Ram’s statehood-rekha - Telangana and Seemandhra stake claim to temple town

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By G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
  • Published 16.11.13
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Hyderabad, Nov. 15: Telangana and Seemandhra are fighting over Ram.

Next to Hyderabad, the biggest tussle in the bifurcation is that over the temple town of Bhadrachalam, which according to legend is located at the site where Ram had spent time in exile and from where Sita was abducted.

“How can you say Lord Rama is not a Telanganite? Legend and mythology say that he was in Dandakaranya along with brother Lakshman and wife Sita,” said state information minister D.K. Aruna, voicing popular Telangana sentiment.

Protests have been loud after word spread that the Antony committee, set up by the Congress to address Seemandhra’s grievances, would recommend Bhadrachalam be carved out of Khammam district and returned to Seemandhra.

The committee, whose importance has faded after a group of ministers was formed on Telangana, has yet to submit its report and its recommendations are not known.

But already, a rally has been organised in Bhadrachalam town to demand that the temple town remain part of Khammam, one of the 10 Telangana districts.

“Bhadrachalam was part and parcel of Telangana region. The Telangana people will not lose a single inch of Bhadrachalam division,” former Congress MP from Khammam Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy said.

Union minister Balram Naik, also of the Congress, plans to send a delegation to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to make their case.

But Seemandhra leaders are ready to battle it out and will send a delegation of their own to Delhi.

Sources claimed the Antony panel has argued that if the status has to be restored to what it was before 1956, when Telangana merged with Andhra Pradesh, then Bhadrachalam should be returned to Seemandhra. The temple town located 311km from Hyderabad was part of Godavari district until 1956, but was made part of Khammam after the merger.

In staking claim to Hyderabad, pro-bifurcation activists have cited the argument that it was part of Telangana before 1956 and therefore must be part of the new state alone.

The Congress MP from Rajahmundry, Uundavalli Arun Kumar, said: “All of Andhra Pradesh and most of Deccan, including Arcot district, were under Mughals and Nizams. So will Telangana campaigners demand even parts of Tamil Nadu? If they claim that prior to East India company rule, Bhadrachalam belonged to the Nizam, then so did all of modern-day Andhra Pradesh. If that is their claim, they should not claim Secunderabad as part of Telangana because it was a British base and not part of Nizam’s state.”

Official records of the CLR (commissioner of land records) at Hyderabad show that the Bhadrachalam revenue division was under British rule from 1768 to 1925 as part of the combined Godavari district and from 1925 as part of the West Godavari district of Madras Presidency. It became part of Andhra when the state was created in 1953.

The Telugu Desam Party blamed the Telangana Rashtra Samiti for this tug-of-war over Ram. “If the TRS had been accommodating about Hyderabad, then Seemandhra would have not raked up Bhadrachalam issue,” said former minister Tummala Nageswar Rao, who is now an MLA from Khammam.

But in all the noise, the party that is most identified with politics on Ram has been quiet.

Reached for a comment, senior BJP leader and former Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya said Seemandhra was unnecessarily making the holy Bhadrachalam into a political issue. “Everyone knows Lord Rama had travelled across Dandakaranya on way to Sri Lanka, and Telangana is major part of Dandakaranya,” he said.

If Bhadrachalam goes, Telangana will not have any pilgrim centre worth the name except the Basar Saraswati temple in Nizamabad district and the Kaleswaram temple deep in the jungles of Karimnagar.