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Telangana: A New State in India?

Submitted by on December 20, 2009 – 4:30 pm 2 Comments |  

Not long after gaining independence, India remapped its internal political geography so that its main divisions would roughly correspond with linguistic groups. With each major language community being granted its own state, local demands for autonomy would, theoretically, be much reduced. Although this policy has generally resulted in stable “statoids” (see, agitation for the creation of new states has continued as smaller ethnic groups increasingly demand their own political spaces. But in the most recent hubbub over state division, issues of language and ethnicity have been outweighed by those based on economics and political history.
On December 9, 2009, the Indian government announced that it would carve a new state, Telangana, out of the large southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh had been created in 1956 by merging Andhra State with the core area of the former princely state of Hyderabad to create a Telugu-speaking polity, now some 76 million strong. But sharply contrasting colonial legacies—dating from the era when Andhra was largely under direct British authority while Hyderabad was ruled by the Nizam (a local potentate)—had created distinctive political cultures and economic conditions. As a result, despite the bonds of a common language and culture, the merger was always contested.

Andhra Pradesh

Under the rule of the inordinately wealthy Nizams, the city of Hyderabad received lavish expenditures while the rest of the princely state remained impoverished. Such was the wealth of Hyderabad that when newly formed India forcibly annexed the domain in 1948, it dubbed the military venture “Operation Polo” after the Nizam’s 17 polo grounds. The Telangana movement actually began somewhat earlier as part of a leftist struggle against the autocratic rule of the Nizam. The movement’s leaders contend that merger with Andhra merely substituted one exploitative elite class with another. And indeed, stark economic divisions still characterize Telangana. Hyderabad is now such a high tech center that locals deem it “Cyberabad,” while as India’s second largest film center it is sometimes called “Tollywood” for its Telugu-language movies. Telangana’s impoverished peripheries, however, are located within India’s “Red Belt,” a zone of rampant agrarian agitation and Maoist rebellion.

The Indian government decided to create Telangana in part to end a “fast to the death” by a local political figure, K. Chandrasekhar Rao. Such a move hardly put an end to the controversy, however. Protests against the proposed redistricting quickly erupted. Anger was pronounced elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh due to the impending loss of the state’s capital and business hub, while in Hyderabad itself high tech magnates expressed fear that a Telangana state administration would be hostile to business interests. Conflicts emerged in other parts of India as well. Opposition leaders pressed loudly for the creation of new states to satisfy their own constituencies, while established interests in the existing states rejected such demands, fearing that a precedent for continuing state division could be set by the creation of Telangana. As a result, the proposed reengineering of Indian state boundaries remains in doubt. What seems clear is that India’s internal political geography will remain a controversial and contested matter, putting strains on the country’s generally robust system of federal, democratic governance.

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  • Allaka Shivakumar

    States are created in the light of pessimistic attitude of politicians who want power and people are ignorant that a separate state can yield benefits for them but leads to a deep hole in state exchequer for its formation.
                            in reality 70% of telangana region  people dont want a separate state but few who r doing are mostly illiterate and jobless guys who r hoping that a separate state would give them reservation in jobs and decrease competition from coastal Andhra.
                            the congress government at the centre should not take speedy judgement for separate state in the wake of few agitations in fear of loosing votes. they should think a new state is not a one-or-two days issue  but an issue which results in moral,economical and ethical values separation .
                            the telangana agitators are particularly concerned not for state but for Hyderabad which is a economic key in south India. in conclusive make two separate states i.e. Andhra and telangana and make Hyderabad a union territory or keep Andhra Pradesh as a single state 

    • Gaurang Karmakar

      Sorry buddy, but the reality is that smaller states are better manageable. Bigger states are an administrative nightmare for the nations. And, that is why the most advanced nations of this planet also have tiny provinces/states. Now, if your logic is indeed correct, then East Punjab shouldn’t have been divided into Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Delhi. Frankly, speaking, it is primarily because East Punjab was broken into smaller states that these states are now very affluent (although the same cannot be said about the social indicator, what with lousy sex ratios of Punjab and Haryana, but that is another matter).

      Similarly, it is because Uttarakhand has been separated from Uttar Pradesh the state is now developing at quite a good rate. Earlier, these hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh, inhabited by the Pahari (Garhwali/Kumaoni) people, were grossly ignored by the UP Govt. seated in Lucknow of the Central UP (Awadh) region. The same is happening with the Bhojpuri-speaking Eastern Region of UP, which wants to become the new state Purvanchal. The brute majority of progress and development has been in the Western UP (Braj and Rohillkhand) region which has economic figures similar to that of Punjab and Haryana. Not only that, it (Western UP) is also socio-culturally similar to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan (while Purvanchal or Eastern UP is similar socio-culturally to Bihar). Finally, the drought prone and malnourished Bundeli-speaking region of UP must be merged with the Bundeli-speaking regions of MP to form the state of Bundelkhand. If Bundelkhand remains within UP, it will never be able to get out of it’s rut.

      The same goes for the Baghelkhand region of UP and MP, Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Maru Pradesh of Rajasthan (consisting of the entire Thar region of Rajasthan).

      Your assertion of vested interests of corrupt regional politicians and their political parties behind these agitations may indeed hold some weight, as it is quite obvious the reason as to why many politicians want to hive off certain regions from big states is that they want those smaller states to be their political strongholds, as these political outfits, being small, do not perceive any bright future for themselves in the presence of bigger political parties in these big states. However, let us not deny the fact that bigger and cumbersome administrative units, be they states or be they districts, are more often (than not) an administrative nightmare. In smaller and more manageable administrative units lies the better socio-economic future of India.

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