Every people’s movement has its moments of poetic and literary inspiration, and the Telangana agitation is no exception. Indeed, the poets and singers have not only lent strength to the movement but have also taken Telugu literature into new directions.
BY K SRINIVAS
Cultural identity formed by customs, traditions, practices and lifestyles bring an assertive element into the political struggle of a particular community. It gains strength from history and common memory. Anchoring oneself to history gives an insecure individual or community a sense of belonging and hope for the future.
For instance, the Indian national movement and the Andhra nationalist movement (andhrodyamamu) both had strong cultural components. Similarly, the Telangana renaissance during the first decades of 20th century had an overwhelming cultural expression.
Indian identity was constructed in such a way that India had a great golden era in early history and a dark period in the mediaeval centuries. Indian identity became about reviving past glory. And the Andhras of Madras Presidency found their own icons and inspired themselves with stories of the great Vijayanagara Empire and its galaxy of poets.
And then, the Telangana of the Nizam’s state woke into the modern era trying to find its own history. During the Nizam’s rule, Telangana was a Telugu-speaking area in a multi-lingual state facing neglect and denigration.
Interestingly, this struggle was essentially based on language, while the struggles in post-independence and post-unification period have mostly been about regional autonomy. As a geographical area, Telangana wants to be a separate administrative unit. As a cultural entity, it is searching for its own idiom.
The movement which erupted to achieve these goals tried to create expressions that were unique, distinct and geo-culturally specific. Though the definition of regional identities is still evolving, a working explanation can be given to the phrase “regional identity”—as a construct of geo-specific and cultural expression that disowns and rejects previous identity, which has surfaced or resurfaced particularly during the last two decades.
These identities evolved or continued because language-based identities failed to unify the speakers of a particular language. In essence, all newly surfaced identities are born of the failures of previous identities.
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