The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) called the demand to declare official celebration on 17 September as “divisive" and accused the BJP of disturbing communal harmony in the new state.
The BJP hit back at TRS for political expediency and twisting of Telangana history, leading to war of words and rise in political temperatures.
Here are five things to know about ‘Telangana Liberation Day’ and why the TRS is wary of declaring it officially, a promise made by its chief K. Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, during the statehood movement for Telangana.
What’s the significance of 17 September?
On 17 September, 1948, Indian armed forces took control of the princely state of Hyderabad in a “police action", ending the 200-year-old Nizam rule and merging the vast Hyderabad Deccan region, which comprised present-day Telangana, parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka into India.
Why 17 September communally sensitive?
The incidents leading up to 17 September, and immediate years thereafter were some of the darkest moments in the communal history of Hyderabad. The Nizam who was a Muslim ruler—administered over the majority Hindu subjects—conferring enormous powers to feudal landlords, who in turn exploited the masses.
Urdu was encouraged over native Telugu as medium of instruction and in administration, making education and jobs inaccessible to locals.
The freedom movement too had an impact on the Hyderabad state as the Congress and the Communists became politically active opposing the Nizam’s rule. The Communists led a popular resistance called Telangana peasants’ armed struggle starting from 1946 against the feudal landlords and the Nizam’s rule.
India gained independence from Britain on 15 August, 1947, and the Nizam, already weakened by the peasant revolt was under intense pressure by India to accede Hyderabad.
Qasim Razvi, an Aligarh-educated Muslim fanatic, who became increasingly influential during the last years of Nizam’s rule organized private militia called Razzakars. The Razzakars, who feared end of Muslim rule in Hyderabad, terrified people by looting, killing and rape for speaking-up against the Nizam’s rule.
The Razzakars further alienated people from Nizam’s rule making it fittest case for India to intervene and liberate Hyderabad on 17 September..
The “police action" was followed by an unprecedented communal violence in Hyderabad targeted against Muslims. Large sections of Muslim elite and middle class migrated to Pakistan and other countries, leaving behind their properties and many lost jobs.
The events after “police action" have left deep scars on Hyderabad Muslims.
In 1956, the Telugu-speaking districts of Hyderabad state were merged with Andhra Pradesh, while Marathi and Kannada-speaking districts were clubbed with Maharashtra and Karnataka, respectively.
Why previous governments were silent Telangana liberation day?
The liberation day is celebrated officially in Maharashtra and Karnataka, but the governments of combined Andhra Pradesh cutting across party lines remained silent as they feared antagonising Muslim minorities in Telangana.
Most people in Telangana consider 17 September as a historic day, but each had a different understanding as per their ideological standing.
The BJP and the Sangh Parivar calls 17 September as ‘Telangana Liberation Day’ or Telangana Vimochana Dinotsavam, the Communists call it as “Telangana Betrayal Day" or Telangana Vidrohadinam, and others call it as the ‘Telangana Merger Day’ or Telangana Veelinadinostavam.
Why did BJP taking up the demand in a big way now?
The demand for declaring 17 September as ‘Telangana Liberation Day’ or Telangana Vimochana Dinotsavam were nothing new, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar affiliates have been raising the demand even in the combined state of Andhra Pradesh.
Districts in Maharashtra and Karnataka, which were part of erstwhile Hyderabad state celebrate the ‘Liberation Day’ and the BJP wants the TRS government to do the same.
KCR also promised to celebrate ‘Telangana Liberation Day’ officially during the movement for separate statehood. The BJP calls KCR’s backtracking of his promise as political expediency and minority appeasement.
The BJP also wants to embarrass the TRS and score some political brownie points as it strives to become a political force in Telangana.
What is TRS’s stand?
The TRS, which came to power on 2 June, 2014 in Telangana remained silent declaring official celebration on 17 September, continuing the policy of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
“We say it’s a merger day, not a liberation day," said Kalvakuntla Kavitha, TRS MP from Nizamabad and daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
“It’s not a day to bring any differences between Hindu and Muslim communities in Telangana society," Kavitha added.
Analysts said Rao is careful of not upsetting the Muslim population in Telangana that constitutes about 13% of the population and anger AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen)—the influential party that represents Muslims of Hyderabad. However, Rao’s government celebrates 2 June, a day when Telangana was officially carved out of Andhra Pradesh in a big way as Telangana Formation Day.