Monday, January 17, 2011

Time for a Telengana State

Messing up in Telengana would alienate people from rest of the country

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Justice Shri Krishna Committee report on Telengana has strengthened the views of the Telengana people that it was meant to create status quo and buying time to create further confusion and depression among the people of the region. That Shri Krishna Committee could not find logical reasons for carving a separate Telengana state is quite distasteful. But what can one do with a committee of ‘experts’ who hails from state apparatus and know to ‘rule’ and ‘govern’ rather than understanding the historical demands and sentiments of the people. Of course, sentiments do not matter for those in powers as for them it is important to calculate here and there to save their governments and further their own agenda for future.

That Andhra Pradesh has been a loyalist to Congress party and important for its future is a well known fact. And it is this tragedy that has averted creation of Telengana State duly declared by home minister P.Chidambaram on December 9th, 20101 last year after a cabinet meet on the issue. After the builders and minor lobby creating ruckus in Andhra Pradesh, the government backtracked its own decision and formed a committee of ‘expert’ to maintain the status quo. The committee members traveled across the state and met a large number of people and found their assumption that the most suitable thing for the development of the region is to maintain the status quo.

Telenagana is burning again. This time, it is silence in the air but tension is visible on each face. Perhaps, the people are waiting for the Budget session of parliament. They are waiting for the government at the center to come for a final solution. It seems, the Congress party is playing a mind game and testing the patience of the people of the region. Congress is known to do no work, a typical P.V.Narsimharao style which means doing nothing means doing everything. And they are waiting for people to respond.

The important thing that has happened this time is usage of media. This self censorship from the media created an atmosphere where the local people are feeling betrayed. The same media which was broadcasting every small event nearly a year ago is keeping a low profile. The day the Commission report was out, momentum was building up and our anchors were playing great hosts. Telengana Rashtra Samiti President KCR’s son was the most visible face on TV channels explaining eloquently why they reject the Shri Krishna Committee Report. The other faces from the regions were a bunch of expert and congress politicians who are unable to express as they are dying in two loyalties – one to their people and the other to their high command. In the congress culture, high command is most important thing and hence these MPs will wait till their last breathe to wait for a positive decision from High Command. An Indian Express story narrated in details how the Congress MPs from Telenagana regions virtually wept at the feet of Pranab Mukherjee, virtually telling him that their political future would be decimated and that they have no other option then committing suicide. The congress MPs should understand better that they have better option than opposition in creation of Telenagana. Congress should understand that it may lose all the regions due to its dilly dallying tactics on the issue.

Telengana, it seems, is the most misunderstood region. Its political struggle does not appear visible outside the region. The current movement and sentiments remains in the state. It is tragic that the other parts of the country, it is becoming like a hot ‘national’ issue which is linked to disintegration of the country. Some parties and experts claimed that it will divide the country further. Then there are arguments that smaller states are not good. The other argument is that states were divided on the basis of languages and hence no further division of one language state. Many argue according to their convenience like a Bahujan ideologue who said there is nothing for us in Telengana. BJP is supporting as it is known to swim in troubled water as it has no stake in Andhra Pradesh. The Hindutva always gained from the smaller state syndrome as the faulty positions taken up the other parties.

Let us understand that there is no meaning of the explanations given in terms of smaller state or bigger state. There are big states which have failed and there are smaller states which have succeeded. States are not created just because we feel they might fail. If that were the reasons, British should not have left from India. States are created on specific movements for their autonomy and people’s struggle, socio-economic conditions, cultural differences. United States of America has over 50 states while India with such huge population has just 29 states. The states that were created immediately after independence were not always on logical grounds. If one see the logic of the work of the state than you have to scratch your head. How states were created and how their capitals were developed. Thiruvananthpuram is capital of Kerala but it is based on the border of Kerala with Tamilnadu. How can one justify such a capital? Chennai is on one side of Tamilnadu. One can visualize the distance of Hyderabad from Vishakapattanam. French scholar said that nation states are bound not by language and common religion but common history which may not be dynastic but earned through common struggle. The Telenagna people’s strength lies in common struggle against not only the autocratic rule of Nizam but also against feudalism.

Unfortunately, the entire issue revolves around the fate of Congress party in the region. One must not undermine the factor that political parties are taking positions according to their possibilities for future. When the congress decided to opt for a Telengana state last year, they were hopeful that there would no reaction against it, as has happened in other cases such as Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand state where state assemblies passed resolution in this effect. Hence the protest in coastal Andhra regions were well planned by the lobbyist to thwart the separate Telenagana dream. It is unfortunate that the politicians could go to such strength to sustain their interest. We know well that during the Uttarakhand state, the issue of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar became bone of contention with Uttar-Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav continue to say they were part of Uttar-Pradesh ignoring the historic reality of the two cities. It was done to deny Uttarakhand the revenue generated from the region and compelling the center to concede the demand of the state in a truncated form. However, that did not succeed. This time too, the center has to take a decision above the party line. Once that is done, they would be able to handle all other issues.

It is well known facts that many voices for more autonomy for Indian states emerged in 1980s. The demands for autonomy with in the states also raised its head. The grievances of the people in particular states need to be looked after. Rajiv Gandhi actually started his governance with much better way as he not only negotiated in Punjab and Assam at the cost of his own party but also brought Mizo rebel leader Laldenga to negotiating table. When state were demanding fiscal autonomy, regional voices with in the states were raising their head. Gorakhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand are some of the logical demands coming out of part of huge states where people of one region find it difficult to travel to the state capitals. The biases can clearly be found in the state bureaucracy.

The government of India should not be very of thinking about demands for separate states. We can not impose super state nationalism on these sub regional demand. It is important that our people stop looking the sub regional identities through the prism of ‘their’ ‘nationalism. Aspiration for saving their culture, identity and most importantly quest for development and being part of it force the people to think about their own state. As we know in big state, the backward regions are looked down upon and their people have a negative image. Definitely people of Uttarakhand did not have a positive image in Delhi and Lucknow. Students from Jharkhand regions were always maltreated in Bihar while we all know what do people in Andhra think of a Telengana person. I have been traveling Hyderabad and other regions and I have found this bias among them in my conversation with them. Even an auto driver would comment that ‘they’ are ‘lazy’ people. We faced it in Delhi many time being termed as ‘Pahadi’ as if the Pahadi’s have no right to exist or live or as if they do not know any thing. Such biases exist in our system and society and hence better governments tackle that. When arguments are given about development in Telengana region by many economists and also justified by the Shri Krishna Committee report, they failed to respond how many Telenganites are part of these Development. How many of them own industries, business, schools.. What is their percentage in our services and elsewhere. These are genuine concern and can not come through the jargons of ‘we develop Telenegana for you’. Today’s slogan is ‘we, the people of Telengana will develop our Telengana. Your support is welcome.

An important point raised by a number of Dalit Bahujan ideologues is about the movement being led by the upper castes. But should that deter the demands for a separate statehood as it is historical. Secondly, Telengana’s has a very substantial Dalit-Backwardcaste-Muslim population and it is definitely not going to be the same for them all the time. Once, the new state come, these power structure will also collapse. After all, who ever thought that Mayawati would become chief minister in the holy land of ‘Uttar-Pradesh’, the main battle field of Aryavrat. After nearly 40 years of our becoming republic people of Uttar-Pradesh realized the caste identities and their importance and post 1990s, we mostly had chief ministers from Dalit-backward communities. Now, we are entering into another phase where people are becoming more inquisitive and asking more questions from their own leaders and Bihar is another example of how the most deprived revolted against the powerful.

It is therefore important for the center government to initiate a process. Telenagna will not come to peace with patch up solutions. The more delay the government do in this case, they face more problem and people from both Andhra and Telengana regions will suffer. Already, the unrest during the past one year has cost a lot to students and business in the region. Such uncertainty fuel dissatisfaction among the people and alienate them from the rest of the country. They tend to become more rhetorical and will develop more hatred towards the neighbors which need to be shunned at all cost. Two people from same regions can not be allowed to hate each other and kill each other. But this will happen as the more we delay the process, the greater would be the feeling of ‘victimisation’ and betrayal among the people of Telengana region.

One hope that the government will bring the bill for a separate state in the Parliament and stop rest the question of what is going to happen in Telengana. The emotional bondage is completely broken in the region with that of rest of the Andhra Pradesh. And it can come back to normalcy once a new state comes into being. In true democracy it is people’s will to live together. In 1882, French philosopher Ernst Renan delivered a lecture in the University of Sorbonne and said that ‘A nation is therefore a large scale solidarity. Its existence is a daily plebiscite. A province is its inhabitants, if any one has the right to be consulted, it is its inhabitants. A nation never has any real interest in annexing or holding onto a country against its will. The existence of nations is a good thing, a necessity even. Their existence is a guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if, the world has only one law and only one master.’

While Ernst Renan was defining Nationhood and hence a large number of points which he mentioned are very much relevant here in terms of sub regional identities and aspirations. The truth is that if there is a plebiscite in Telengana, it would wholeheartedly reject being part of Andhra Pradesh. A state is not a militerised notion where your demands for autonomy are met with lathiweilding policemen and army. That can never bring peace. Time has come for the government of India to grant statehood to Telengana and also constitute a second State Reorganisation Commission to look into other such demands for the state for better governance. If the solutions for people’s aspirations are in the form of policing the people by putting non political governors in the ‘problematic’ states then India will pay a heavy price for this. Political issues need political solutions and not from those top bureaucrats who have deep contempt for the people and who consider themselves as masters of the people and know only language of violence. Nothing is lost at the moment. Shri Krishna Committee report is nothing but balancing acts of bureaucrats and good for research work. It can not bring solution to the issue without granting statehood to Telengana. To hold on to an unwilling people into a state is violation of their fundamental right. It would be good for Congress party to think beyond their immediate political interest and take a decision. Prolonging the decision will only bring chaos and anarchy which in long term would be detrimental for the economy and health of the country.

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