The tiresome Telangana tangle

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TelanganaThe UPA government has opened a Pandora’s box with its decision to carve out Telangana

By Kuldip Nayar

Apparently, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who okayed the creation of Telangana for a formal decision by the Cabinet, did not anticipate the angry reaction from the rest of Andhra Pradesh, called Seemandhra. When there is a blackout, no water supply, no transport, no fuel and mobiles are powerless, the mood in Seemandhra is that of now or never.

The Centre could have gauged the sentiment by proceeding with what the constitutionsays. It is laid down that the state assembly should be consulted. True, in the house of 294 members, Seemandhra’s 179 members would have stalled a resolution on the creation of Telangana. But then the constitution says that there should be consultation, not concurrence.

The exercise would have enabled to foresee the extent of aggressiveness which even intelligence agencies failed to report. Probably, the anger in Telangana was no less when it was up in arms. The Centre had resisted the state’s bifurcation although the agitation was at its fiercest during the days of Chenna Reddy, once the state’s chief minister. The then Congress president, K. Kamaraj, from the south, had his ears to the ground. Sonia, sitting in New Delhi, is not familiar with the ground realities of the state.

Was it necessary to divide Andhra Pradesh? This was the first linguistic state. The States’ Reorganization Commission that followed the creation of Andhra Pradesh recommended the creation of Telangana. Yet, the Centre stuck to a united Andhra Pradesh in the larger interest.

The Telugus enthusiastically welcomed the creation of Andhra Pradesh because the Telugu-speaking areas were retrieved from the Madras Presidency and amalgamated with Andhra Pradesh. The question that remains unanswered is why so much hostility has come to surface when Telangana is constituted.

After all, it is going to be a part of India. Ambitious politicians are responsible for cultivating hostility. There can be fear that Telangana is more or less the old state of Nizam where razakars (armed men) were ruling the roost. But the state is strong enough to curb such a tendency. Also the Nizams encouraged razakars and dreamt of joining Pakistan.

Politicians eye the loaves of office that a new state would create. That greed may be the reason why state chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has not resigned even when he is for a united Andhra Pradesh. Had he resigned, it would have come as a jolt to the Congress high command and probably things would have taken a different turn.

Indeed, Congress has in mind the next elections where it expects to sweep Telangana. It is tragic that politics has held its sway over the interest of the people of Andhra Pradesh. Its bifurcation will create problems for both the states over issues such as water disputes because River Krishna flows into both the proposed states. It is still not late to annul the decision.

Probably, the services of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will have to be harnessed. If he could undo the ordinance to shield convicted politicians and force the Union Cabinet to rescind its decision, he would be able to undo the division of Andhra Pradesh as well. Indeed, it was ridiculous to introduce in parliament a bill to overcome a Supreme Court judgment that MPs and MLAs will cease to be members of the respective houses and disqualified the moment they would be convicted.

The bone of contention between Telangana and Seemandhra is Hyderabad. The proposed bifurcation will have Hyderabad as the joint capital for 10 years. Why not permanently? When Punjab was divided, it was announced that both Punjab and Haryana will have separate capitals and Chandigarh will be a Union Territory. The two states found that a joint capital was useful and convenient. So much so, the lawyers of both the states opposed to the Centre’s proposal to have a separate high court in Haryana. The proposal had to be withdrawn.

The argument that Seemandhra does not touch the border of Telangana where Hyderabad is located is not convincing. Both states belong to the Indian nation. Why then the opposition to have Hyderabad as the joint capital? It is, however, unfortunate that government servants of the proposed Telangana state have threatened that Seemandhra’s government servants must have their own set-up in Hyderabad itself. Such tendencies must be curbed with a strong hand because they impinge on the country’s unity.

The Centre has also closed its eyes on the renewal of demand for the creation of other states. Vidarbha, Gorkhaland and some other states in the north-east have again begun agitating after the announcement of Telangana. The state governments are helpless when the Centre announces Telangana without bothering about repercussions.

It is not understandable why New Delhi has created another problem when it is already reeling under deteriorating economic conditions on the one hand and uneasy burdens with China and Pakistan on the other. Maybe, the announcement of Telangana is meant to divert attention from other pressing problems the country is facing today. This is perhaps the Congress way of tackling them.

The government has done well in resisting the demand for the appointment of another States Reorganization Commission. It would haveopened a Pandora’s box. I recall the passions aroused when the commission was appointed. There were so many claims which were equally conflicting that it was difficult to arrive at any decision which ultimately the commission made.

The commission made two points as back as in 1985 when it submitted its report. Both points are as true today as they were then. One, whether the states are reorganized or not they will continue to be an integral part of the Union, which is the real political entity and the basis of India’s nationhood. Two, the constitution recognizes only one citizenship for the entire people of India, with equal rights and opportunities throughout the union. The proposed state of Telangana is, no doubt, a wrong decision. Yet, the 28th state, if constituted, will keep in mind that citizenship is one, with equal rights.

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