Contrary to belief, the Muslim community has come out in support of the movement for the formation of a separate Telangana state. Muslims in the Telangana region feel that all these years they have been treated as outsiders in their own place and believe that once the state is formed, a lot of their problems will be solved.
The community claim that as they are the main sufferers in a united state, the time has come to speak up and be heard collectively. Leading the movement in Hyderabad is Lateef Mohammad Khan, chief of the Muslim Forum For Telangana, who says that they are fed up of being branded as ISI agents and rowdy-sheeters.
In an interview to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Khan speaks extensively about the role Muslims want to play and how their lives would change once Telangana is formed.
We thought Muslims were opposed to the formation of Telangana. What happened? Why has that stand changed?
We have not changed our stand. Our stand was always for a separate Telangana. It was just a propaganda being floated by late chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy that the Muslims were opposing Telangana's formation.
The Majlis-e Ittihad al-Muslimin, which largely represents the Muslims, especially in Hyderabad, does not seem to have taken a stand on the issue. What are your thoughts about the same?
The MIM says they are in favour of the formation of a separate state. However, the Muslims in Hyderabad, at least, have some doubts about them. We have been told by reliable sources that we should not trust the MIM, as they are sitting on the lap of the Congress party which is against the formation of a separate state.
However, the MIM cannot continue this way for long since the movement has gone into the hands of the people and eventually they will have to come around and support our cause.
There is a lot being spoken about the Nizam's rule. Some say that post-Telangana, the state would prosper as it did under the Nizam. What is the take of Muslims on this issue?
We agree that the Nizam's rule was feudal in nature. But, the Nizam protected the welfare of the people. He had imposed the 'Mulki' rule, under which in matters of education and employment preference would be given to the people of Telangana.
There was another interesting rule, which was in force under the Nizam. People who migrated to and spent 14 years in Hyderabad were given equal rights. After the 1948 police action, Andhra people started migrating to Hyderabad.
The people of Andhra were recruited in military and civil sectors and we, the people of Telangana, were told that we do not know English and Telugu. Some 28,000 Andhraites came here during 1968 and during 1986, 59,000 Andhra and Rayalseema region people illegally occupied jobs.
During the Nizam rule, 'Mulki' rules were formed to protect the local people. All the agreements were violated the day after the formation of a United Andhra.
At present, some 3,85,000 Andhra and Rayalseema people are occupying jobs in Telangana region. All these jobs are of Telangana, in which our share is included. Coastal Andhra people overlook the historical Charminar, saying that it will not provide any food, and hi-tech city would provide employment to lakhs of people and benefit of crores of rupees would be gained. We are nowhere today.
We question them to point out a single Muslim in the hi-tech city. Hence, we feel that the 'Mulki' rule of the Nizam will be in place once Telangana is formed.
Is that not asking for too much? This is India, after all.
Why didn't anyone think in the past that we too are Indians? We have been deprived of our legitimate rights and I think that some focus exclusively needs to be given to us so that we are able to rise and prove ourselves.
You say the Nizam's rule was feudal. How would you compare the rule of the Nizam to the present-day Congress rule?
The Nizam had undertaken a lot of developmental works for the people of Telangana. Whatever he did was for the good of the people. However, the Congress has made the people think that we are lazy and speak a funny language. That is all we have gained. To cut a long story short, the Hindus in Telangana are called jokers and the Muslims terrorists.
How would the lives of Muslims change once Telangana is formed?
Once Telangana is formed, the Muslims will have a big part to play. We form 20 per cent of the population of Telangana. We will get more political representation and a Muslim could become a chief minister or at least a deputy chief minister. Till date, there has not been a single Muslim chief minister in Andhra Pradesh.
What about the real estate mafia? How has that changed the equation in today's fight for a separate state?
When 'Hyderabad' was a State, we were rich in wealth. The State had a lot of lakes and agriculture fields. Leafy vegetables were produced in the fields around Hyderabad. The leaders from Rayalseema and Andhra destroyed several acres of lands belonging to the wakf board.
They also destroyed the lakes and ponds and used it to develop real estate. The people of Coastal Andhra became billionaires and Hyderabadi Muslims were forced to come on the roads.
Telangana lost greatly in the past 50 years. Water was never supplied properly for irrigation and all our resources were always diverted. We are living under the worst conditions.
Muslims have been committing suicide unable to pay loans and innocent girls are being married off to Arab Sheikhs for meagre sums. If at all change has to occur in our lives, we should have an equal share in employment and education and representation in politics -- for which a separate Telangana state is the only solution.
The time has come to break our silence and as Hazrat Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed) had said, "There is no meaning for silence when there is a need to speak for justice."