic.
So when a people are together, it is those that want to destroy that unity who will have to show why the unity should be destroyed. It is like you asking me why I think India should stay united. What are my reasons? I would rather say, if you want India to be divided, it is you who should tell me why India should not stay united.
If there are so many false claims that are made how come the movement is still so strong?
The agitation is not exactly strong. It is loud, undoubtedly. Our book deals with this impression very elaborately.
The last agitation for division took place was in 1972. It took place in Coastal and Rayalaseema regions. It unsettled the government. President’s rule had to be imposed. From 1972 to 2002, for 30 long years there was no demand for division from any region.
Some people tried to stoke the separatist feelings. They did not work. Indra Reddy floated a party and went around Telangana region. He drew a blank. Then Devender Goud resigned from TDP and floated a party to work for separate Telangana. He went around but his party did not draw any support. He joined Chiranjeevi’s party and eventually returned to TDP. In 2002 K Chandrasekhar Rao floated TRS. Did badly in the local bodies. Then in 2004 he allied with Congress and contested 54 seats. They could win only 26. And there is one more thing that needs to be noticed here. TRS candidates won only when they were in straight contest with TDP. There was strong ati-incumbency against TDP. TRS lost in all the seats where it had faced CPI or CPM and even a Congress rebel.
In 2008, TRS members resigned 16 Assembly seats on the issue of statehood. In the by-elections, they could retain only 7 seats with difficulty. They won less than half of the seats they resigned.
In 2009 TRS allied with TDP. They contested over 40 seats and could win only 10 Assembly seats. Its founder President scraped through with 15,000 margins in Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency. It was only a technical win. He won by the skin of his teeth, so to speak. His son, won his Assembly seat by a meagre margin of 150 – yes just 150 votes – in 2009.
It is only in a few by-elections that took place in times of roused emotions after thoughtless state ment b the Union Home Minister Chidambaram the 9 December, 2009 the TRS or the separatist political forces could win some elections.
But again look at the 2012 by-election to the Parakala assembly seat. TRS won the seat only with a small 1500 margin.
This is the electoral scene.
Now look at the non electoral scene. There are several rag tag JACs, the so called Joint Action Committees. Their mobilisation on the streets is very unconvincing. They call a march a ‘Million March’. Hardly 10 to 15 thousand turn up. Their band calls are enforced only for a few hours on the day. From about lunch time in every town business is as usual. They call for a general strike. They won’t allow buses to leave the depots. Very interestingly they can’t enforce a bandh call on wine shops and cinema theatres!
The latest show of strength on the Necklace Road of Hyderabad was a pathetic show. There were hardly 20 thousand people. The organizers announced that they won’t leave the venue until the Union Government declared the formation of a separate state. But when they saw the low turnout, they had to beat a hasty retreat.
Electorally their performance is very unconvincing. The civil protests also were very weak. There are some organised forces in this agitation. Their number is small. But they are good in indulging in violent activities. Like the demolition of the statues of Telugu luminaries on the Tank Bund of Hyderabad.
People like you mistake this violence and loudness for strength. The agitation is not strong as you feel.
What will be the outcome politically if Telangana is granted? Which party gains and who loses?
I do not see this process as beneficial to some political parties and harmful to some other ones. I don’t look at issues or their resolution as beneficial or harmful to particular political parties.
Division of the state will harm every Telugu person. And it harms India in the long run. It gives a signal that there are no laid down norms for the political organization of our Republic. That we have no policy or principles in creating states. It just takes a bunch of violent and skilful politicians and demagogues and groups to organize protests, burn buses, stop trains and go on fake fasts and they can divide a state. I feel that there should be some framework for forming a state. If division of Andhra Pradesh is effected, it means that Government of India can be misled, blackmailed, and terrorised to concede unjustified demands.
Will similar agitations break out in Andhra and Rayalseema if Telangana is handed over?
Demanding separate statehood is not a new thing for some groups in all the three regions. I want you to keep this fact in mind. In 1969, 13 years after the state was formed an agitation broke out in Telangana to divide the state. It collapsed. And then in 1972 another agitation, this time in Coastal and Rayalaseema broke out. That also collapsed.
This goes to vindicate our point that there are forces that favour division in all the three regions. And there are forces that desire unity in all the three regions. Sometime forces that favour division rear their heads in one region and some other time in another region.
But the point is, whenever a clash took place between forces of unity and division, it is the forces of unity that prevailed. In 1956, 1969, 1972 this is what has happened. We believe that this is what is going to happen today.
The forces of unity in all the three regions are very strong. They may be quiet. The forces of division may be loud and shrill. But the forces of division have no strength in their argument. They actually go against the overwhelming desire for unity among the Telugu people.
Is statehood a last ditch attempt to save face in AP?
If AP is divided, the Union Government will become a laughing stock. It is not going to save its face. The union government will become an easy target for any group that can organize themselves to stop trains, burn buses, call for bandhs and go on fake fasts. It will show the Union Government in very poor light.
Jagan Mohan Reddy has remained mum on the issue. Will this help him in the rest of Andhra Pradesh?
A: When he was in Congress, he displayed placards in Lok Sabha in support of united Andhra Pradesh. After he went to jail, his party has not said anything to suggest that they are in favour of division. Before the 28 December, 2012 All Party meeting called by the Union Home Minister Shinde, we met the leaders of all the political parties in the State. In that process we met Smt Vijayalakshmi, the president of YSR Congress. She clearly told our delegation that she is in favour of a united state. And she also said that late YS Rajasekhar Reddy wanted the state to stay united. But her party’s public pronouncements are not as categorical as that.
Is Hyderabad as a common capital feasible?
A: There is no need to think on those lines. To me the question doesn’t arise.