Andhra Pradesh

Kurnool’s long fight for High Court

File photo | Kurnool Bar Association members staging a protest in Tungabhadra river demanding the shifting of the High Court to the district.  

The speculations driven by the comments by Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy that Kurnool could be made the ‘Judicial Capital’ of the State has led to celebrations in the city. Lawyers, students, public organisations and some political outfits have been demanding for long that the government establish the High Court in Kurnool.

But, the foundation for the movement was laid in 1937, when the Sribagh Pact was signed. The gentlemen’s agreement dictates that Rayalaseema region would have the first pick while choosing between the capital city or High Court.

The idea was to decentralise development by establishing the capital city in one region and the High Court in the other. And by doing so, develop the drought-prone Rayalaseema Region at a par with Coastal Andhra.

When the movement for separate Andhra started in erstwhile Madras state, the leaders of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema got together and decided to sign the pact in a bid to develop all the regions.

The pact was signed in the residence of renowned journalist and freedom fighter Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao on November 16, 1937. The agreement draws its name from the residence of Rao — Sribagh.

Following the pact, Kurnool was made the capital city when a seperate Andhra State was formed in 1952 comprising 11 Telugu speaking districts (Prakasam and Vizianagaram districts were formed in the 70s). However, much to the dismay of Rayalaseema people, the capital only lasted a few years.

Hyderabad and Telangana

After the bloody events in Nizam’s Hyderabad State, the State was annexed into the country and later merged with Andhra State in 1956, after which Hyderabad was made the capital city. This frustrated the people of Kurnool. And the pact was more or less considered null and void.

But, after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, lawyers of Kurnool started arguing that the State has reverted to its position before 1956, and claimed that the Sribagh Pact holds ground.

There were protests in Kurnool during the TDP regime where the people demanded that the government must adhere to the pact and make Kurnool the capital again. However, the people of Kurnool once again felt betrayed by the decisions made by the TDP government to make Amaravati the capital.

Fight for HC

The lawyers and students decided to organise and create Joint Action Committees (JAC), which went across political lines to fight for the High Court, as it was the only option left.

Later, the former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu also saw the angst of Rayalaseema people and announced that a High Court Bench would be set up in Kurnool. This calmed down the protests in the district, but the announcement never materialised.

When YSRCP won the elections, the lawyers and students of Kurnool once again saw an opening to make sure that the city developed. Over three months ago, the protests in Kurnool started in the district.

At a point, lawyers boycotted all the courts in the district, and the students started protesting outside the residences of all elected representatives and political leaders. After numerous rallies, protests, and demonstrations, the Chief Minister made a statement in the Assembly that Kurnool may be turned into a ‘Judicial Capital’ of the State.

This came as vindication to the students, lawyers as well as the common folk of the district. From 1956 onwards to 2019, the people who consistently felt betrayed by the various governments have finally turned their frowns upside down.

Students look at jobs

Some students claim that the entire point of bringing the High Court to Kurnool is to ensure the city develops. The students argue that by bringing the court to the city, job opportunities will increase, and by extension, the city will develop.

Rayalaseema Students Joint Action Committee convener B. Sriramulu said there was a lot of government land on the outskirts of the city. “We have rivers to draw water from and the airport would be completed soon,” he said. The five-star hotel expected to be set up at Orvakal would provide solutions to infrastructure concerns.

Moreover, the Amaravati-Anantapur highway, when finished would provide much-needed connectivity between the different regions of the State. The expressway would make it easier for the people of Rayalaseema to go to Coastal Andhra and vice versa.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 9:13:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/kurnools-long-fight-for-high-court/article30369443.ece

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