A forum of Rayalaseema peoples' organizations is staging a Dharma Disksha at Dhana Chowk, Vijayawada on December 13.

According to an organizer, poets, writers, intellectuals, employee leaders, farmer leaders, etc are expected to participate in a big way in the Diksha.

On the face of it, it looks like a reaction to the ongoing Mahapadayatra (Nyayasthanam to Devashtanam) of farmers of Amaravati Capital region which entered Chittoor district on their way to Tirupati.

While the farmers' Mahapadayatra demand continuance of Amaravati as the sole capital of Andhra Pradesh, the organizers of Dharma Diskha favor the decentralization of capital and the immediate establishment of the High Court at Kurnool.

For the past one month, scattered Rayalaseema activists have animatedly been discussing the importance of recognizing the Sribagh Pact as the guiding principle for the development of Rayalaseema.

It has become a tradition in the Rayalaseema region to observe November 16 as the Sribagh Pact Day every year and lament the injustice heaped on the region irrespective of the party in power. Activists would organize symbolic dharnas, intellectuals issue statements and farmers' organizations highlight perennial water woes, retired politicians perfunctorily talk of separate Rayalaseema state, and so on and so forth. These rituals begin a month before and end through December or January.

Mainstream political parties never take cognizance of these activities. They always choose to feign ignorance of the existence of the word Sribagh as they see the pact reached between the leaders of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra in 1937 as a dead letter.

For them, their poll manifesto is much more sacred than this 80 plus YO archival piece. So, the leaders of the ruling YSR Congress and opposition Telugu Desam Party never identify themselves with these sub-regional activities. And in the absence of a credible leadership for regional movement, the majority of the population of the region is under the impression that the issue doesn't pertain to them.

As usual, Rayalaseema murmurs largely go unnoticed this year as well with the party-packed media hardly giving any space to these sentiments though they look genuine. By and large, there has been no emotive element in the Rayalaseema slogans.

Why injustice for Rayalaseema is not able to trigger any popular agitation in the region?

There appear to be three reasons for the lack of an element of emotion in the regional issue. First, the leaders who fought against the injustice to Rayalaseema in the early 1980s when TDP was the ruling party came to power later and did precious little to undo the injustice to the region.

Neither setting up of a Bench of High Court, leave alone shifting HC to Rayalaseema, nor setting up of IIT and IIM or AIIMS was contemplated. The people in the region are well aware that the issue of the region's backwardness is being raised periodically to incite sentiment and derive political benefits.

Rayalaseema veterans, mostly retired or no more now, made Hyderabad their home and ignored their region.

Second, the two mainstream parties YSR Congress and Telugu Desam are basically leader-centric integrationist outfits. They love the vast and wider states to rule and loath to talk of the regional injustice for they fear that they might be branded as petty Rayalaseema leaders in other regions.

True to form, the leader-centric and autocratic TDP and YSRC never allow a regional champion to grow or raise the issue of injustice on the party fora. For them, the term Rayalaseema is non-existent. No MLA or MP of these parties is interested in Rayalaseema discourse.

The third and most important reason is the migration of youth to other states in search of employment. The job recruitment in the public sector in Andhra has been either nil or minimal for over a decade or more. Educated youth are migrating to neighboring cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bengaluru. These cities are well connected to the region than Amaravati which is not only a far-flung area but also an employment desert. Even Vizag which is touted as the executive capital by chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy could not hold out hope for unemployed youth. Lack of employment opportunities in government, quality education, and coaching centers are forcing Rayalaseema students to migrate out of the state for livelihood. These millennials are not at all interested in agitations and movements. And they might also have been influenced by the plight of unemployed youth of Telangana who have been waiting for 7 years for the promised lakhs of jobs in state government. When youth and students are not available, Rayalaseema is unlikely to witness a popular movement.

Barring Rayalaseema Saguneeti Sadhana Samiti, which is struggling hard to mobilize the people on the waterfront, and a couple of hyper-local students and cultural organizations, the region is yet to see a political outfit to wage a battle for justice.

Against this backdrop, 'Justice for Rayalaseema' is taking the form of regional identity and igniting a movement that looks like a pie in the sky.

Jinka Nagaraju

Jinka Nagaraju is a Hyderabad based journalist. He covered the entire spectrum of political activities of Telugu states from Hyderabad and New Delhi for about 3 decades. He represented Vaartha in New Delhi during the most happening decade of 1996-2006. He was the political correspondent of Times of India from Hyderabad for 10 years. He was editor of Asianet's Telugu digital platform.

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