Though the two Telugu states have sparred over many issues, the bifurcation hasn't spilled into public life as yet.

Of identity and belonging What Nara Lokeshs jibe at Non-Resident Andhras brings up
Flix Controversy Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 16:54

Nara Lokesh, Andhra Pradesh’s IT Minister and son of Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, is in the news for all the wrong reasons, thanks to his remarks on NRAs (Non-Resident Andhras).

Earlier this month, when the AP government announced the list of Nandi Award winners for 2014, 2015, 2016, it led to a major controversy with several allegations of casteism and political lobbying surfacing in the Telugu film industry. The bone of contention was the list of awardees for the year 2014 - several filmmakers alleged that ANR, Nagarjuna’s Manam was sidelined to give the bulk of the awards to the Balakrishna starrer Legend.

Apart from this, director Gunasekhar alleged that his historical drama Rudhramadevi was completely ignored, whereas producer Bunny Vas, a close associate of Allu Arvind and Allu Arjun, too remarked that films - like Allu Arjun’s Race Gurram - with actors from Megastar Chiranjeevi’s family were, once again, overlooked.

'Don't treat us like Telugu Rohingyas'

Responding to all these allegations, Nara Lokesh went on record saying, “People who don’t even have an Aadhar Card or Voter ID in Andhra Pradesh are sitting in Hyderabad and criticising the AP Government. There are also some people who fly from Hyderabad to stage protests in Andhra Pradesh demanding the Centre to grant the state a special status, and fly back the same day. They should instead do all this in Delhi.”

Addressing the AP State Assembly, Lokesh also added that CM Chandrababu Naidu was pained by these allegations. Not surprisingly, Nara Lokesh’s comments have irked several people in the film industry and he was also slammed by scores of people on social media.

The strongest reaction came from popular actor-and-writer Posani Krishna Murali, who addressed a press conference in Hyderabad on November 21 and said that he’s rejecting the Nandi Award that was given for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Temper.

Speaking about the controversy, Posani said, “I am ashamed of receiving this award. If I accept it, people may think that Posani accepted it as he belongs to Kamma community.” The actor also slammed Lokesh for bringing up the local vs non-local issue into this debate on Nandi Awards.

“Rohingyas fled from Burma and if people here too drive them away, where will they go? Don’t treat us like Telugu Rohingyas. Looking at how this Local Vs Non-Local debate has been brought it into this issue, I’m afraid that Lokesh is missing the whole point. I can’t believe he can even think on these lines. God save us all if he becomes the CM one day,” Posani said.

Posani also took a dig at Lokesh for bringing up the Aadhar card and Voter ID issue while addressing the Non-Resident Andhras.

“How can he even say such a thing when politicians like Lokesh, Chandrababu Naidu and others in their family have their own buildings, shopping complexes in Hyderabad! You can’t have different rules for different people. Don’t forget that Hyderabad is the joint-capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh until 2024," Posani lashed out.

Where do we belong?

It might have been just another political jibe from Nara Lokesh, but his take on Non-Resident Andhras brings up a bigger question - “Where do we belong?”. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014, it was one of the biggest moral dilemmas that people, especially living in Hyderabad, had to face.

Over the last two decades, several people from Telangana, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions had migrated to Hyderabad in search of more economic opportunities. Further, with Hyderabad emerging as a hub for education, IT, pharma and several other industries, the city’s real estate boomed in the 2000s which made it even more lucrative for migrants from other parts of the state.

However, the real picture of the city emerges during long weekends or festivals when lakhs of people head back to their native villages and towns in the hinterlands of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. There’s a running joke among Hyderabadis that you can play cricket on the main roads, especially during Sankranthi, because the traffic is almost nil since everyone has gone ‘home’.

So, where do we belong?

While the two Telugu speaking states have sparred over a wide range of issues, starting from administration, water, resources among many other things, the bifurcation hasn’t quite spilled into public life like most people feared. And all of a sudden, when an IT Minister of  theAP Government no less, who has strong political and film connections in his family, brings up this issue once again, it forces people to contemplate their identity and the notion of belonging at a much deeper level.

One way of looking at this issue could be in terms of how much are NRAs contributing to the development of Andhra Pradesh. It goes without saying that a lot needs to be done, starting from infrastructure to developing the state’s capital (Amaravathi) and creating more economic opportunities for people across the state. It’s a long road ahead.

Where do the two states stand?

There’s been a big debate over whether AP should be granted a special status by the Centre or if should just utilise a ‘special package’ given by the central government for the state government’s developmental activities. And a bigger issue is how does one improve the fiscal strength of the state’s treasury which is nowhere close to Telangana, which is a revenue surplus state?

For the record, Andhra Pradesh is among the top six states which gets the most remittances from people working abroad, especially in the Gulf, US, UK and Canada, although the numbers are said to have fallen in the last couple of years owing to unfavourable currency exchange rates. It goes without saying that the real-estate boom in several areas, across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, has been partly due to this surge in remittances in the past decade or so, which gives families enough financial muscle to buy a property or two.

In the past three years, with Chandrababu Naidu at the helm, Andhra Pradesh did emerge as one of the most favourable destinations for investments in a wide range of fields, ranging from IT to Agriculture. However, there hasn’t been a mass exodus of either talent or population to the state, especially from Hyderabad, and it could take years before people even consider settling down elsewhere.

Naturally, linking the Aadhar card or voter ID in AP to someone’s eligibility to question the government’s decisions is entirely misplaced. The point is, does one need to do that to call a spade a spade? And what happens to the whole slogan of “Let’s divide our property like brothers, but stay united as well-wishers” that we heard so prominently before and after the bifurcation?

In the past few years, several bigwigs in the Telugu film industry have trashed rumours that the industry could ‘shift’ to Vizag. The writing on the wall is clear - the Telugu film industry belongs to both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. And people too have embraced the idea that even if the government divides them in terms of boundaries, cinema unites us all. That explains why the criticism of Nandi awards was so universal. And those who are defending the jury’s decision, including the likes of Nara Lokesh, have made it worse.

Ironically, if some of the key ministers choose as many words to respond to criticism towards film awards, then it doesn’t leave much to our imagination about what else is likely to surface when the issue becomes far more serious. Now, that’s something that everyone needs to ponder.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!

You can also support us with a one-time payment.

Rs 200Rs 500Rs 1500Custom