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Birth pangs of a new state

 | August 2, 2013

Telangana has already provoked a call for new states in different parts of India.


Divorce is invariably painful. The separation, whether it involves men or nations or even states in a union, can be emotionally disturbing.

We have seen this in Europe, and earlier we have seen this in Pakistan (emergence of Bangladesh) and on the Indian subcontinent (India and Pakistan). The last was probably the most traumatic in the history of mankind with humungous loss to property and life. Leave alone the desecration and destruction which followed the division.

Now, the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has been spilt into two to create Telangana. The name of the new state is yet to be finalised, but for now let us call it Telangana.

Ten Andhra districts will form Telangana. Andhra will be left with 13, and Hyderabad will be the capital of both states for 10 years.

As much else in life, there are two sides to this story.

In 1956, when India divided its territory into states on linguistic basis (with exceptions though), it was presumed that language was the basis of culture. The spoken and written word “implied” cultural uniformity.

But this was not always true.

The people of the Telangana region were against being part of Andhra when this state was carved out the large Madras Presidency in the mid-1950s. Though both the Telangana and Andhra regions spoke the same language with some variations (Telangana’s Telugu language has a mix of Urdu and a couple of more languages, while Andhra spoke a Sanskritised version of Telugu), their cultures, their festivals and food habits were different.

Also, while the Telangana areas were ruled by the Muslim Nizams before India’s partition in 1947, Andhra was under the British, who helped its people progress through the English language (Urdu under the Nizams) and modern farming.

This helped Andhra to prosper, and rich farmers invested in the then Madras (now called Chennai), which was the only city in the region in those times. Nizams’ exploitative rule kept the subjects in depravation and poverty.

The demand for a separate Telangana state is as old as 1969. Former Congress Party prime minister Indira Gandhi crushed it then.

However, with the Congress having promised Telangana some years ago, the party, which now heads a coalition government in New Delhi, could no longer ignore the call for the new state.

If this pledge had not been fulfilled before the federal elections early next year, it could have meant the rout of the Congress in the Telangana region. And given its poor track record during the past decade, the party cannot afford to lose even a single vote.

But, at the same times, the Congress knows that it is caught between the Devil and the deep sea. Telangana has already provoked a call for new states in different parts of India.

In West Bengal, Gorkhas want Gorkhaland sliced off the state’s hill areas. Darjeeling nestled on the Himalayas – which can be the centre of Gorkhaland – has been observing a bandh for three days.

In Assam, some groups want Bodoland. We want Vidarbha, say some in Maharashtra. Uttar Pradesh wants to split the huge state into four.

Some social thinkers though fear that such divisions may strengthen secessionist tendencies. Let us not forget, time was when Tamil Nadu wanted to be an independent country. So did Punjab.

Such dreams and desires my not have disappeared completely.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]


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