The popular impression is that the composition of Andhra Pradesh is the result of the bifurcation of the erstwhile Madras Presidency and one part merging with the princely state of Hyderabad ruled by the Nizam after 1947. This is not true. The three regions of Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema and Telangana have been under unified control from times immemorial. In fact, the construction of Hyderabad was executed with contributions from all three regions during the times of the Kutubshahi Sultans as early as 1590.
The initial setback to the unified province occurred in 1770 when Hyder Ali of Mysore took control of present day Rayalaseema largely owing to the dubious role of the then Nizam who, unable to protect the coastal areas from the attacks of Pindaris and Gajapatis, tried to play a double game with the East India Company (EIC) and the French. When the EIC, which defeated the French, found out the Nizam’s game plan, the Nizam made peace with the Company by giving it the rights over the Northern Circars in 1790, along with two other districts in lieu of not paying taxes to the Company. The areas conceded to the EIC were merged with the Madras Presidency. Thus present-day Andhra Pradesh was kept separated for over 160 years.
When the EIC, with the help of the Nizam and the Marathas, defeated Tipu Sultan, son of Hyder Ali, at the battle at Srirangapatnam in 1799, Rayalaseema was returned to the Nizam. This, however, was short-lived. When the EIC forced the princely states to sign military agreements to pay the salaries of their standing armies, the Nizam returned the Rayalaseema region to the EIC, which merged it with the Madras Presidency.
While the Nizam, left with the Telangana and a few other areas, might have succeeded in not having to pay any taxes to the British, one should realise that it was this development that marked the beginning of a long period of woes for the people of Telangana. Besides Urdu becoming an official language, Muslims got preference in government jobs. Telugu was not allowed to be taught in schools and the people of the region did not have the right to land holdings. Further they were subject to a plethora of taxes: birth tax, death tax, cremation tax, marriage tax, festival tax, profession tax and even a guest tax. Some light at the end of the tunnel appeared only when they were liberated in 1948 by police action.
While the people of Telangana were denied land-holding rights, Thomas Munroe, the then Governor of Madras Presidency went to the other extreme by permitting the farmers of Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema to pay their land revenue into the district treasuries, a privilege not available to the farmers in the rest of the Madras Presidency. Arthur Cotton, by constructing two barrages across the Godavari and Krishna rivers turned the Krishna, East and West Godavari districts into fertile lands. All this accelerated the pace of development in these two regions. While Andhra and Rayalaseema were merged into one state in 1953, all the three regions were combined into the present state of composite Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
Those on both sides of the Telangana debate should be appraised of all these historical facts and be persuaded to accept Hyderabad as the common capital for both Andhra Pradesh and a future Telangana on the lines of Chandigarh that is shared as a state capital by Haryana and Punjab.
Sitharam Gurumuthi is a Member of the State Planning Commission
The views expressed by the author are personal