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Fear of a Saffron Telangana

Fear of a Saffron Telangana

Author: Naresh Nunna
Publication: The Sunday Indian
Date: November 23, 2008
URL: http://www.thesundayindian.com/23112008/storyd.asp?sid=6045&pageno=1

Persisitent calls for a separate telangna has forced minority muslims to firmly oppose the demand, as a history of oppression haunts, says Naresh Nunna

Even as the demand for separate statehood for Telangan region in Andhra Pradesh continues to intensify by the day, an agitation is slowly but surely brewing among the local Muslim community. The cause behind this antagonism - and opposition - of the Muslim politicians and organisations towards the formation of a new state is their deep-rooted fear of 'oppression', the fear that history will repeat itself and the minorities may lose their stack in the 'Saffron' Telangana. "Muslim opposition to a separate Telangana is not new. We opposed Telangana state during the violent agitation in 1969 too. And this opposition has continued till date," Asaduddin Owaisi, the new boss of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) told TSI.

So what are the reasons for Muslim reluctance, when a large majority of the region's populace as well as political parties are demanding a Telangana state? A fear of sharp communal polarisation, which will jeopardise the interests of the minorities, say leaders of Muslim United Forum (MUF), of which MIM is a member group. The forum leaders feel that the psyche of the average Telangana Hindu and the psyche of the political outfits, irrespective of their affiliations, have been distorted with anti-Muslim ferment, with the bitter memories of atrocious Razakars in Telangana armed struggle. "Razakars, the brutal Muslim private army during the Nizam's regime, had persecuted innocent masses in connivance with Deshmuks and other feudal Lords. Though more than 50 per cent of them were non-Muslims, the Telangana armed struggle was basically portrayed to be anti-Muslim," says Sk Yusuf Baba, an analyist of the MUF.

In the aftermath of the police action against the armed struggle, several thousand Muslim men were killed by hoodlums, their women raped or forced to commit suicide by jumping into wells to save their honour. Muslim properties were burnt and their agricultural lands were grabbed, resulting in large-scale migration from the rural area and towns in the affected districts to Hyderabad. However, due to the prevalence of communal enmity towards the Muslim masses, these cases of heinous atrocities on this community living in several outlying districts in Marathwada and Hyderabad-Karnatak region of erstwhile Hyderabad state were buried on the sly, he averred.

The MUF leaders say that besides 'communal' parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, even the 'so-called secular parties' like Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which claims to be the cultural spearhead of Telangana, are dominated by leaders with the background of rightwing Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The MUF leaders point out the absolute absence of Muslim leaders in TRS as inference to their argument. After being transformed from the ruling class to the ruled overnight, following the police action against the Nizam's Hyderabad state in 1948, the Muslims were brought to an acute sense of insecurity with the Hyderabad trifurcation, which divided them into three political and geographical entities. With the change in official language in government offices, thousands of Muslim employees, who only knew Urdu, remained jobless and obviously were necked out. Thus, socio-economic deprivation of the Muslims, which began in the early 1950s, got accentuated with systematic exploitation of Telangana.

Hence, the division of the state is a nightmarish proposition to the Muslims. "In the interest of the community, the Muslims have remained stubborn as far as an undivided state is concerned," prominent religious scholar Moulana Hameeduddin Auqil Hussami and Chairman of MUF said.

The long-standing Shia-Sunni divide within the Muslim community is attributed to this dispute. "The leaders, particularly of MIM, are elitist Sunnis, and they are only a minor group among Muslims opposing a separate Telangana state for obvious reasons. These leaders had played into hands of the then Chief Minister Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, who used them in muffling the Telangana movement in 1969. Today, they are being prompted by the present Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy who is vehemently opposed to the Telangana movement," an analyst on Muslim affairs told TSI. "The powerful, muscled minority Sunnis, who were outsiders and settled here during the Nizam's regime, have gradually emerged as the representatives of the poor, forlorn Shias. And now these leaders are in the process of making the Muslim masses a part of their intrigues," he alleged.

When the Gentlemen's Agreement was signed in 1956 by Andhra and Telangana leaders for implementation of domicile rules, known as Hyderabad Mulki Rules, which stipulated 12 years' stay in Telangana area to become a mulki (a local), clashes ensued between non-local Sunnies and local Shias. However, the large-scale migration of Shias from rural areas and towns in Telangana districts to Hyderabad made them submissive to the Sunnis who dominate the socio-political and economical spheres of the community.

But this argument was dismissed as 'ridiculous' by a MIM leader who was quick to point out that in the event of the formation of a new state, the tally of the seats of their party will go up in the elections. Referring to the interethnic competition and Sunnis supremacy, a social analyst and poet Syed Yakoob said ethnicity may develop in response to internal needs, to acquire status rather than as a result of interethnic competition. Muslims constitute 9.2 per cent of Andhra Pradesh's total population of 76 million, as per the 2001 census. Their population in nine other districts of Telangana region is about 17 per cent. They constitute about 40 per cent of the four million population of Hyderabad.

"So, how can Congress ignore the apprehensions of this big group of minorities," the MIM leader asked. As an indicator of the shape of things to come if a new state is formed, he cited the Vatoli incident in which a family of six Muslims were beaten and burned to death in a Telangana village. However, the stand taken by the Muslim leadership has put the Congress brass in a dilemma. It risks alienating the community if it goes ahead with the proposal., and faces ceding ground to its political opponents, including Telugu Desam Party, which made a volta-face on separate Telangana, if it vetoes the move.

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