It appears that it is within the cultural existence of provinces to fall into deep provincial slumber irrespective of the mood of the Nation they are part of. This is not to place ‘National’ issues above the existential provincial issues. But, it is sometimes disturbing to see the provincial slumber carried too ahead to the point of blissful ignorance and nonchalance. This especially in these fascist times is quite disturbing. Andhra Pradesh the quintessential provincial territory is now in the grip of such mortal nonchalance. The only thing one would hear these days here- media too are over-enthusiastic players in this game of slumber- is about the decentralization/relocation of the Capital. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that Media, Telugu, and English, are in fact aiding and abetting such nonchalance. The only issue that the media are interested in covering from Andhra Pradesh is the Capital issue. Comparatively, protests against NPR, NRC, and CAA are relatively smaller in magnitude here. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t protests at all. There have been huge demonstrations in various mofussil towns and many villages. But, they are relegated to single column news items in all the newspapers. A tragedy, indeed. A provincial tragedy.
What is with Amaravati, one would ask, that is keeping everyone so preoccupied in this province? Attempting single line answers is always unadvisable. But, if one is to answer in a line, one would have to say that the History of Modern Andhra is now being contested bitterly, with clearly demarcated boundaries. Amaravati represents the territorial culmination of the almost one and half-century-old Modern Andhra History. The socio-political status-quo equations are now under strong consternation. We were brought upon the diet that the only consternations are the consternation between the Left and the Right of the economic spectrum. But, drop all those carefully constructed dichotomies when it comes to the present situation. The Right and the Left merge seamlessly in what is regionally bound Caste camaraderie. Here the struggle is between the historically slighted regions and castes and the regions and castes that have been the beneficiaries of the wealth generated in this insanely rich region of Andhra Pradesh. Apart from the topographical advantage a region has to possess to assert its primacy it also requires a vocal Caste to assert its one-upmanship. Perhaps, more than being peripheral regions such peripheral regions are peripherized at the will and wish of the dominant regions and the castes that make up such regions. A good example for such region-caste nexus domination is Amaravati.
Postcolonial history of Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh, the first linguistic state in Post-colonial India, was formed merely as Andhra State. Only later, after the merger of Andhra State and Telangana did it become Andhra Pradesh. By the time Andhra Pradesh was formed the erstwhile Andhra State was composed of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Both these regions were under British rule for more than 150 years before Independence. However, till the time of Independence Telangana was the Nizam State under the protectorate of British. Topographically speaking, Coastal Andhra being the eastern part of the state is endowed with deltaic regions and is at the foothills of Eastern Ghats. Rayalseema region, a rain shadow region, is an upland, dry region. The western part of Coastal Andhra that borders Telangana is also upland, dry region. Though the two mighty rivers of Telugu land- Krishna and Godavari-enter Telangana before joining the Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana has been historically deprived of the necessary irrigation facilities.
Andhra region that has been under the British rule did gain fine points on this count, thanks to the revenue generation strategy of the British. The barrage led irrigation in Central Coastal Andhra has made it very prosperous by the time of Independence itself. The result is the more or less their control of every and any industry you name it. It is interesting to note that the northernmost district of Andhra Pradesh- Srikakulam- too is endowed with two rivers- Vamsadhara and Nagavali. But it received attention neither during the British rule nor during the post-colonial regional governments. Such being the foundational imbalance the natural apprehensions among Ralayaseema and Telangana are understandable during the formation of Andhra Pradesh. The demand then has been to locate the Capital in Kurnool district in Rayalaseema (Telangana had its Capital in Hyderabad and Andhra had its Capital in Madras). However, the complete domination of every sector- not least the then undivided Communist Party of India- by the dominant Castes from Central Andhra region (comprised of East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur districts) made sure that Hyderabad continued to be the Capital of newly formed Andhra Pradesh.
Fast forward to 2014. Telangana was formed as a separate state almost after decades of demand for separate statehood. By now one would have understood the reasons for disgruntlement among the Telangana populace- The complete domination of social, political, economic and cultural landscapes by the Andhra populace, particularly Central Coastal Andhra populace.
With Telangana seceding as a separate state and though Hyderabad was made the joint Capital of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for 10 years the then Chief Minister of newly formed Andhra Pradesh decided to build a mega, green field Capital city in Andhra Pradesh. The location identified was a cluster of 29 villages in Guntur district on the banks of the Krishna River. Amaravati was the name given to the proposed Capital. The name was borrowed from a Buddhist site around 20km upstream from this location that in the past used to be a trading zone as it is situated at the intersection of Krishna and Munneru rivers, which in those days of riverine transport connected the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh and the upland region of present day Telangana.
Sivaramakrishnan committee formed by the then government to identify the location of the capital city explicitly suggested against locating capital in this area. But the government chose to establish the capital precisely in this area. Naidu would brood no intellect other than his delusional dreams duly aided and abetted by visionary documents prepared by international/national consultants.
Read Part 2 here
The author is an activist with the Human Rights Forum (HRF) Andhra Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.