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After decades of dilly-dallying and amid series of protests by thousands, the Indian government has finally given in to the demand of partition of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to create a separate Telangana. Hyderabad will be the common capital of the two states.
30th July will remain an historical day for the people of Telangana. After 57 years of fight, the Congress-led government has finally approved the creation of Telangana state. The decision has been seen as desperate political move by the government, which is facing a severe challenge in the run up to the next year’s general elections. AP was indeed the largest contributor of seats to Congress and enabled the Congress-led coalition to stay in power.
By creating Telangana, the Congress seems to have gambled that Telangana votes would come to the party and allow it to keep its position in the state intact.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the largest states in India, stretching over 275068 sqkm and with a population of nearly 87 million. The state comprises of four regions and was created in 1956 when a major reorganisation of Indian states took place and Telugu speaking regions were clubbed together with the remnants of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s kingdom. Right from the creation, people of Telangana, who had felt ignored and discriminated for nearly a century protested and asked for a separate Telangana, which covers 42 pc of the state’s area and accounts for over 38 million of the people.
Hopes for development & better representation of scheduled castes and tribes
Of the regions that made up Andhra Pradesh, Telangana was the poorest and least developed, with the lowest human development indicators across board. It also had the largest share of the scheduled castes and tribes, the weakest sections of the Indian society. According to a report by ICRISAT, an international research organisation based in Hyderabad, Telangana’s development had been held back by the long overhang of the feudalism and the rule of Nizam, leading to a situation where other regions of AP were more developed and better off than Telangana, where poverty levels are much higher than in rest of the state.
The people of Telangana say they have been discriminated against for long. Even though one of the largest dams in the state is located in Telangana, water from here is sent to other parts of the state for irrigation and industrial uses, while Telangana’s farmers are starved of water. The region’s people also lack access to adequate health, education and employment. As a result of decades of negligence, the region has clearly fallen behind schedule.
One of the main reasons behind the delay in any decision is the backlash as there are many proponents of a united Andhra Pradesh. In fact, while most of the residents of Telangana want a separate state, residents of other parts of AP are equally adamant on keeping a united AP. « Carving up a state due to demands by a section of people is not the best way to govern. By breaking up Andhra Pradesh, the government will weaken us in all manners. It will impact our economy, society and culture. After all, we speak the same language, have the same traditions,…’’ says a student from Hyderabad.
The current government of Andhra Pradesh is almost entirely against the creation as were nearly all the ministers from AP in the federal government. The chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy too hinted openly that he would not hesitate to resign should AP be created.
Pandora’s Box ?
The impact of Telangana’s creation will be felt even far away from the borders of AP. There have been movements in various parts of the country for other smaller states. One such demand is for Gorkhaland, bringing together the Nepali-speaking population of the hill districts in northern parts of West Bengal. When the news began to emerge last week that the government was finally going to create Telangana, members of the Gorkha National Liberation Front said there would be violence in their areas if their demand was not met simultaneously. There has been demand for creation of a Vidharbha state in eastern Maharashtra and also creation of a greater Nagaland, bringing together the Naga population currently living in four states of the North East. There are other demands for further division of Assam, which has very high tribal population and which has seen a lot of violence.
While the Telangana creation could help Congress in winning some seats in the next year’s national elections, it is bound to create severe problems for the government, both current and the one to be installed after next elections. The process of setting up the administration and having Hyderabad working as a common capital will also take time. Since the announcement yesterday, many protests have hit the capital and the costal area of Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema.