World Telugu Conference 2017
For the first time, the Telangana Government is hosting the World Telugu Conference in Hyderabad from December 15 to 19. Ironically, it was the venue for the first meet of Telugus from across the world in 1975 when the city was the capital of united Andhra Pradesh.
For reasons unknown, the global conclave of Telugus has not been held regularly. Though the inaugural was a grand affair and launched with lofty aims by the then Government of Andhra Pradesh, the second and third conferences were organised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1981 and Mauritius in 1990 respectively. The last one was held in 2012 in Tirupathi. That means in over 40 years, the global Telugu conclaves had been held just four times, averaging one per decade. And, all these were held under the patronage and support of the united AP Government.
The idea behind launching a platform for Telugus living in the country and outside of it is to bring together the Telugu Diaspora and make them aware of the greatness of the Telugu language and its literature, art and culture, history, etc. While the success of the 1975 conference was unprecedented – a lakh of people were said to have attended various events every day – its appeal has started waning subsequently. One reason was the enthusiasm with which the then state government had worked for it and organizations and prominent individuals supported it is mostly absent in later years. The World Telugu Conference was such a draw that who was who in every field of human activity participated and duly honoured for their contribution to the language and literature and various forms of arts and culture, including cinema and stage drama.
Fast forward to 2017 World Telugu Conference. The KCR government is doing everything possible to make it a grand success. But there is a difference. While the core aim of the previous meetings was to promote the Telugu language and culture and everything linked to or associated with them as stated at the 1975 inaugural session, the forthcoming one appears to project Telangana and its Telugu, literature, culture, traditions, and even its cuisine.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has directed a cabinet sub-committee specially constituted for making arrangements for the conference to serve Telangana specialities, including, of course, Hyderabad biryani to the delegates, invitees and others attending different sessions and events at eight venues spread across the city. The food will be supplied from a centralised kitchen managed by top chefs.
Similarly, various cultural events listed in the conference itinerary are designed to showcase Telangana’s arts and crafts, festivities, rural traditions, poetry and folk songs. According to KCR himself, the conference should be a mirror for the world to see everything about Telangana.
There is nothing wrong in his thinking because he feels whatever is dear to Telangana people has been suppressed by ‘Andhra rulers’ during their 60 years of rule. In other words, it’s Andhra language and cultural imperialism that have muted Telangana’s distinctive aspects of life. Many share the view and see the World Telugu Conference as an opportunity to remind others of the ‘forgotten’ greatness of this region and its contribution in enriching Telugu. A Rs 3-crore 40-minute documentary film encapsulating all about the youngest state and featuring the heartthrobs of Tollywood is being readied for the global audience.
The Telangana Sahitya Academy has invited about 40 delegates from other countries and 50 from other states. Around 8,000 Telugu luminaries from all walks of life are expected to attend the conference.
While all these efforts are welcome, many are raising questions about the very purpose of the conference: Is it to unite the Telugu Diaspora and promote the Telugu language, or is it to promote the Telangana State and Brand Hyderabad?