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Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Telangana blunder

It has been three years since P Chidambaram confided somewhat loudly that the UPA was going to grant Telangana statehood.

Written by Meghnad Desai |
October 13, 2013 12:50:34 am

It has been three years since P Chidambaram confided somewhat loudly that the UPA was going to grant Telangana statehood.

There was once a young Brahmin boy who,having nothing to do,would spend his time in the village square. He used to admire a bull who had a pair of perfectly round horns which formed a circle. The boy thought of trying to jump through the horns. But being a prudent chap,he did not do so immediately. After a year of watching the bull,one day he took the plunge. The bull panicked and thrashed him about till others had to tame the bull and rescue the boy. When people admonished him about his thoughtless act,the boy replied,“It was not thoughtless; I had thought about it for a long time.”

That is the perfect analogy for the government’s (Congress?) decision on the Telangana issue. It has been three years since P Chidambaram confided somewhat loudly that the UPA was going to grant Telangana statehood. Confusion and denials followed. A commission was appointed whose recommendations were soundly ignored. More time was wasted and the issue simmered. YSR died leaving Andhra orphaned. Belying Jagan’s hopes of dynastic succession,chief ministers were appointed and replaced. Jagan was hounded and jailed,but the problem still persisted.

Then at last,and indeed too late for comfort,the demand has been granted. All hell has broken loose. There are power failures and mayhem on the streets. Ministers have resigned and the Chief Minister is itching to go. There have been old divisions within Andhra which have become new regional identities — Rayalaseema and Seemandhra. Telangana patriots refer to them as outsiders,even foreigners. There are politicians going on fasts to protest.

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This is how we began 60 years ago. It was the fast by Potti Sreeramulu which precipitated the creation of Andhra,the first linguistic state. He did something that most people who go on a fast usually take care to avoid. He died. Pandit Nehru was against the creation of linguistic states despite it being the Congress party’s policy,as he feared Balkanisation. He had to concede. A commission was appointed to consider reorganisation of states and reported.

Nehru may have ‘discovered’ India but he did not fully appreciate its diversity. His was a centralist vision of India being a single entity. What he had to concede was that Indians saw themselves simultaneously as Indians and Punjabis or Tamils or Malayalis,among others. They saw no conflict between the two. Unlike China,which has been a single entity throughout its history,India became so only during the late 19th century. Then nationalists projected that single vision backward into history.

India has forever been a multi-national polity. Thus far ‘local’ nations have been defined mainly by language. Only in the case of Khalistan was there an attempt to combine language,religion and territory to forge a secessionist movement. That was quite rightly squashed at enormous personal cost by Indira Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi was relaxed creating new states in the North-East and the BJP, which used to be Unitarian,has also been easy about creating new states.


Telangana,however,is an anomaly. There is no linguistic separation between it and the rest of Andhra. Its sense of ‘nationhood’ is built on history since it was part of the old Hyderabad state. That is another strand in the creation of India since British Indian provinces had to be merged with native states to make up India. But if Telangana is granted,where would we stop? Rajasthan can be divided all over again in previously held princely territories. Uttar Pradesh would have to concede Awadh as a separate state. There were 600 ‘princely states’ which were merged to make India thanks to Sardar Patel. Is there a plan to open Pandora’s box again?

This way lies folly and much disruption. It is urgent that the Telangana muddle is solved. Why not create a MahaAndhra with three separate autonomous ‘regions/ states’ — Telangana,Rayalaseema and Seemandhra,with a single capital? Look at Belgium for the way such a solution would work. Belgium has defined itself as a nation with two languages — Flemish and French,and three regions,Flanders,Wallony and Brussels. They hold separate legislative sessions for their local issues and get together for national issues. This is the way forward for MahaAndhra.

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First published on: 13-10-2013 at 12:50:34 am
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