When the borders were redrawn

Deccan Herald

Friday, September 26, 2003

“Who killed Sriramulu?” was the question making rounds, clearly pointing towards certain Andhra leaders who had apparently felt that they could achieve their objective, through Sriramulu’s supreme sacrifice and had therefore not dissuaded him from fasting.

It is 50 years since Bellary district came into the erstwhile Mysore State. Krishna Vattam who was a witness to the times recounts the events that led to the final merger

October 1, 1953 was a historic day in the political map of India. It was on this day the new State of Andhra was inaugurated in the “tent capital of Kurnool”. And consequent to the formation of this new State, Bellary district, which was part of the Madras Composite State, became an integral part of the erstwhile Mysore State.

These two events marked the beginning of the formation of the two linguistic states — Andhra and Karnataka. Soon, the long cherished dream of the Andhra people and the Kannadigas for Vishala Andhra and Akhanda Karnataka respectively became a reality on November 1, 1956.

Setting the pace

Countdown for the formation of the Andhra State, and the consequent merger of Bellary taluk in the erstwhile Mysore State had begun as the mortal remains of Potti Sriramulu were being consumed in the funeral pyre on December 16,1952. Even as the flames were burning bright on the ghat in Nellore, the Andhra districts were aflame. The agitators, incensed over that the fact that ‘the recalcitrant attitude’ of the Centre vis-a-vis fulfilling their age-old demand for a separate state had taken a heavy toll in the supreme sacrifice of Sriramulu, went on a rampage. They destroyed the Central Government properties, set fire to railway stations, and attacked the fire brigade as they went about extinguishing the fire. Police opened fire to quell the agitations, killing four persons and causing bullet injuries to sixteen others.

Rattled by the widespread violence, Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru expressed regret at the death of Sriramulu as a consequence of his fast, and made the following statement in the House of People (Lok Sabha) on December 19 on the formation of the Andhra State:

“I repeat that we are perfectly prepared to proceed as early as possible on the basis of JVP (Jawaharlal, Vallabhai and Pattabhi Sitaramaiah) Report. I would not go into the details of the report, but the most essential feature is that an Andhra State should be constituted and steps should be taken to constitute Andhra State with uncontested and unchallenged Telugu areas in Madras State.”

The eleven districts of Andhra, which formed part of the composite Madras State, were a contiguous and homogeneous entity, with preponderant Telugu speaking population in the areas except in a few taluks in Anantapur and Bellary Districts bordering Mysore. Separation of these districts from Madras and carving them as a separate state (pending the formation of linguistic states on the basis of the States Reorganisation Commission recommendations) did not pose any problem.

Accordingly, the Centre on February 7, 1953 appointed Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice K N Wanchoo to give a report about the Telugu speaking areas that are to be taken out of Madras to form the new state and the economic viability of Andhra.

State of dilemma

When it came to the question of Bellary District, since there were certain taluks where the Telugus were in majority and in other areas where Kannadigas were more in number, Justice Wanchoo could not come to any definite conclusion. He felt that the entire District should be treated as one entity. Since the question as to in which state the District had to be merged did not come under his purview, he could not speak about the future of Bellary.

However, the prime minister announced the Centre’s decision on Bellary as follows;
(1)While carving out Andhra State, Bellary district will not be treated as a single entity
(2)Adoni, Alur and Rayadurga, where the Telugus were in a majority, will form part of the new state
(3)Other taluks, barring Bellary, Harapanahalli, Hadagali, Kudligi, Hospet, Sandur and Siruguppa, where the Kanna-digas were in a majority, will be merged with Mysore.
(4) As regards Bellary taluk, the Centre felt since it was bilingual, it could not come to immediate conclusion about its future.

On April 21, 1953 it announced the appointment of Hyderabad High Court Chief Justice Mr Lakshmi Shankar Mishra to examine all aspects in relation to Bellary and present the report by May 15, 1953.

While the Andhra people in Bellary were happy over the turn of events, the Kannadigas were doubly shocked for they had to fight on two fronts. Firstly, to have the entire district retained as a single unit and secondly to oppose the move to “unsettle the settled question of Bellary”. A section of Kannadigas even suggested the boycott of the Mishra commission. However, it was left to the local MP and respected leader in Madras State, Tekur Subramanyam to assuage feelings saying that “we have a good case and we will win.” The Kelkar Committee and the Partition Committee constituted by the Madras Government, with a majority of Andhra members in the committee, had expressed that Bellary’s place was in Karnataka, and for the first time, its future was being questioned.

Justice Mishra, who held his sittings in the office of District Collector in Bellary from May 1 to 8, heard representations and collected memoranda from both the sections. While all Telugu speaking people (with the notable exception of Tekur Subramanyam who despite his mother tongue being Telugu championed the cause of Kannadigas. Justice Mishra in his report makes a significant observation about this), wanted Bellary to be added into the new state, the Kannada speaking people were unanimous in their demand for the merger of Bellary in Mysore.

Apart from the important local Andhra leaders like H Sitarama Reddy (who had served as a minister in the Madras State), H Linga Reddy, Mundlur Gangappa, D Venugopalachary and M Dodabasappa, Mr Tan-gaturi Prakasam a prominent leader of Andhra and renowned freedom fighter who became the first Chief Minister of Andhra State appeared before the Mishra Commission and argued the Andhra cause. On the Kannadiga side, apart from Tekur Subramnayam, Allum Suman-galamma, Y Mahabaleswarappa, Allum Karibasappa, Ijari Siri-sappa, K Channabasappa and S Nijalingappa pleaded before the Commission for Bellary’s merger in Mysore.

The Mysore Government sent its representation through its special officer, a senior civil servant Seshagiri Rao (who became the first Deputy Commissioner of the District after merger in Mysore). Rajaji, the chief minister of Madras was keen to keep himself aloof from the Andhra State and related controversy. (He had, in fact, been the target of attack for apparently being opposed to the formation of Andhra State). This explains why he deputed two of his cabinet colleagues, Sankara Reddy and Dr Nagana Gouda to appear before the Mishra Commission. While Reddy argued the Andhra cause, Dr Gouda put forth the cause of the Kannadigas. Besides Justice Mishra had collected the necessary documents from the Madras and Hyderabad Secretariats.

He presented his report to the Centre on May 19, 1953 and the Union Cabinet met the next day and accepted the recommendation of Justice Mishra for the merger of Bellary taluk in Mysore.

The final merger

While local Andhra leaders strongly protested over the Centre’s decision, their leaders Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, President of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (who later became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh), APCC Vice President Kaleswara Rao and Praja Socialist Party Vice President PVG Raju said that there was no question of quarrel over Bellary with the Kannadigas and the Andhra State would accept the Centre’s decision.

Thus, Bellary with six other taluks spread over an area of 3841 sq miles, with a population of 7,73,712, became an integral part of Mysore, even as the Andhra State was inaugurated in the make-shift capital, nicknamed “tent capital of Kurnool”. On October 1 1953, amidst scenes of jubilation, Mysore welcomed Bellary. Maharaja Jayacha-maraja Wodeyar, Chief Minister Kengal Hanumanthaiya, S Nijalingappa, among others, extended their greetings to the Bellary people. Hanumanthaiya, addressing the Telugu speaking people in Bellary, said “we give our affection, full measure and brimming over, we ask for theirs in return. In Mysore, linguistic differences have never been a problem as the history of our administration proves”. Hanumanthaiaya did not fail to greet the new Andhra State saying that “the boundary line between the two states is only a necessary administrative technicality, and it is not so formidable an obstacle that we cannot each stretch our hands across and feel the warmth of a friendly grasp.”

An issue, once again

The Andhra people and the Kannadigas, who had been living in perfect harmony, had estranged feelings during the short period of this controversy. Again the dying ember was fanned by a gusty wind that blew from New Delhi in 1956 when the States Reorganisation Commission opened the question of Bellary again, and recommended its inclusion in Andhra State, igniting the atmosphere in Bellary with intense feelings of animosity between Kannada and Telugu speaking people. Again Pandit Nehru intervened to rule out the question of reopening Bellary issue.

Kannadigas who saw three taluks of composite Bellary District being merged in Andhra and the Andhra people whose claims over Bellary were rejected, soon reconciled to the situation and the bonhomie that was missing for a short period was unconsciously re-established, a lesson the Maharastrians, who want to keep alive the Belgaum issue, have to learn from Bellary.
All this is now history. But as a witness to those times, I cannot conclude without chronicling certain events of those momentous days in a retrospective manner. The “intense Kannada consciousness,” even bordering on parochialism, we experience today, was not there during those days, and top Andhra leaders found in Nijalingappa a most affable and “large hearted leader”.

If only Nijalingappa, who commanded respect among the leaders of the Centre also, had opposed the division of Bellary District and insisted on it being treated as a single unit, things would have been different. Andhra leaders were in a great hurry to have a separate state and would not have dissipated their energies.

The separation of three taluks was a blow to both the Kannada and Telugu speaking people in the district. Justice Mishra, recognising the linguistic composition of these taluks, observed how it was “impossible to throw the city of Bellary in the Andhra State without doing violence to the rights of the intervening Kannadiga population of Alur and Rayadurga which are in continuation of the Kannada areas of Bellary”.

Case of Potti Sriramulu

Another event which comes to my mind is the death of Potti Sriramulu. While in the eyes of the Andhra people, Sriramulu is seen as a martyr, the question that was being asked even then was whether such a supreme sacrifice was needed. Perhaps the Andhra people would have had their own state if they had not claimed their rights over Madras.

“Who killed Sriramulu?” was the question making rounds, clearly pointing towards certain Andhra leaders who had apparently felt that they could achieve their objective, through Sriramulu’s supreme sacrifice and had therefore not dissuaded him from fasting.

Sriramulu died after 58 days of his hunger strike. Speaking in the Madras Legislative Council on March 12, 1953, Rajaji said “We have to face certain calamities and misfortunes and we will face them. In my view there are other people responsible for the death of Sriramulu. But it is not useful to point out fingers”.

All these proceedings are carefully preserved in the Madras secretariat.
As we celebrate the fiftieth year of the birth of the Andhra State and the integration of Bellary into Mysore, being witness to these events, it is but natural to go down memory lane reliving the sweet and not-so-sour memories yet again.

Copyright, 1999 The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G. Road, Post Box No 5331, Bangalore – 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 5880000, Fax No. +91 (80) 5880523