Andhra Press and Disinformation
Pasham Yadagiri (Former Editor of Varthamanam)
The Telangana region has been a victim of conspiracy of silence, hatched by the Andhra rulers, actively abetted by Andhra press. The observation of M. Chalapati Rau that the freedom of press has degenerated into freedom of owner of printing machines aptly applies to Andhra press. The Andhra owners of Telugu newspapers without exception and the Andhra journalists with few exceptions never bothered to understand seriously the problem of Telangana region which accounts for a near one-third of circulation of Telugu newspapers.
The Andhra press has failed to empathize with the woes of Telangana people, being subjugated by successive rulers for over 800 years. The people of this region, in stark contrast to docile and content people of the other regions of the Andhra Pradesh, have been restless and volatile. The Telangana people fought Mallick Jaffers, Aurangazeb, the French army, the British army, Qutubshais and Asafjahis. They fought back the Razakars, created by the last Nizam, the world's richest man of his times. At least 10,000 peasants were killed by the Nizam's army and several thousands were jailed.
Even after the mighty Nizam's forces meekly surrendered to the powerful Indian army in 1948, the peasants of Telangana continued their struggle even against the Indian army to protect the lands they gained from Nizam and his stooges. The people fought the Andhra rulers in 1969 demanding separate Telangana. This upsurge had left 376 students killed by the police. The hunger and poverty, perpetuated by the Andhra rulers systematically, has provided a breeding ground for people's unrest and violence. The heroic sacrifices of Telangana people during Kakatiya regime, Asafjahi rule and Qutubshahi rule remained unsung and unmourned by the Andhra media. Through the Telangana armed struggle of peasants has no parallel in the history of coastal region, or for that matter any other parts of India, the heroes of the struggle are not considered freedom fighters by Andhra media.
The Andhra press similarly, have failed to empathize and sympathize with problems of the common man of Telangana. The starvation deaths of Mahbubnagar, the migration of legendary Palamur labor to unknown destinations in search of livelihood, drought or famine, highways chokes by endless herds of cattle on way to the slaughter houses, power crunch forcing the helpless farmers to engage gensets to pump water to their fields, hailstorms frequently destroying crop, livestock and even humans, forcible recovery of co-operative loans from the farmers of drought hit areas, desertification of vast agricultural lands, alienation of tribal lands, pollution of subterranean water sources, lack of drinking water, fluoride affected villages - to be precise the human misery that provides volumes of human interest new pieces to any journalist worth his salt and with heart in its right place do not find space in Andhra newspapers. The hunger in Ethiopia is rightly a prominent story in Andhra dailies, but the starvation deaths right in the very backyard of Hyderabad-based newspapers do not merit mention.
Andhra newspapers like elsewhere, have only two types of columns, i.e., human interest stories and vested interest stories. While there is no room for human interest stories, the vested interest stories dominate news of Andhra dailies. The unpaid columns of Andhra papers are almost fully occupied by disguised ads, which are subtle form of advocacy journalism. The news of floods in Andhra is prominent headline in Hyderabad daily but famine in Telangana is no news. The drainage problem in coastal delta is bigger news while the irrigation problem of Telangana are hushed up. The loss of property in coastal districts is more prominent news in dailies of even Hyderabad than the loss of life due to hailstorm in Telangana.
One would excuse the blackout of Telangana problems by Andhra press till 1975, because Vijayawada used to be publication center for Andhra newspapers. But the entire Andhra press started moving to Hyderabad since 1975 to graze virgin pastures of Telangana. Soon they realized that Telangana provided them ready and fast expanding market. Almost all chain newspapers have more than one-third of their circulation in Telangana while English newspapers and English periodicals have half their circulation in Telangana. Yet the Andhra Press is not loyal to its Telangana readers. It harbors extra-territorial loyalties. The problem of Andhra farmers are magnified and blown out of proportion, while those of Telangana farmers are either shown in poor light or blacked out. This is not a result of innocent mistake but an act of 'not so innocent' mistake. The management of Andhra newspapers have financial interests in Andhra region. Any focus on Telangana problem may lead to demand for expenditure on irrigation facilities or power and transmission lines. It may prevent siphoning of funds to Andhra projects. Apart from this, the management have developed political