The Reasoned Review

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Telangana Denoument

with 12 comments

Hyderabad heaved a sigh of relief today as the general strike and demonstration at the legislative assembly did not happen. Congress leadership has indicated that they have drafted a bill to create a separate Telengana state, K.C Rao has ended his hunger strike, and the city is once again jerking along in its regular rhythms.

Over the past decades India has seen tremendous balkanization, of which this Telangana dispute stands as yet another symptom. Winston Churchill, that magnificent racist, once opined that “India is no more a country than is the Equator”, and while events have later discredited that remark, the ghost of his sentiment has been present throughout. After independence every language group wanted its own state, and once that had been arranged, further interest groups began agitating for their own homeland. Telangana will be the fourth new state created this decade. In developments like these one can very clearly see the divisions still plaguing India today, the “communal sentiments” (as residents like to call them), and the way in which the Indian government operates.

The Telangana issue has stuck in Indian politics for 40 years or so, and its recent resurgence can be attributed mainly to climate change (or “drought”, for you non-believers). Over the years, Telangana has seen its share of water rights gradually diminished, as irrigation projects led by neighboring Andhra have diverted water away from the Telangana countryside. Several years of light rainfall eventually brought this issue to a head, after which one saw emotional speeches by Telengana leaders, hunger strikes, city-wide boycotts, and riots.

Such breakdowns of law and order betray a lethargy on the part of the Central Government, an unwillingness, or at least a perceived unwillingness to take these grievances seriously. One does not declare a fast unto death, sparking riots, police beatings, and paramilitary operations, if one believes he has a decent chance of being heard without these things. So in one sense this episode betrays a failure in the Indian decision-making process. After all, it is clear that the Telangana grievances, though quite real, could still be addressed without the creation of a new state. But it was precisely because the Telangana supporters were convinced their voice would not be heard via the usual channels that they resorted to demonstrations and violence.

Central leadership finally acceded to the protesters’ demands this morning, validating, perhaps, their violent methods. But this is the way in which things happen in India – one generally cannot achieve a result without loud demonstrations. This also indicates the severe strain of emotionalism which runs through Indian politics. Telangana supporters, when asked, will point to drought and jobs as the overriding reasons for their dispute, but the matter goes deeper than that: they know, in their hearts, they “deserve” a Telangana state, and no compromises, no palliative alleviations will suffice. It speaks to the lack of “national identity”, to the general identification with smaller social groups: state, religion, caste, political party, and who knows what else.

But even more than that, this little episode exemplifies the sort of issue that can mobilize large crowds in India. After all, to an outsider (such as myself) it is a matter of profound indifference under which administrative district Telangana happens to fall. The overriding problems facing India as a whole, systemic corruption, massive income disparities, an exploding population, etc., could never elicit such as response as Telangana did. Increasingly, such problems are coming to be seen as somebody else’s mess – namely, India’s: a country with which fewer and fewer identify.

Addendum: Former Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy’s untimely death in a helicopter crash this September can explain the precise timing of this movement. A formidable politician, adept at keeping a lid on disputes like these, his absence left a wide diplomatic hole. Reddy’s successor, a self-inflated septuagenarian named K. Rosiah, was not equal to the task of satisfying the Telangana supporters.


Written by pavanvan

December 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Thank you for reporting on these issues. I have been reading a lot about India lately in my World History class, and I am starting to tie together some current issues with historical aspects.


    December 10, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    • Sorry, but this article is not reporting the truth. Like all the media which is usually savvy about sensationalism this guy is some how mooting violence as the main drag. But this kind of sensationalism is simply neglecting the intense peaceful agitations telangana villagers have been conducting since several years.
      To know the truth you should go around because the media would only purposefully reflect an isolated image of violence but never a mass peaceful movement.


      January 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm

      • I don’t think the violence was “isolated”, in that there was definitely more than one instance of hostilities breaking out. A lot of it was on the part of the police, but how do you explain all the buses that were burnt? (By the way, that’s why I have to pay 9 Rupees to get to Secunderabad now. Thanks.)


        January 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm

  2. After reading this reasoned review I realized one of the most common error people do while writing an article about an issue that has tremendous historic significance, like the Telangana issue. Though I admire your particular tendency to rationalize your inference on the issue by trying to observe on both sides of a coin, you miserably failed to look in to the historical precedence surrounding the demand for separate state.
    Andhra Pradesh State was formed by merging two territories of India, Andhra state and Telangana region of erstwhile Hyderabad State in 1956. Since people of Telangana were going to be minority in the state and for various other historical and cultural reasons they did not strongly wish for a merger. But Andhra state for the lack of Capital City, mineral resources and to avoid dispute on Krishna river water strongly wanted to enact the merger. Because of this one-sided deviation the merger was more of a kind of business alliance made possible by an agreement to safeguard the interests of Telangana region as well as allay the fears of telangana people. But this agreement known as Gentleman’s Agreement was never actually followed by the andhra and all the rules were right away crossed.
    Since the agreement upon which this alliance was based did not formalize telangana people want to break the alliance. And the demand irrespective of any other arguments is correct and valid.


    January 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm

  3. About the addendum:
    I think other wise. YSR was the key politician from congress who supported separate telangana by encouraging congress alliance with TRS in 2004 and in making the concession for separate telangana in the party’s 2009 election manifesto.
    He wickedly reversed his support once the elections in telangana were over. Nor did he stop there, instead crossed all the borderlines of a mature leader by provocating the andhra people by saying that telangana people are going to kick andhras out of Hyderabad once telangana forms. This may not have been taken as serious by people if it was not coming out of the mouth of Chief Minister , the supremo, of the state.
    This statement aroused strong sentiments on both sides and his flickered fire of wicked politics did not leave the state even after his death.
    For what we are seeing today, YSR is completely responsible.


    January 29, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    • Well, I guess there are a lot of theories when it comes to that. I think a lot of people say YSR invited TRS into alliance to try and keep it under control (it’s doubtful to what extent he was successful in this)

      But yeah, you’re probably right in that he did more than his share of stirring up last month’s demonstrations. Though I think that Rosiah’s particular ineptitude also had a hand in it.


      January 29, 2010 at 9:46 pm

      • Yeah most people today have this notion but if you once reel through the last one year since the results of elections you will know why telangana issue became intense after the death of YSR. His death in it self has delayed it for some time.
        Immediately after elections this year every one was eager about the Supreme Court’s decision that declared hyderabad as free zone. The first flames of the agitation raised, which were cooled down only temporarily because the government led by YSR has promised to reappeal for the case in Supreme Court. However KCR and other telangana poltical forces have already began raising their voices on separate state. Immediately followed were statements from every political party in AP supporting the separate state. Even in February KCR was highlighted in the news about beginning a hunger strike and mass agitations.
        However tensions were let down for a more than a month because of the flash floods on Krishna river Banks. Immediately after this, there was this tragic death of YSR and subsequent political turmoil on the question of who would be the next CM.
        Only after the congress high command declared that MR. Rosaiah would continue for full term, KCR started his meetings with all the political parties about the telangana issue. Since about 45 days before he actually began the fast he went around all the regions and political circles of telangana claiming that he would begin his fast soon.
        So I don’ think this is any thing to do with ineptitude of particular politician. It is only that the right time has come for the settlements.


        January 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

  4. Sravan:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that the demands are valid, and I’ve subsequently discussed the States Reorganization Act and the Gentleman’s agreement in some detail. While I sympathize with Telangana’s grievances, and on the whole find them just, I wanted to point out that it’s after all a relatively minor issue when compared against systemic government corruption, air and water pollution, and the all-important overpopulation.

    Indeed, Telangana’s major complaints against the Andhra government (lack of water and lack of employment opportunities) can be directly attributed to the above three problems.

    So while I definitely sympathize with Telangana’s historical case for statehood, and to an extent even support said case, I really think the solution to their problems like in addressing the above three issues. (To take just one small example: A big drain on Telangana’s water is obviously Hyderabad, which could be water self-sufficient if Hussain Sagar wasn’t an open cesspit.)


    January 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    • The trust that needs to be existing for both parties to discuss terms and address the problem with solutions, had been breached by Andhra, already since several years. The long roll of non implemented Go’s, never to be disclosed committee reports, stagnating river projects on Godavari and six point formula followed by its subsequent withdrawal due to Jai Andhra movement all sit as witnesses to the inability of the govt. and Andhra politicians/ bureaucracy to gain respect and trust from telangana people.
      Well if the problems can be solved by addressing certainly that can be possible through a bilateral dialogue between the two states once they separate. Atleast telangana people will sit on the table as equals rather than as alleged victims. There is no reason left for the two regions to still continue the alliance based on agreement that was unilaterally broken.


      January 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      • Agreed. I guess I would just add that without some kind of political reform, it is possible (some might say likely) that Telangana will fall subject to similar class inequities as it previously felt. It’s tough to say, definitely, but I don’t think Andhra and Rayalseema took advantage of Telangana because they were racists or whatever; they did so because no one (presumably the Centre) stopped them. You see a lot of the same kinds of behavior happening in other states (even Gujarat under Narendra Modi, for whom I’ve heard nothing but praise. Remember the pogroms he led.)

        So it’s a larger issue (I think) than this state vs. that state.


        January 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm

  5. Thank you very much. Well, me myself don’t think that Andhra aand Rayalaseema deliberately took advantage of Telangana but I still would say they had grabbed the opportunity with out any disregard. By this I do not mean that it was a planned aggression but a mere opportunity of possessing bureaucratic dominance. Having said this, to continue the status quo is nothing but continuing the same old lopsided hierarchical relationship that benefits one part over the other. By all means it is ethical for Andhra and Rayalaseema to accept ad hoc demerger of alliance. And it should be understood by all parties that the alliance is broken because of incompatibility that arose because of the broken agreement which was actually laid down to cement the alliance.

    And I do not think Telangana will fall back to any class inequities as it is previously felt because the region is uniformly underdeveloped except for hyderabad. On the contrary a political reform is actually required for Andhra State given the existing two powerful caste based political feuds between the two main regions. I think people of andhra should realize that this is the time to confront the old caste based dominations and should try to bring development to their own downtrodden masses.


    January 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

  6. […] I begin I should admit that my initial writings on this topic (here, here and here) were premature and largely uninformed. I regarded this business then as so much […]

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