India’s Newest State Is Born Out of Political Calculation, Not Cultural Identity

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Mahesh Kumar A. / AP

Student protesters in the Indian city of Hyderabad hurl stones at policemen during a protest demanding creation of a new state named Telangana on June 14, 2013

In the 1950s, India’s States Reorganisation Commission, established by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, suggested that administration would be easier if the country could be divided into states based on languages (of which India has well over 400). Based on the recommendations of that commission, several linguistic entities were carved out: Kerala (for Malayalam speakers), Karnataka (for speakers of Kanadda), Maharashtra (for Marathi speakers) and Gujarat (for those who had Gujarati as a mother tongue).

In later years, Haryana was formed from the Hindi-speaking half of Punjab. And the notion of a linguistic state still had currency as recently as 2000, when Chhattisgarh was constituted from the 16 Chhattisgarhi-speaking districts of Madhya Pradesh. But language isn’t everything. That is the inescapable conclusion of the sundering, on July 31, of Andhra Pradesh, which, when it was formed in 1956, was ironically India’s first linguistic state, created for speakers of Telugu. Now 10 of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts have been detached from the rest and will be formed into the state of Telangana, with a population of 40 million. For the next 10 years, Telangana will share Hyderabad with the remainder of Andhra Pradesh as its capital — the city is India’s sixth largest city and home to many multinational headquarters, among them those of Google, Microsoft and Dell.

(MORE: India Separates Into More States to Keep the Peace)

The pro-Telangana movement draws most of its support from those who feel that the area has been economically neglected by New Delhi and by the state government of Andhra Pradesh; it was galvanized by a 2009 hunger strike by K. Chandrasekhara Rao, chief of the separatist Telangana Rashtra Samithi party. But the more recent catalyst for the formation of India’s 29th state is more calculated. After dragging its feet on the issue for years, simple electioneering appears to be the reason for New Delhi’s sudden approval of the creation of Telagana, over the loud protests of the rest of Andhra Pradesh (previously, parent-state approval was a condition for the secession of a region as a separate entity). The mathematics is plain. A Congress Party beset by corruption scandals and blamed for a slowing economy has noticed that almost half of Andhra Pradesh’s 42 parliamentary seats lie in what is now Telangana. Giving in to separatist demands and tying up with Rao’s party holds the promise of those seats being delivered in general elections slated for 2014.

Experts warn that new states cannot be birthed amid such political buccaneering. “Given India’s diversity and plurality, there’s a strong case for smaller states for administrative convenience,” says Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a Delhi-based independent political analyst. “However, you need a seditious political leadership to manage such sentiments across the country. You have to deal with it, not just on a political level but also on an economic level. But I doubt whether the present government is capable of that.”

Reaction to the creation of India’s newest state has been swift and harsh. Twelve Congress Party legislators resigned in protest in Andhra Pradesh, which has been crippled by protests and strikes opposing the Telagana secession. Elsewhere in the country, other separatist movements felt emboldened to intensify their statehood demands. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party, which is demanding an ethnically Nepali Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal, called for a 72-hour shutdown of Darjeeling. It resembled a ghost town on Monday with deserted roads being patrolled by Indian troops. The country’s famed social activist Anna Hazare has said that the Telangana precedent will “weaken” the country. “It will spur and further intensify the demands for new states,” says Sanjeer Alam, an associate fellow at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “Since the political class does not have a well-thought-out policy to take on the demands for new states, the country is bound to see chaos, violence and a situation of anarchy.”

(MORE: A Great Divide: India’s Border Fence With Bangladesh Is a Metaphor for the Country’s Domestic Challenges)

The worry isn’t entirely shared. “Given the diversity and plurality of India, why would anyone believe that breaking up of the country into states would affect its polity?” says Guha Thakurta. Economically too, there something to be said for statehood, at least in the short term. Chhattisgarh and two other states also created in 2000, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, all recorded rapid development after secession and marked improvements in the implementation of various developmental schemes like a federal job-guarantee program. But “new states are not magic bullets for improving administrative efficiency,” cautions Louise Tillin, lecturer in politics at King’s College London and author of the book Remapping India: New States and Their Political Origins. “The longer-term effects are still to be seen.”

Critics argue that small states are more dependent on the central government and, in seeking to attract investment, become more vulnerable to the depredations of large corporations and even organized crime. Ashutosh Kumar, professor of Indian politics at Panjab University, says that “the bigger worry” is not the threat to national integrity so much as the inability of smaller states to withstand corroding forces. “Telangana is a hotbed of Maoist insurgency,” he points out. “As a smaller state would it be able to handle the insurgency as effectively?”

Further redrawing of the federal map appears inevitable, however, as New Delhi grasps for ways to ease the pressures of administering what will be, by 2028, the world’s most populous nation. (India’s 1.2 billion people are organized into only 28 states — compare that to the U.S., a country of 300 million, which has 50 states.) But “it will pay off only if the creation of smaller states increases administrative efficiency and [if it] reduces the distance between the administration and the people,” says Alam. “It will work only if it contributes to better governance, better power sharing and fulfills the aspirations of a long-neglected and relatively deprived section of the population.” These are tall orders in India. If they are not fulfilled, the country’s separatists had better be careful of what they wish for.

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26 comments
sriks23
sriks23

These Ppl are kept  venom from childhood ,Read the history before you pass the comment   .It was hyderabad assemble which passed resolution for merge with andhra pradesh in 1950's .In 1969 separate movement for telangana,but in 1972 separate movement for jai andhra started ,than no one said anything  why you ppl kept quite that time..If on the basis of poor development you want separate state ,than god save India..Like pre independence we have 600 princely states.



vaishnavjagdip
vaishnavjagdip

In short & sweat word, now there shall be demand for separate states from many quarters,

Political calculations shall ruin India' unity, culture.

brkmba
brkmba

The recent Telangana movement was based on misrepresented facts to instigate hatred among regions by separatist political leaders. They are very much successful in it by following an organized way of involving a university professor etc as common people believe in educated. This resulted in poor and innocent students getting emotional and developing hatred and often destroying and vandalizing public and private property. Under the cover of this movement, the TRS chief and his family members ( he, his son, his daughter, his son-in-law) became successful politicians riding on the sentiment. They often resort to illegal activities of harassing any one in Hyderabad if they are against their party and they vandalize such persons house and business and other properties. They are known for collecting illegal cash by threatening to harm businesses in Hyderabad.

They often say that the movement is more than 50 years old, but to my knowledge the old movement was settled and everything was calm and peaceful until 2001. The TRS politicians are successful in making every one believe that it is a 60 year old issue. For that matter no one who participated in the old movement were involved in the current movement started by unemployed politicians.

TV channels encouraged the hatred by conducting hate discussions from among the people and have played a role which they are not supposed to play. Today with the result of this all people who are very friendly until 2001 are fighting each other.

Telangana is not undeveloped as is being projected, in fact 4 to 5 districts out of 10 are most developed than any other district in Andhra Pradesh. At the same time there are some districts which are under developed mostly due to arid terrain as it is geographically a plateau with less scope for providing water resources. There are districts in the other two regions which are backward than these backward districts in Telangana.

The other two regions Rayalaseema ( the most backward region on any parameter - even Telangana people would agree ) and Coastal Andhra are against division as they loose local status in Hyderabad which is capital for 6 decades. Almost all people go to Hyderabad after studies as almost all PSUs, Universities, IT, Pharma and all other private companies were setup there as it was the capital city. As all the development is done in Hyderabad only (which is in Telangana, so obviously Telangana is most developed contrary to the Telangana politicians claims) these people cannot afford to loose it, but Telangana people want the two other regions people to leave the Hyderabad city for them.

The Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra people have a reason to claim for Hyderabad, as it was developed with all three regions peoples efforts, taxes and time for 6 decades. Leaving Hyderabad to Telangana will deprive them of almost all study and career opportunities. For example all the IIT, NIT, HCU, central PSUs, IT and Pharma companies are infact in Hyderabad which is in Telangana region, all these were setup there as it is joint capital for 6 decades and not just only for Telangana people. Also, it is not fair to deprive 60% people of their 60 years effort just for the sake of 40% people's wish for separation as the Hyderabad is in their region.

This can be summarized in this simple story. There are three brothers Telangana, Rayalaseema and Andhra. They have a house with three rooms. All the three worked for 6 decades collectively and put their earnings in Telangana brothers room. Now the Telangana brother wants other two brothers to leave his room for him and asks others to separate and live on their own.

4thAugust1932
4thAugust1932

What is the name of an IDIOT who will take back your India to 1953?
Rahul Gandhi. He just rolled-back Andhra Pradesh to 1953.

RV
RV

I see that people in support of Telangana are ganging up to defame any constructive analysis on the issue of Telangana. Congress party has agreed to the formation of Telangana in its own right. The final decision will be made by legislators of AP in AP senate. We can all agree to divide (as wished by people of Telangana), provided Hyderabad remains a common land for all the 3 regions Sema, Andhra and Telangana.  

RV
RV

@AnonymousT

A perfect analysis on the very essence of what has kept India united for the past 60 years. The writer has nowhere said that formation of Telangana is bad, instead the writer has said the repercussions this will lead to. First of all people of Telangana are not asking for a separate State. They are asking for exclusion of Sema and Andhra people from AP. In asking so, they want the capital with them. If Telangana is formed with Hyderabad in it then it will be Sema and Andhra that will backward by 5 decades. 

Telangana was merged with Andhra Pradesh with the conscious of Telangana legislators with majority voting in favor of merger. Hyderabad was made capital the same way. 

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

The mathematics is plain. If Mathematics plain why Congress party did not divide 21+ 21 MP seats equally. Poor Telangana state  has only 17 MP seats.

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

Good morning Ms.Nilanjana Bhowmick, I really appreciate you for working in a great world famous Magazine(TIME). I read your other articles, they were fantastic, you did very good home work specially in (In India, Gold Glitters but Brings Economic Woes)( India Is Now the Unofficial Home of the Italian Scooter) (In India, Development Fuels Disputes Over Land)(Desmond Tutu: Tackling Child Marriage in India) these articles. Now my concern is, it seems you did not do any research about Telangana state that is really sad part.  I request you to take some  time  and visit  new Talangana state, focus on ground realities like ( Irrigation, Jobs, land grabbing, pockets of settlements, drinking water.)    

naresh.yempati
naresh.yempati

Let me give every anti-telangana voices some facts..firstly telangana state was united forcibly even though there were cultural barriers, economic status, linguistic differences. However,in-spite of  lot of agitation seen way back decades ago, lets agree for a movement that this was a holistic move. 

Now think as a qualifed normal human being or candidate who has right to work in his local place. Say suppose TIME is GOVT organisation present in Delhi and a qualified candidate in is present in delhi and a position/post which is only one is open for recruitment.  what does your Delhi govt do will it take him or outsider ? Definitely local candidate.   However the other case happened with Telananga. In other words not lucky though which happened for decades.

From several years, the agitation increased exponentially when this was observed and then Government made G.O 610 which was to ask the non-local recruited candidates to go back to their local regions. but this was not implemented the reason because the power was in people of Andhra region so no body cared to bother.  FYI , From last 60 years, 90% of the time AP was ruled by Andhraites. so no chance of implementing GO 610.  If they would have implemented that and if they would have gone back to their local region govt offices and recruited local candidates from telangana zones ( and vice versa though the % is very less) , IMO, Telangana agitation would have calmed down. on the other hand , telangana region was not serioulsly concentrated unlike Andhra and Rayalaseema even it was known that its a dry and backward.  I request you to write a column on why  telangana is still backward even after 60 years of merger.

these were the real main concerns which was raised again and again and again but all invain. The column is just like some one talking on TV9, NTV etc..

I won't comment whether its a political move and serious move, but by doing this it will open the door for many people in may areas, and has a gr8 scope of self regional development which was lacking earlier.  the person who wrote this column might have flunked in history exams while studying school, college and may be in masters as well.  


praveen1000
praveen1000

The article sounds that Nilanjana has not done enough research.  Heavily slanted towards those who are opposing Telangana. Can we stop their will if 40 million people are wanting to get separated for 10s of years? 

I hope the article is not Time's view. I would have appreciated authors insights into the cause for separation. 

rokapification
rokapification

This is horrible journalism. Clearly the writer didn't do the necessary research to write this article. She starts off with the 1950 State Reorganization Committee Report, but fails to mention that the report recommended NOT to merge Telangana with the Andhra region. Telangana and Andhra have different histories, and when they originally merged them together they specifically stated that if the merger doesn't satisfy either regions they can separate. Also, if there are more than one Hindi speaking states in India why is it so hard for the writer to imagine two Telugu speaking states? I expect quality journalism from Time. 

SanMann
SanMann

Clearly the desire for a separate state comes from people living inside the Telangana region, and the opposition to the creation of this state comes from people living outside that region. So by the principle of self-determination, the will of the people inside that region is more important than the will of the people outside of it. That's why they call it SELF-determination instead of determination-by-outsiders.

avis
avis

You are an idiot. Wrong Title, Wrong Content, How do you write for time.

AnonymousT
AnonymousT

This article completely undermines the reasons for creation of Telangana. Either the journalist is ill informed or has chosen to selectively highlight facts to give a distorted view of the ground reality. 1000 people lost their lives in last 4 yrs of the 50yr struggle for Telangana. Language is least of the concern. There are several reasons (inequality of water sharing and jobs being 2 of the prominent reasons) for the demand for a separate state. Yes, timing of the announcement does suggest congress's eye on electoral gains but that doesn't negate the necessity for Telangana. There are pros and cons for a smaller state just like for a larger state.

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

@sriks23 Read little bit before of your History.( 1948)  . At that time we don't have this many media channels, to expose our selves. At the same time read Guinness book of world records --2013 page 142 and 143.  Then you can comment about  venom.

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

@vaishnavjagdip But our state was existing as separate country even after independence. Please at the History of Nizaam state of Hyderabad. Even though we are divided when India matter comes we  are together.   

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

@RV No way Hyderabad will be common capital of three regions. we want 10 districts of Telangana with Hyderabad as capital for ever.

ramanamukkala
ramanamukkala

@avisMy dear friend please do not use such language before you say some thing you should read some old articles of the same author, because previously author wrote so many good articles by mistake she could not have enough time to do the ground work, but at least she will do the research  to know the reality about poor Telangana state. she will write another article about Telangana state(with research). 

centergy
centergy

@AnonymousT 

Editor is ill-informed?

Just because you don't like it doesn't make somebody ill informed