India: A Political Vignette
The city of Hyderabad shut down yesterday as secessionists declared a general strike and took to the streets, demanding their own state within India. Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as its capital, encompasses three separate regions – of them, Telengana has agitated for separate statehood for almost forty years. The issue has flared once again, and the new leader of the separatists, K. Chandrashakar Rao, is on day four of a fast-undo-death.
The situation has roused much anger and has bitterly, though unevenly, divided Hyderabad. Telengana separatists point to a laundry list of grievances against the Andhra government, claiming theft of water, land, and employment opportunities. Andhra supporters point to the lack of industry in Telengana, and allege that Telengana would not be a viable state.
Andhra’s capital happens to fall square in the middle of Telengana, further complicating the issue. A great majority of Andhra Pradesh’s industry lies in Hyderabad: its whole IT sector, construction, government, and much else. Most of the state’s wealth is concentrated in this city. The Telenganists are split on the matter – some propose to make Hyderabad a “neutral city” and capital of both states, others take a less compromising attitude and say Andhra should find a new capital.
General strikes have continued for a week, and the situation turned violent after K.C. Rao began his fast. The man is old, frail, riven with diabetes, and a chain-smoker to boot. No one expects him to last longer than a few more days. When rumors went round that his condition was critical, students of Osmania, the local university, went berserk and began torching cars and buildings. Since then several small riots have occurred, and upwards of 40 businesses were burned in a single night. Four students have also committed suicide in protest, one lighting himself ablaze.
Today, the central government flew a paramilitary force into Hyderabad to quell any further unrest. Mobs of students met them, and they engaged in a brief stone-and-baton battle, which produced 15 wounded, including five journalists. The city is on tenterhooks, wondering what will happen next. K.C Rao is now on the ninth day of his fast, and wild rumors now circulate as to his condition. Everyone knows that his death will only lead to rioting.