The Telengana-divide

From 1969-2013, the people of Telengana have demanded a separate state, and yesterday the UPA government in India cleared the creation of Telengana state — India’s 29th.

Before I pitch into my personal opinion on the matter, I want to take you through the historical context of this 44-year-old demand.

According to historians of post-independent India, Hyderabad was primarily capital of Telengana, a region ruled by the Nizam and comprising of Urdu-speaking people. When Andhra broke out of the Madras presidency citing lack of adequate representation, these Telugu speaking people were foisted on to Telengana, creating an unharmonious VishalAndhra with two peoples that had nothing in common. This was 1956.

From 1956-2013 Andhra has survived its multilingual heritage despite intermittent agitations by Telengana representatives demanding a separate state.

Many new chapters have been written into history books in that time, as Gorkhas in West Bengal demanded a separate state, Bodos and Dimasas in Assam sought out their own agitations, Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand found themselves separate states and NEFA was renamed Arunachal Pradesh.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have fought for over two decades now for a God-given resource bountiful in river Kaveri, thanks to dams and political agendas.

Now, a new vote-bank political move might very well have created a huge precedent and a second region of conflict in the South.

Eighty percent of the fertile Krishna-Godavari basin in the Deccan plateau will fall in the newly created Telengana, a state that will continue to share its capital city of Hyderabad with Andhra Pradesh. Telengana’s representatives cited marginalization as the primary cause for the split, but a capital city will not suddenly alter its demographics to accommodate the marginalized evenly.

AP will be left with little of the fertile basin, but the huge port of Vishakapatnam will continue to remain. Telengana will be ridden with Naxalites, dark forests and a plethora of problems that it cannot fathom yet.

The issue of multilingualism is hardly a problem in today’s world where vernacular media of instruction are delving into the obsolete and everybody is adapting to English, however incorrect and broken it might be. An issue that existed 40 years ago is rendered invalid, and political agenda aside, one wonders if it would have been too difficult to ensure an even allocation of economic resources to Telengana in a unified AP? Would that not have aided the progress of those who claim to have been marginalized and deprived of opportunities?

Fifty years ago, politics enforced the creation of an unnatural province, only to be reduced to what it began. History just took a four-decade backward leap.

And while the people of Telengana can continue to grapple with their problems, subsequent years will see an escalation of mindless demands from other separatist, regional groups in the country including tribes of Rajasthan, Assam, Vidharbha, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. How many of these will culminate in separate states in the next decade?

States and provinces are to be created as a natural consequence of human habitation. A region’s culture, history and language defines state boundaries. The problem with India’s complicated state borders can be safely laid down at Sardar Patel’s feet, who with his iron will and not much foresight, amalgamated broken kingdoms into modern states, ignoring differences that divide ethnicity.

Why, otherwise, would the creation of Vishalandhra be possible to begin with? Why not grant Telugu-speaking people their own state 50 years ago? Why foist Bengalis onto the Assamese and the Garwalis onto UP? Why not let the people decide whom they wish to cooperate with?

We are still remnants of a colonial country, divided into regions as the Brits left us with in 1947 — rulers who had no care for the subtle divisive forces that grow from the 5000 years of history in the land. And this massive process of creation, un-creation and recreation is leaving us devastated, dragging us five steps backward for every step we move forward, abetted by selfish political agendas and the mute voices of the people who have no say whatsoever in the power of democracy.

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