Telangana, Regional Identity, and the Telugu Language

* The focus of this article is on the discord. A companion article or a more comprehensive one also showing the positive exchanges, assimilation, and bonds between the regions over the last 100 years would be of great value.

** The idea for this essay came about in thinking about questions on the history and role of Modern Standard Telugu posed by Sridhar Sankranti, as part of a discussion with Aditya Devarakonda. Thanks to both of them.

* * * * * * *

This is an attempt to chart the role of language in the discord among Telugu speakers from different regions, especially in relation to the history and evolution of the Telangana movement. It is not clear (to me) if and how regular literary exchanges happened between the two major Telugu speaking regions of the time, Telangana, also known as Nizam Andhra, and British Andhra, in the 19th century. Taking the 1930s as a starting point, I consider a sampling of excerpts from books and essays on Telugu literature and language, and try to connect some dots with commentary. My ambitious aim and hope is to aid a better understanding of the origins of discord peculiar to Telugu speakers, and to promote harmony among them, irrespective of the eventual political arrangement as a unified state or as separate states.

Early Rumblings:

In the early 1900s, cultural institutions such as the Andhra Saaraswata Parishat (of Telangana) and Andhra Mahasabha, and magazines such as Golconda Patrika and others, established regular contact between the litterateurs in the two regions. There was a shared concern for the suppression of Telugu under Nizam rule and collaborative efforts to work for the common interests of all Telugus. We also begin to see some interesting glimpses and effects of unfamiliarity, precursors for what was to come. In 1934, a Telugu scholar from British Andhra, apparently echoing the belief of many others, remarked that Telugu poets from the Nizam state (Telangana) were non-existent. Suravaram Pratapa Reddy‘s response was emphatic: the book ‘Golconda Kavula Sancika’ (Compendium of Golconda Poets), containing 1418 poems by 354 poets from Telangana, going back to the 1300s. In the preface, he writes:

గోలకొండ కవుల సంచిక (సం: సురవరం ప్రతప రెడ్డి, 1934)
(page XII)…కవి లేని దేశమరణ్యము. కవిలేనిజాతి యనాగరిక సంఘము.

ఇట్టి భావపరంపరలోఁ దన్మయులై యున్నవారికి “నిజాంరాష్ట్రములో ఆంధ్రకవులు పూజ్యము”‌అని గోలకొండపత్రిక తొమ్మిదవ సంవత్సరాదిసంచికలో ఆధునిక భావకవిత్వతత్వము అను శీర్షికగల వ్యాసమునందు శ్రీ ముడుంబ వేంకట రాఘవాచార్యులు, బి ఏ. ,బి. ఇ. డి., గారు నుడుపుట అసామాన్యముగాఁ గనబడెను. ఇట్టి విడ్డూరపు అభిప్రాయములు నిజాంరాష్ట్రములోని యాంధ్రులనుగూర్చి పలు మారువినుట తటస్థించినది. అయిననీయభిప్రాయములు ఇచ్చటి పరిస్థితులు దెలియకను, తెలిసికొనుట కవకాశములేమితూ వెల్లడింపఁబడిన వేగాని ద్వేషబుద్ధిచేఁ గాదనుట నిశ్చయము.

నిజాంరాష్ట్రాంధ్రభూభాగము “అచ్చ తనుంగు గబ్బమునకాదిపదంబయి పొల్చుభాగ్యము హెచ్చుగఁగన్న దేశ”మనియు నిచ్చట కవులునుపండితులును తండోపతండములుగా నుండుటయు నట్టివారి పాండిత్యము మిడిమిడి పాండిత్యముగాక దిట్టమై సాహిత్యయుక్తమై భావప్రపూర్ణమై పూర్వపు శ్రీనాథపోతనాదులను దలపించునదై యుండుటయు స్థానికులకుఁ దెలిసినవిషయమే.

While Pratapa Reddy had made a successful riposte for the time being, the ignorance and assumed superiority among a section of the British Andhra elite had deep roots and was to cast a long shadow on relations between the two Telugu speaking regions.

The Writing of History:

Hyderabad State was incorporated into the Indian Union in 1948. In 1953, Andhra State was created from the Telugu speaking regions of the Madras Presidency. The Telugu speaking region of Hyderabad State (Telangana) and Andhra state were merged to form Andhra Pradesh on November 1, 1956.

ఆంధ్ర వాఙ్మయ చరిత్రము (దివాకర్ల వెంకటావధాని, ప్రథమ ముద్రణము 1958, పదహారవ ము. , ఆంధ్ర సారస్వత పరిషత్తు, 2009)

This book, Andhra Vangmaya Caritramu (The History of Telugu Literature) by Divakarla Venkatavadhani, came out in 1958, less than two years after the merger. It has a chapter on the Adhunika yugam (Modern Era) of Telugu literature. Starting with Kandukuri Veereshalingam, Gurajada Apparao, Tirupati-Venkata kavulu, Gidugu Ramamurthy and going on to Devulapalli Krishna Shastri, Viswanatha Satyanarayana and Sri Sri rightfully receive attention, along with many others. Poetry, prose, songs, and other forms and all the new explorations are covered.

This chapter has only one sentence specific to Telangana. In writing about the patriotic literature of the freedom struggle, he mentions:

ఈ సందర్భమున తెలంగాణా విముక్తికై దాశరథి మున్నగు కవులు రచించిన ఖండ కావ్యములు పేర్కొనదగినవి.

Work by the Telangana pioneers such as Komarraju Lakshman Rao and Suravaram Pratapa Reddy is mentioned in a later chapter on research works. Madapati Hanumanth Rao is missing altogether, and so is a proper appreciation for the literature that came out of the Telangana Armed Struggle against the Nizam and the feudal landlords in his domain, which must surely count as the first revolutionary literature in Telugu. In this struggle, the literary production was not limited to the elite. The many songs that were composed do not find mention even in the chapter on Jaanapada Vangmayam (folk literature), which covers several other types of songs.

We look elsewhere for another perspective:

తెలంగాణ కథలు (సం: కాలువ మల్లయ్య, సదానంద్ శారద, చంద్ర . విశాలాంధ్ర ప్ర., 2005)
(page x)…తెలంగాణా గడ్డమీద 1912లోనే ఆధునిక కథ పుట్టింది. 1910లో గురజాడ ‘దిద్దుబాటు ‘ కథ ప్రచురింపబడిన ఆంధ్ర భారతిలోనే మాడపాటి హనుమంతరావు రాసిన ‘హృదయ శల్యం’ కథ 1912లో అచ్చయ్యింది. గురజాడ కథకు పూర్వమే బండారు అచ్చమాంబ 1902లో కథ వచ్చిందన్న వాదనున్నా కథానికా లక్షణాలు, వివిధ ఇతర కారణాలవల్ల దిద్దుబాటు కథే మొట్టమొదటి కథగా ప్రాచుర్యం పొందింది.

In this collection, Telangana Kathalu (Telangana Stories), the editors note that the first modern short story from Telangana, by Madapati Hanumanth Rao, came out in 1912. Gurajada’s story, considered the first in Telugu, is from 1910, even as there is a debate relating to another story that came out in 1902.

ఆధునిక తలుగు సాహిత్యంలో ప్రక్రియలు, ధోరణులు (తెలుగు అకాడమి ప్ర., 2005)
(Chapter 5: తెలంగాణా సాయుధ పోరాట సాహిత్యం , కందిమళ్ళ ప్రతాపరెడ్డి, page 27)
తెలంగాణా పోరాట వీరగాథ ఆంధ్రప్రదేశంలోనే కాదు – దేశ విదేశాలలో కవులు, కళాకారుల హృదయాలను కదిలించింది. చిలీ మహాకవి పెబ్లోనెరోడా, పోలిష్ యువకవి, రష్యన్ రచయితలచే కవితలు పలికించింది.
హిందీ, ఉర్దూ, బెంగాలీ తదితర భారతీయ భాషలతో పాటు ఇంగ్లీష్, రష్యన్, చైనీస్ భాషల్లో రచనలొచ్చాయి. వారికి ఇతివృత్తులయ్యాయి.

In this collection of essays on Modern Telugu Literature, there is a chapter on the literature of the Telangana Armed Struggle. The author, Kandimalla Pratapa Reddy, writes about how the bravery of the revolt inspired writers and artists not just in the Telugu land, but all over the world, and how compositions appeared in Hindi, Bengali and other Indian languages, and in English, Russian and Chinese. (The revolt was led by Communists in Telangana, along with others.)

Why did Divakarla garu miss out on these? Why were the literary greats of Telangana not given their due? Was the armed struggle (1944-48) too recent to count as history? Could it not have been added, as some other details were, in the later editions? Divakarla Venkatavadhani, apart from being a formidable scholar and literary great, was a fine man by many accounts; intention is not the issue.

How can we understand these gaps and the reasons he could have missed out? It seems to be a reflection of a certain view of ‘proper’ Telugu literature and history (he also denounces the poetic revolution led by Sri Sri and mentions Kaloji and Dasarathi in passing among those following Sri Sri’s lead). This excerpt from elsewhere, specific to the history of the modern story in Telugu, provides some clues:

తెలంగాణ కథకులు – కథన రీతులు (బ. ఎస్. రాములు, సామాజిక తాత్విక విశ్వవిద్యాలయం ప్ర., 2008)
(page 11) తెలంగాణ కథా పరిమాణం హైదరాబాద్ రాజ్య పరిణామాల వలెనే ప్రత్యేకమైనది. తెలంగాణ సాహిత్యం అఖిలభారత సాహిత్యంతో సంబంధంలో సాగింది. ఉర్దూ, హిందీ, మరాఠీ, కన్నడం, తెలుగు, అరబ్బీ భాషలు హైదరాబాద్ రాజ్యంలో విస్తారంగా మాట్లాడుకునేవారు. ఐదు భాషలతో పంచభాషీ అనే పత్రిక కూడా వెలువడేది. ఇలా హైదరాబాదు రాజ్యం ఢిల్లీ, లక్నో, ముంబాయిలతో సంబంధంలో సాగింది. కోస్తాంధ్ర కథ కలకత్తా, ఇంగ్లీషు, బెంగాలీ భాషా కథలతో వాటిని అనుసరించి సాగింది. తెలంగాణ కథ హిందీ, మరాఠీ, ఉర్దూ, అరబీ భాషలననుసరించి సాగింది. ప్రేంచంద్ చిత్రించిన సమాజం మార్గదర్శకంగా మాడపాటి హనుమంతరావు కథలు సాగాయి.

In this book, Telangana Kathakulu – Kathana Reetulu (Telangana Story Writers – Narrative forms), B.S. Ramulu writes of how while the story in Telangana was in conversation with Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Arabic and Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai, the story in British Andhra was in conversation with English, Bengali and Calcutta.

So, there was a difference the in the wider literary universes that Telangana and British Andhra were part of. We see confirmation of this all through Divakarla garu’s chapters relating to the modern era, culminating in the concluding paragraph of the book, where he notes that while in the early days Telugu/Andhra literature was influenced by Sanskrit, it was now taking English as the role model, and making great progress:
(ఆంధ్ర వాఙ్మయ చరిత్రము, page 178)
ఆంధ్ర వాఙ్మయము తొల్లింటి రోజులలో సంస్కృత భాష నాదర్షముగాఁ జేసికొన్నట్లే యిప్పుడాంగ్ల భాష నాదర్శముగా గైకొని వివిధ ప్రక్రియల ననుసరించుచు దినదినాభివృద్ధి గాంచుచున్నది.

This is a perspective which is either not aware of or seeks to ignore the indigenous developments in Telugu, of which the Telangana region is considered the stronghold, and the influence of the vastly different and cosmopolitan literary world of the Nizam State.

While it can be said that one person’s work should not be taken as representative, the author states in the foreword that the book was written to address the lack of a comprehensive textbook for Telugu language exams conducted by the Andhra Saaraswata Parishat. Also, the book, currently in its 16th edition, continues to be highly rated and recommended. Even if I have not made a comprehensive survey, I think it will not be too far off the mark to say that many others followed this example. As a result, it can be said that post the formation of Andhra Pradesh, a lopsided and incomplete view of modern Telugu literature had been in wide circulation and was being taught in the academic institutions of Andhra Pradesh.

In this way, people from Telangana, and elsewhere, lose out on a proper appreciation for their own heritage and heros. We will see that this book and its worldview in some ways signal the beginning of a domination of language and literature that continues to this day.

Emergence of a Pramanika Bhasha or Standard Telugu:

The relationship among native forms of speech, premodern regional languages, and post Independence regional languages is a complex one, and it raises several interesting questions. When we consider…language Hindi…in relation to its so-called dialects…, we are confronted with the curious image of a thirty-year-old mother combing the hair of her sixty-year-old daughters.

– Sitamshu Yashaschandra, Literary Cultures in History, UC Press 2003, Ed. Sheldon Pollock.

There seem to have been no big differences about language usage among the pioneering modern literary elites on the two sides. The issue of a Pramanika Bhasha or Standard Telugu seems to have come up only post-merger, beginning in the 1960s.

Starting in the 1960s, J.P. Gwynn compiled a voluminous Telugu-English Dictionary, which was published in 1991.

J.P. Gwynn, in Introduction to ‘A Telugu-English Dictionary’, Oxford University Press, 1991.

In the Introduction to A Grammar of Modern Telugu an outline of the four main dialects is given. They are (i) the Central Dialect, current in the central coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh (East and West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam), which has become the standard language employed in the media and the main body of modern literature and which can be referred to as Modern Standard Telugu or siSTawyaawahaarika; (ii) the Northern Dialect, current in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Districts; (iii) the Southern Dialect, current in Nellore District and Rayalasima; and (iv) the Telangana Dialect current in the Telugu-speaking districts of the former Hyderabad State. The present work is primarily a dictionary of Modern Standard Telugu but certain dialect words have been included based on the frequency of their use and they are marked dial.

The problem is not with having a standard, but with how limiting or exclusivist it becomes. Why is this a problem? Since the standard is primarily based on one dialect and (as we will see) refuses space for others, over time, the speakers of this dialect come to believe that what they speak is the ‘real’, ‘pure’ or ‘higher’ Telugu. When the speakers of other dialects complain about being discriminated against or mocked at, many (not all) of them don’t see what the big deal is, since they also believe that the other forms are ‘only’ dialects, which are corruptions ‘fallen’ from a state of ‘purity’ and are ‘naturally’ to be considered ‘lower’.

On the other hand, the speakers of other dialects face a conflict in situations where they are compelled, subconsciously or by force of authority, to ‘correct’ themselves, and experience a sense of loss, even betrayal, of their own identity.

తెలంగాణ కథకులు – కథన రీతులు (బ. ఎస్. రాములు, సామాజిక తాత్విక విశ్వవిద్యాలయం ప్ర., 2008)
(page 7) అక్షరాస్యత తక్కువైనప్పటికీ, మధ్యతరగతి ఎదుగుదల ఆలస్యంగా మొదలైనప్పటికీ తెలంగాణ కథ చెప్పుకోదగిన చరిత్రనే సృష్టించింది. 1956 నవంబరులో ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్ ఏర్పడకముందు నాటికి తెలంగాణ నుండి 1500 కథలు వెలువడ్డాయి. ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్ ఏర్పడ్డ తర్వాత పత్రికా రంగంలో, సాహిత్యంలో ఇతర ప్రాంతాల ఆధిపత్యం క్రమక్రమంగా విస్తరించింది. పర్యవసానంగా తెలంగాణ కథలు, కథకులు నిరాదరణకు గురయ్యారు. తెలంగాణ భాషను కధల్లోకి ఎక్కకుండా చేశారు. పత్రికా భాషలో రాస్తేనే వేసేవారు. పత్రికా భాష పేరిట కృష్ణా, గుంటూరు జిల్లాల మాండలికాన్ని రాష్ట్ర ప్రజలందరిపై రుద్దారు. నేను తెలంగాణ భాషలో రాసిన కథలను పత్రికా భాషలోకి తిరగరాసిన తరువాతనే అచ్చయ్యాయి.

(page 72) [గూడూరి] సీతారం కరీంనగర్ జిల్లకు చెందిన తెలంగాణ భషలో 1953 నుంది కథలు రాయడం ఆశ్చర్యాన్ని, ఆనందాన్ని కలిగిస్తుది. 1953 నాటికి బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర భాష పెత్తనం తెలంగాణలో పెద్దగా లేదని ఇది నిరూపిస్తుంది. 1956 నవంబరు 1వ తేదీన ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్ ఏర్పడిన తర్వత సుమారుగా 1960 నుండి క్రమక్రమంగా బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర సినిమాలు, బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర పత్రికలతోపాటు, పాఠ్యపుస్తకాలు, బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర వారి భాషలో స్థిరపడిన రేడియో ప్రసారాలు, ఉపాధ్యాయులుగా, ఉద్యోగులుగా బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర ప్రాంత మధ్య తరగతి తెలంగాణకు వలస రావడం మొదలైన వాటివల్ల కృష్ణా, గుంటూరు జిల్లాల పాఠ్యపుస్తకాల భాషగా రుద్దినప్పటినుండి బ్రిటిషాంధ్ర భాష ఆధిపత్య భాషగా తెలంగాణ భాష అధీన భాషగా అణిచివేయడం ప్రారంభమైందని చెప్పవచ్చు. నేను తెలంగాణ భషలో కథలు, వ్యాసాలు, కవితలు, గేయాలు రాయడానికి 1964 నుండి 1977 వరకు ఎంతో సంకోచించాను. కొన్ని రాసినా భయం భయంగా రాసినవే ఎక్కువ.

In this book, Telangana Kathakulu – Kathana Reetulu (Telangana Story Writers – Narrative forms), B.S. Ramulu writes of how pre-merger, there were several writers in Telangana who wrote used the dialect freely in their writing, as needed. Post-merger, from the 1960s, the language of British Andhra steadily grew to dominate films, magazines and newspapers, textbooks, radio broadcasts. With the migration of the educated middle class as teachers and Government employees, the language of British Andhra established itself as the Standard. His own stories were published only when ‘corrected’ to agree with the Standard. From 1964-77, he greatly hesitated to use the Telangana dialect in his various literary works. The few he used it in were accompanied by fear and anxiety.

Going by what B.S. Ramulu is saying, then, by extension, a whole generation of writers, in Telangana and elsewhere, must have gone through this kind of identity crisis and self-censoring. A similar, if less intense, experience must be common to a large number of Telugu speakers all over Andhra Pradesh.

This tension between dialects and the modern phenomenon of standardization is common to languages everywhere. It becomes especially critical in the case of Telugu because of the fractured and intermittently fractious history. This is where the cultural, economic, and political dominance of one region over all others has precipitated a crisis for the whole. Extending Yashaschandra’s imagery for the relationship between a ‘standard’ language and dialects, here we see one of the daughters proclaiming herself to be the mother and insisting on clipping the hair of her siblings as she sees fit.

The hegemony of one region (primarily effected by powerful elites) has hampered assimilation and creation of a composite and richer Telugu self. While not without some level of discontent, the other two regions, Uttara Andhra and Rayalaseema, are smaller in size and have continued connectivity in history. Neither is the case with Telangana. That the collective identity and ego of the people in Telangana has proved too strong to either let go of or remain submissive is reflected in the resilience of the movement. This does not mean that assimilation has not happened at all, only that the failures in addressing discontent have limited its strength. The State and its institutions have failed in playing a proactive role in balancing, managing and promoting diversity.

Digressing from the issue of language, it must be remembered that several major figures in the first generation of separatists had earlier been proponents of a united Telugu land. That the merger was not going smoothly is apparent within a decade and calls for demerger began gathering. We can get a glimpse of the disappointment and hurt, at the broken promises and superior attitude, felt by the Telanganis from one of Kaloji’s poems from the time of the 1969 movement for separation:

కాలోజీ నారాయణరావు (పేర్వారం జగన్నాథం. సాహిత్య అకాడెమీ, 2007)
(page 72) కాలోజీ పూర్వం విశాలాంధ్రను సమర్థించినవాడే. అయినప్పటికీ ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌లో తెలంగాణా ప్రజలకు న్యాయం జరగడంలేదన్న వాస్తవాన్ని ఆయన అనుభవపూర్వకంగా తెలిసికున్నాడు….తన కవితలద్వారా తెలంగాణాకు ద్రోహం చేస్తున్న పాలకులనూ ప్రభుత్వాధినేతలనూ దుయ్యబట్టినాడు.

ఎవరనుకున్నారు ఇట్లౌనని ఎవరనుకున్నారు
ఆంధ్ర తెలంగాణాలకు అన్యత ఏర్పడుతుందని
హామీలిచ్చిన్నవారే అంతస్వాహా చేస్తారని

అన్నలు ఒప్పందానికి సున్నాచుట్టేస్తారని
పరిపాలనలో తమ్ముల ‘ఫజీత’పాలు చేస్తారని

కావలికుక్కలు దొంగల గంజికాసపడుతాయని
కావలివాడే దొంగల కావళ్లను మోస్తాడని

సిబ్బందిలోగల తమ్ముల ఇబ్బంది పెడతారని
అన్నలమను మాట మరచి అహంకారపడుతారని
ఎవరనుకున్నారు ఇట్లౌనని ఎవరనుకున్నారు

Who imagined, that this will happen, who imagined?
That otherness between Telangana and Andhra will arise?
That those who gave assurances will themselves gobble up everything?

That elder brothers will nullify the Agreement?
That they will insult younger brothers in Governance?

That watchdogs will run after thieves’ gruel?
That watchmen will carry the thieves’ yokes?

That they will harass younger brothers in the Police?
That they will forget being elder brothers and show arrogance?
Who imagined, that this will happen, who imagined?

The Contemporary Scene:

ఆధునిక తలుగు సాహిత్యంలో ప్రక్రియలు, ధోరణులు (తెలుగు అకాడమి ప్ర., 2005)

Looking at this book of essays on the activity and directions in Modern Telugu Literature (2005), we get a better picture for what has changed and what has not. This is a collection of 23 essays aimed at capturing the breadth of literary activity and insights into the nature and evolution of each stream: social movements, poetry forms, songs, Marxist revolution, Dalit Literature, Feminism, regional literary histories, stream of consciousness, translation, all find a place.

Excerpt from the chapter on contemporary literature from Utarra Andhra or North Coastal Andhra by Dr. Manepalli.
16. సమకాలీన ఉత్తరాంధ్ర సాహిత్య దృశ్యం, డా. మానేపల్లి

(page 135) ఈ ప్రాంత సాహిత్యంపై జరగవలసినంత కృషీ జరగలేదు. గోదావరి, కృష్ణా, గుంటూరు మండలాలే ఈనాటికీ సర్వరంగాల్లో రాజ్యం ఏలుతున్నాయి. తెలుగు వారి రాజధాని ఏదయినా, అసలు రాజధాని బెజవాడే. సాహిత్య చరిత్ర రాసేవాళ్ల పాక్షిక దృక్పథం (పక్షపాతధోరణి ?!) వల్ల ఇంత అనర్థం జరుగుతోంది.

The author says that Utarra Andhra region’s literature is not getting enough attention. He blames the bias and partiality of those who write the literary history for the disaster. He remarks that irrespective of what the nominal capital of Andhra Pradesh might be, the real capital is Vijayawada, in Krishna District. Even if this seems like an exaggeration, it sticks out, and cannot be ignored easily.

Next is a chapter on Telangana consciousness in Telugu literature, by Gudipati Venkateswarlu.
17. తెలుగు సాహిత్యం -తెలంగాణా చైతన్యం, గుడిపాటి వెంకటేశ్వర్లు
(page 148) 1960ల కాలంలోనే చాసో సంపాదకత్వంలో ‘కళింగాంధ్ర కథలు’ శీర్షికన కథా సంకలనం వచ్చింది. …ఆ తదుపరి కొన్నేళ్ళకు రాయలసీమ కథా రచయితల సంకలనం ‘సీమ కథలూ వచ్చింది. ఈ విధంగా తెలంగాణ ప్రాంతంకంటే ఇతర ప్రాంతాల నుంచే ప్రాంతాల పేరిట పుస్తకాలు వచ్చాయి. …1980ల కాలంలోనే మాండలికానికి సంబంధించిన చర్చ జరిగింది. తెలంగాణలో అల్లం రాజయ్య వంటి రచయితలు మాండలికంలో‌ రాయడాన్ని కొందరు ప్రశ్నించారు. ఈ క్రమంలోనే మొట్టమొదటిసారిగా భాషకు సంబంధించిన చర్చ ప్రాంతీయ స్పృహకు పాదు వేసిందని చెప్పాలి.

(page 149) ప్రాంతీయ చైతన్యం రూపుదిద్దుకోడానికి, బలపడటానికి దోహదం చేసిన అంశాలు ఈ కింది విధంగా ఉన్నాయి.
1. ఆర్థిక, సామాజిక, విద్యా రంగాల్లో తెలంగాణ ప్రాంతం వివక్షకు లోనయిందని భావించడం.
2.సకల రంగాల్లో ప్రాంతంవారి ఆధిపత్యం పెరగడం.
3.తెలంగాణకు వలస వచ్చిన కోస్తా పెత్తందారులు ఆర్థికంగా బలపడటం.
4.సంస్కృతంగా కోస్తా ప్రాంతం గొప్పదన్న భావం సాహిత్య, ఇతర కళారూపాల్లో కనబడటం.
5.కోస్తా జిల్లాల భాష వ్యవహారికంగా చెలామణీ కాగా తెలంగాణ భషను చిన్న చూపు చూసే ధోరణి పెరిగిందని భావించడం.
6. సాహిత్య ప్రమాణాలలో తెలంగాణ సాహిత్యానికి తగినంత ప్రాధాన్యం ఇవ్వడం లేదని భావించడం

(page 152) తెలంగాణ ప్రాంతీయ చైతన్యం పెరిగాక గతంలో మాదిరిగా ఏ భాషలో రాయాలన్నా గుంజాటన రచయితలకు లేదు. కచ్చితంగా తమదైన భాషలో రాయాలన్న తపన రచయితలందరిలోనూ ఉంది.

The author talks about factors in the growth of regional consciousness in Telangana, gaining momentum in the 1980s, citing in point 4 an increased tendency to portray the Coastal region as culturally superior in literature and other art forms, and in point 5, the propagation of the dialect of Coastal districts as the Standard and looking down on Telangana dialect. Finally, how the growth in the regional consciousness meant that, by the 1990s, writers in Telangana no longer faced a dilemma in what form of the Telugu language to use. They eagerly and intentionally used the form that was their own.

There is a chapter on writers from Rayalaseema and depiction of life in the region, by Dr. Tummala Ramakrishna.
18. రాయలసీమ కథకులు – ప్రాంతీయ జీవిత చిత్రణ, డా. తుమ్మల రామకృష్ణ (page 155)

So, in 2005, we see continuing complaints from other regions of the domination in all fields, including literature and language, by Central Coastal Andhra districts. It is not accidental that there is no special chapter on the literature from these districts in the book. The standard needs no such! But the bigger question is this: for the Telugu language itself, is this a continuing disaster, as Dr. Manepalli calls it?

Some friends ask, why this special anguish for Telangana and other dialects, when there is a decline in usage of the Telugu language itself? As an aside, we can all take a collective tragicomic lashing from Kaloji:

(కాలోజీ నారాయణరావు , ర: పేర్వారం జగన్నాథం, page 78)
తెలుగుభాషా సంస్కృతులు జనజీవితం నుంచిక్రమంగా నిష్క్రమిస్తున్నాయి. తనకు తెలుగు రాదంటూ అన్యభాషల్లో ప్రసంగించడం తెలుగువాడికి గర్వకారణంగా కనిపిస్తున్నది. ఈ దురవస్థను చూసి కాళోజీ ఏనాడో ఆవేదనతో –

తెలుగు బిడ్డవురోరి తెలుగు మాట్లాడుటకు
సంకోచపడియెదవు సంగతేమిటిరా?
అన్యభాషలు నేర్చి ఆంధ్రంబురాదంచు
సకిలించు ఆంధ్రుడా చావవెందుకురా?

అంటూ ఘాటుగా విమర్శిస్తాడు. కాళోజీకి మాత్రుదేశమన్నా మాతృభాష అన్నా అమితమైన అభిమానం.

Kaloji says (using Telugu and Andhra interchangably):
Being a Telugu offspring, to speak Telugu,
you hesitate, what is the matter?
Having learnt other languages, saying “I can’t speak Telugu”,
you neighing Telugu, why don’t you die?

The answer to my friend’s question is this: the rejuvenation and longevity of the Telugu language is tied to the diversity and the dialects. When all of them prosper, so will Telugu. The great diversity and richness in the language and expression should be a matter of pride and enjoyment. This is also the key to harmony among the Telugu peoples.

To see and hear some contemporary literary greats and language experts from all regions echo these thoughts and speak revealingly on several related topics, please see this Dasha-Disha panel discussion (in Telugu).

Summary and Hopes:

To take one summarizing opinion, since many others will echo the same, this is what Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, a former IAS officer, now politician, and one of the most well known Telugus today, wrote recently:

“Sadly, all over the world, and certainly in India, there is often a combination of arrogance and ignorance that makes people bigoted. Unreasonable pride in ‘ my dialect’, ‘my language’, ‘my culture’, or ‘my religion’ often gives way to prejudice. The regions and groups which had earlier access to the tools of modernization often used their advantage to perpetuate a myth about the ‘inadequacies’ and ‘cultural backwardness’ of those who were not part of the modernization band wagon. However, many wise people have always rejected such unfounded notions of superiority in language, dialect, or culture. Nevertheless, when popular art is dominated by a certain dialect or cultural idiom, those who are left out feel genuinely aggrieved. Telengana has always been home to the richest Telugu indigenous (as opposed to the highly Sanscritized) vocabulary. But our popular films, media and literature have increasingly homogenized Telugu language and culture, and have lead to alienation and a sense of marginalization of the local dialects in Telangana and elsewhere. Language is the basis of communication and mutual understanding. It is sad that language has become the source of discord between Telugu-speaking peoples of different regions.”

“Clearly, we all need to do a lot to bridge this gap, and remove the sense of discrimination and alienation. The government should use all its leverage to promote diversity in culture and dialect. But the media, popular art and literature have a far greater role than the government and politics in recognizing and respecting local cultures and dialects.”

A call to action for Telugus of all varieties! There is a need for fundamental change and deepest commitment of both State power and all Telugu people to fair representation and protection of identity and cultures. This will be the case irrespective of the eventual political arrangement as a unified state or as separate states.

All is not gloom, though. Literary production in Telugu is in good health. Writers and artists continue to emerge from all regions. The Telangana movement, along with the emergence of a powerful Dalit Literature, has led to what is surely a literary renaissance and efflorescence in Telugu. Happily, the two share much common ground, with a large number of writers and artists participating simultaneously in both. This is not surprising, since, as we have seen a glimpse of above, the literary production in Telangana was not limited to cultural elites, either in subject or authorship. It is notable that Dalit groups in Coastal Andhra have strongly endorsed the Telangana movement. Having been at the receiving end of much worse cultural suppression for millenia, they understand it better than most; the empathy is not incidental.

At its heart, the Telangana movement is also about rejection of cultural hegemony and identity erasure. It is also a fight for protecting the fullness and diversity of Telugu. It has great potential for rejuvenation, expansion and rediscovery for the Telugu culture and language. This must not be lost sight of, even as the recent excesses due to bankrupt politics are rightfully condemned. Most of those in the movement have been cheated and manipulated, variously, by the State and by their own politicians. A long sequence of promises made and broken. The outbreaks of desperation are often reactions to a kind of violence perpetrated by the lying and cheating of those with vested interests in continuing the hegemony. The lack of empathy and understanding of the history of grievances in more reasonable and well meaning opposition also fuels a feeling that justice will not come naturally, but has to be grabbed by force. No doubt a lot of false hopes have been raised and lies spread by some in the movement. It should also be recognized, as I have tried to show from one angle, how many in the movement are victims and warriors who refuse to be victimized anymore. However, in the end, all of us are victims of history.

My hope is that the shared love and concern for the language and justice will bring the Telugus together and that we will all make efforts to promote better understanding, dialogue, and healing.

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12 Responses to Telangana, Regional Identity, and the Telugu Language

  1. Sripal says:

    Thanks for a deep insight of the history and a perspective on the Telugu language & Regional identity. I not only gained some knowledge of the history, but also got a deep insight into the roots of the current issue with regards to the language.

  2. Great research work done on getting some facts straight on the language and culture based issues dogging Andhra Pradesh. While I appreciate the great call you have made for all Telugus to be truly united irrespective of their cultural or political roots, I feel driving the need for such unity falls outside the periphery of Lok Satta or any political establishment for that matter. Democracy as a system thrives in an egalitarian system of governance and society. If you go back to the modern roots of democracy based on Roman doctrines for governance or way back into Chanakya’s rules of governance in the Arthashastra, you will see that spelled out wide and clear.
    However, the irony that several people don’t realize is that, this very egalitarianism cannot survive when the divergent forces of diversity tend to pull a politically bonded society in different directions. In other words-race, caste, language, religion etc. are not uniting but only discriminating forces acting against egalitarianism, especially if they are serving a purpose beyond the rudimentary basics they are meant for. While I believe every language (or dialect) has its own beauty and cultural significance that must not only be appreciated but celebrated, if it goes beyond its basic purpose in life- i.e. to communicate in society- it starts creating a ‘you vs me’ mentality. That is basic human nature. This has been beautifully explained by Dr. JP in the succinct message he shared.
    Due to the way we are taught our history in schools and our own reluctance to unlearn what we agreed to accept as kids, we fail to realize the true functioning of democracies. More so, we fail to realize that India as a country is a political creation that began to take shape when the British started mapping out their colonial conquests. The Indian Union of today was an uneasy relationship accepted by Nehru’s visionary team after our independence.
    In a tremendously diverse nation like India, pursuing these egalitarian ideals of democracy meant that there was a need for some form of standardization (or commonality) to be carved out of India. This took the form of a national language in Hindi which wasn’t widely used before, a common macro-cultural identity based on the roots of Hinduism and Islam and so on. Every state in India was also formed with a largely inefficient but standardized format based on language with a common disregard for dialects. No other country in this world (barring China) has this humongous challenge at hand when it was in its process of nation building. While we celebrate the democratic principles of the USA and yearn to be like it one day, we comfortably fail to realize that a country like USA was able to succeed democratically as it was “politically” able to sideline the divergent factors that affected its stability since its creation as a nation – race is still predominantly White, religion is still predominantly Christian, language is still predominantly English. While as a social entity, diversity has been accepted with an open heart (you can build temples and celebrate being a Hindu in the US), as a political entity, the US doesn’t deal with the complexities of diversity that uproot egalitarianism and in turn defeat democracy. Changes today are affecting some of them and in those places, you do see friction and a not so progressive form of democracy – Hispanic and African American population and their growing significance, multiple religions like Hinduism and Islam bringing in a different perspective on daily life are some examples of those changes and they are slowly creating points of friction in American society. Coming to China, while the World may reject it as a non-democratic nation, it still had to face the same challenges in its nation building. Luckily for China, it grew out from a uniform central core into vast geographical tracts occupied by other diverse people. The core being Han Chinese are the dominant force in that nation and so is their language (Mandarin) and religion (lack of one under Communism). The outliers consisted of the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols and so on. If you look at the map of China, you will realize that they all form the peripheries of the country and are slowly losing their identity while slowly being integrated into greater China. While several examples can be gleaned out from our past and present, the key point I want to drive is that political governments can never be in the business of promoting extreme diversity as it runs counterproductive to the growth of democracies. Having said that, India is already stretching a lot to accommodate this from a political standpoint and it explains the rather slow and painful progress we afford to make in every step of our growth as a nation. Whether this is good or bad is again an exercise in personal perspective. I personally feel we are painfully slow in growth but vastly mature in our dealings as a country. But my impatient and greedy self that looks at fast results and better changes, sees the country’s approach as an impediment.
    The reason I digressed to explain non-Telugu related aspects of the World is to help bring a change in our perspective of what democracy (something that Dr. JP is passionate about) and the Lok Satta party should mean. While the current political commitments of the Lok Satta party is towards the state of Andhra Pradesh, its true leanings are towards the promotion of democracy in the Indian Union. We should realize that while coastal Andhra culture and language became the predominant force in Andhra Pradesh much to the loss of identity of the other Telugus, this progression has a logical explanation, very similar to how we are still sitting idle in our homes while corruption and bad politics continue to happen around us. What happened in Andhra Pradesh was what happened to most people pushed as a herd to accept the changes happening around them. British Andhra was the most politically strong entity prior to our independence as that is where Education, the press and other forms of British governance saw their implementation. So did the movie industry and other large industrial establishments that in turn fed political organizations. The Nizam ruled regions of Andhra Pradesh bought their freedom from British interference but at the same time continued with all their past policies which as we see today were not supportive of the diversity of the Telangana people. What happened since our independence were just incremental steps in political adjustments that happened to carve out the identity of a then non-existent state called Andhra Pradesh. As one can imagine, such changes were just influenced by people from places where the capabilities existed. In other words, you can expect a person to file a lawsuit against another person who affected his living only if a judicial system, police, administrative bureaucracy and press exists. If one lived in a country where none or some of them exist, then that person will not even know what to do in such instances. Such was the parallel you could draw between the various factions in Andhra Pradesh. When such changes did happen during the formation of Andhra Pradesh, one particular system of identity was carried forward and the herd followed.

    Now there are two pressing questions that need to be answered – the formation of a separate state of Telangana? and recognition and equality for the Telangana people and their unique Telugu diversity? While we can try to be politically correct and neutral in our statements on the first question, the facts are pretty simple. The creation of a separate state of Telangana will help in the creation of yet another democratic structure that will slowly or rapidly adjust itself to a standardization. That political standardization may come in the form a state board of education that teaches the Telangana dialect, a Telangana religion (all may be allowed but one will prevail politically), a Telangana caste and so on. This may still continue to not provide a solution to the Maoist separatists of Telangana and that will continue to be a pain point. Hence, there is nothing wrong in creating a separate state of Telangana provided its purpose is not to promote the diversity of the Telangana people, its literature and culture or create a one-Telugu movement. It will definitely provide state administrative jobs and better land deals for sure to its people. If the Telangana movement is mostly about this (which is not so depending on whom you talk to), then a separate state will definitely provide it.
    This takes us to the second question, the question that the original blog was trying to address. What about the recognition and promotion of the diversity and the Telugu heritage of the people of Telangana or the one-Telugu unity? One must realize that when political organizations or governments promote language, literature or culture it is for the purposes of propaganda. They will always contain the truth presented in a way and manner to suit the greater needs of people with a political agenda. Even US textbooks and government literature are littered with trash on the exploits of Columbus, the founding fathers and the native Americans. Only literary works and materials outside of political interference have had the tenacity to show alternative perspectives. These still remain unknown to the blind eyes of meaningless existence that most people proudly lead as their normal lives.
    The true dissemination of the literary greatness, cultural richness or linguistic beauty of any region comes from its own people – not from its elected political governments or external promoters. The fact that this blog was still able to access the literary gems of Telangana writers is testimony to the fact that preservation happens from within, not from outside. The Bhagavad Gita was not preserved because we had successive governments promote it over more than 3000 years or because the Indian democracy requires it for taking oath in a court of law. While Sankritized Telugu may not be the true language of the Andhras, it is still a literary art form that also has its place in Telugu history. The ballads of Telangana poets also have their unique place in our lives. Their recognition will however come from one going out of the narrow purview of textbooks (again driven by political governments) and actively pursuing and promoting them on our own. If this is the Telangana Movement, then it doesn’t need a KCR or a TDP or a Congress or a bandh or a rasta roko or lost lives to support or grow it. It can come from the several thousand NRI Telangana Telugus who have the capacity to do a lot more today or from any one of us truly interested in propagating diversity in life irrespective of its origins. Governments were not created by us (yes, sad but true) to leave everything to them. They were created to serve us in our daily life while we take care of the rest.

    • Sundeep says:

      Thank you for the insightful comment, actually a mini-essay on its own :). You’ve touched on many interesting issues and broader connections. I will look to follow up on some of the threads and look at your blog as well. Sending you email.

  3. P. Rajeswara Rao says:

    Really great work done on the history of Telugu language and taken pains to collect the information from various related writers. It is very appreciable that great effort has been made to translate into english the telugu versions so as to enable the people to better understand them and to bring out how the telangana language and dialect used by Telanganites was undermined and downlooked even before the integrated State was formed. The dominance of language (self professed to be pure and real) and culture is one of the many reasons for asking for a separate State by the people of Telangana. However, the writer desires that all must respect each other and live in harmony irrespective of unified AP or a separate state. This is very ….very commendable.

    • Sundeep says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Rajeswara Rao garu.

      • prasadnm says:

        What a beautiful, illuminating, insightful article! So balanced, utterly unbiased, without any posturing or pontification – I am totally swept away by the lucidity of thought and how you presented your viewpoints about the fundamental discord/ disconnect between the two Telugus (Circar version and Telangana version) in such a coherent manner.
        I am passionate about Telugu culture, literature and traditions and often pride myself (in self delusion) of being open minded in my outlook and quite well rounded about how well informed I am about the aforementioned culture, literature and traditions. Well, I humbly submit that quite a bit of my delusory thought processes have been busted and I thank you for that!
        I learnt more about the ethos of early Telangana literary movement (1900 – 1960s) through your masterpiece than what all i have read in the past 5 or 6 years of simmering discord between the Telugu brethern. As I confessed earlier, even with all my dispassion and somewhat broad outlook, I still probably looked at the root causes of this discord through my own colored glasses clouded by ‘Standardized, British Andhra, Circar district Telugu’, and thence, could never see the beauty of the Telugu that emanated from the early era Telangana writers and poets. I could see that more vividly than ever before, because of your article.
        I remember a few instances long time ago when I too shared the feeling that Telangana Telugu is a dialect and not true telugu and “we” are the caretakers of the Tikkana, Sreenadha viracita graAndhika Telugu. Though I came out of those false complexes quite some time ago, your article opened my eyes wider into the richness of the heritage and treasure trove of Telangana Telugu that is out there in the open, for everybody to delve into and deeply merge into the true beauty of the literary treasures.
        I truly enjoyed reading your article and would share it with a lot of my like minded Telugu loving friends. thank you!

        Prasad Nallamothu

      • Sundeep says:

        Prasad garu, your kind words warm my heart. మీ వంటి సహృదయులు వుంటారని నమ్మి రాసిందే.

  4. rathan kumar says:

    Its really a interesting and brings a rare insights into your paper with very finer points tuned and well placed thoughts. I wish you a great future to pen down such articles and make Telangana people to at least get aware of the great literary legends and literary gaints..I would suggest you to go for translations especially in English on Telangana poetry so that the effect will be mind blowing on other readers of non native speakers as well. They can enjoy the flavour and taste of not only Guntur Gongoora or Kasmiri Kabab but also our own Telangana Gadaka and Ganji along with Taati Kallu Muntha .All these seems to be different aesthetics of Telangana literature, but i am sure that beauty emanates from it. Hope u will keep Telangana spirit informed to the other language speakers and non Telugu speakers to know more about the Telugu and in particular Telangana literature.
    Rathan Kumar
    Dept of English
    Ph.D scholar
    Hyderabad Central University

  5. ST says:

    Sundeep…It was great pleasure reading this….it is extremely important more than ever before, when prejudices are getting crystallised about the telugu identity, language and superiority. While everyone is sunstantiating and talking about the course of political events and facts relating to the same, it is important to understand that all the regions of the state have contributed to the identity of telugus and your article has clearly elucidated the same.

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