Yes, it is time to right history’s wrongs

The question is not whether a separate Telangana state should be created today, but whether it was correct to merge Telangana with other Telugu-speaking areas after independence and create a larger Andhra Pradesh in the first place. If we agree that the merger,in 1953 was wrong, then we must admit it is never too late to correct a mistake. This has nothing to do with the unity and integrity of India because Telangana is not seeking to secede from the Union; it is merely asking to become a separate unit of the federation.

To sit in judgment, it is important to look at history. Telangana is a Telugu-speaking region of Andhra Pradesh which was governed by the Nizam of Hyderabad before independence. Post independence, the Congress party accepted the idea of creating states on linguistic lines so whole-heartedly that it refused to accept that there could be identities and aspirations other than those based on language, even though the first States Reorganisation Commission(SRO) did not  recommend Telangana’s merger with the other Telegu-speaking regions.

The SRO suggested that Telangana remain a separate state until the 1961 general elections. Thereafter the Telangana assembly could decide if it wanted to join the state of Andhra Pradesh. The SRO recognized that while Andhra was in favor of a larger unit, popular mood in Telangana was not. Nehru didn’t agree, and merely promised that the arranged marriage had a provision of divorce. This led to a “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the two regions in 1956 that lapsed in 1969, followed by violence and bloodshed.

The discontent over the treatment of the people of Telengana has been simmering ever since. There is evidence to prove that they have been discriminated against in all spheres, including jobs, water, education, and access to power. Isn’t it incongruous that this region, which makes up over 40% of the state in terms of both land area and population, has had a Telangana person as chief minister for only a total of 6.5 years in five decades? And not one of those was allowed to rule for a full five-year term? Isn’t it unfair that an area that contributes more than 75% of the state’s revenue never gets more than 30% allocated in the budget? Or that less than 20% of government employees come from this area?

In short, there is a living history of the Telangana movement.  If the NDA government could create states like Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh, why did they not agree to Telangana? The only reason appears to be the opposition of their alliance party, the Telegu Desam. The current ruling Congress party has similar compulsions, not least the fear of losing votes and seats. The question is not whether Telangana should be created but when politics and history will meet.

Shivam Vij is a writer based in Delhi.


No, it is India’s time for fusion, not fission

Like a busy cell forever dividing and multiplying, India is a noisy entity that endures because it has learned how to balance fission and fusion. As a democracy, this civilization demands that all voices be heard.

Sometimes these voices are a chorus, singing as one; indeed, independence from Britain was primarily an integrative act bringing together like-minded people toward a unified vision of national sovereignty, albeit resulting in two independent nations. More frequently, the chorus has been fragmented, with the voices sounding mutinous to those seeking a crazy glue solution to keep the country whole. And, today, those advocating a separate Telengana state from Andhra Pradesh are but one of many such fragmentationists.

So, shall it be Andhra’s fusion or Telengana’s fission?  Frantz Fanon asserted that “every human problem must be considered from the standpoint of time.” Pre-modern India was divided into princely states which themselves were further divided inot villages governed by panchayats. When considering modern India, independence from Britain was a time of integration; indeed the tragedy of Partition was foreseen by many, including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who famously said, “there can be no divorce before marriage.”

In the second half of the 20th century, one could hardly read an Indian newspaper which didn’t allude to the country’s “fissiparous tendencies.” In advance of the 21st century world of globalization, the fissiparous nature of the nation created conditions that enabled India to enter the world stage as  a technology superpower, an emerging market, and as a voice to be reckoned with.

But if this voice is dissipated by too many divisions, its strength will be lost; too many Telenganas and corporate leaders who yearn for stability in their global supply chains, outsourced business processes, and offshored information technologies will take their investments elsewhere.

One can accept the many claims that people have to statehood.  Leaving aside the corrupting allure of power that comes from ruling a state, this is at its core a question of alignment.  Who do we align with and how do we want that alignment represented in the form of governance?  To be sure, just as Nehru and Jinnah fought over the merits and demerits of Partition, today there are many who will re-draw states to meet their own venal needs.

But a stable and unified India aligned with free markets can transcend corruption and remain a vital force for democracy. If treated as part of an ongoing dialogue between those willing to listen to each other and tolerate both change and continuity, the unrealized voice for Telengana can represent the civilized part of the Indian civilization.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza is a change management consultant.

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