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From Vishalandhra to Telangana:LONG ROAD, END UNCERTAIN, 20 June, 2013 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 20 June 2013

From Vishalandhra to Telangana


Dr S Saraswathi

(Former, Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


“Chalo Assembly” march launched by the Telangana Joint Action Committee on 14th June is the latest battle cry in the Telangana Movement, going on for over half a century. Three days later, the Centre made a counter move by inducting two more ministers in the Union Cabinet in the hope of strengthening the “united Andhra” lobby. Uncertainty continues to nag all political parties in Andhra Pradesh. Other than witnessing agitations, the State has seen MLAs defecting and getting disqualified in keeping with their passion for or against a separate State. How long will this go on?     


While the Centre may take a call within coming weeks or months, the forthcoming Assembly elections due in the State, may help clinch matters. The present crisis is most likely to become a crucial poll issue.  Every party has to take a clear stand and inform the people about it. The leaders will also be expected to fulfil whatever they promise in this regard. For, the problem is lingering too long for even a slow moving country to test the patience of even those people unaffected by any decision on Telangana.


Moreover, the Telangana Movement has seen many promises – nay, broken promises - and all forms of direct people’s action - peaceful and violent. Perhaps, it is one dominant issue on which everyone in Andhra Pradesh may have an opinion of his own whether he is aware of  the politics and economics of dividing a State or not.


The history of linguistic States in India gives a special space for Andhra Pradesh which may be considered the original root of this banyan tree. The very notion of linguistic States grew from Tamil-Telugu competition in the old multilingual Madras Presidency of pre-independence era.


The Freedom Movement with which Swadeshi sentiments were interlinked stimulated a passion for Indian languages. It was also a way of expressing resentment to import of foreign goods.


It was in 1920, the Indian National Congress, at the Nagpur session adopted the principle of redistribution of provinces on linguistic basis. It was endorsed by the Nehru Committee in 1928. Thereafter, the Congress stuck to this principle and reiterated it many times in its annual party sessions. This is an unalterable historical fact.


This linguistic principle was applied by the Congress in its own organization by establishing a separate Pradesh Congress Committee for Telugu-speaking districts of the Madras Presidency.


Political climate following Partition in 1947 suddenly altered the nation’s priority. Unity and integrity of the nation was in jeopardy as free India faced unprecedented communal riots and complicated issues in the accession of Princely States within India.


However, under pressure from the linguistic lobby, the Linguistic Provinces Commission known as Dar Commission was appointed in June 1948 to examine the question of linguistic provinces. This Commission ruled out any redistribution of provinces in the then prevailing political conditions in the country. Specifically, the Commission considered it unwise to demarcate provincial boundaries on linguistic basis overriding historical, geographic, economic, and cultural factors.


This stand found support from the JVP Committee composed of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, and Pattabhi Sitaramayya constituted by the Indian National Congress in 1948.  The Committee boldly reversed the long-standing promise of the Congress for forming linguistic States and looked at the question from the angle of a democratic government faced with the rise of regionalism.


The JVP Committee held that the primary concern should be national security, unity, and economic prosperity.  It pointed out that language was not only a binding factor, but also a divisive force. It did not agree to wholesale application of the linguistic factor for provincial reorganization, but recommended that each case should be individually considered without subverting the existing organization or inciting conflicts.


This shows that there were always differences within the Congress from the beginning.  It also reflects how the party could change its stance according to its own position. Pre-independence Congress had no hesitation to promise linguistic reorganization of provinces; but post-independence Congress was baffled with practical difficulties of making radical structural changes in the governance of the country. It then put the responsibility for a decision on the wishes of the people concerned.  Unfortunately, this attitude, which sounds democratic, has brought in party politics and opportunist stances.


The Andhra State was formed on the agreement among the Andhra Provincial Congress and Tamil Nadu Congress and the Madras Government in 1953. It comprised the Telugu speaking areas of the old Madras Presidency.


In December 1955, the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was appointed by the Government of India to examine the broader question of reorganization of the States.   Following the linguistic principle, it recommended the merger of nine districts of Hyderabad State (the former Princely State of Nizam which merged with the Indian union in 1948) and created Andhra Pradesh. The move broke the old Hyderabad State and joined the different linguistic areas with Bombay, Mysore (as they were then called) and Andhra.


The concept of Vishalandhra gained currency during this period along with the demand for a separate Telangana State out of the old Hyderabad State.


The SRC, in fact, was in favour of creating a separate Telangana State as separatists feared exploitation of the backward Telangana region by the comparatively forward Andhras.  In response to this, a “Gentleman’s Agreement” was reached between Andhra and Telangana leaders under the auspices of the SRC to protect the interests of Telangana residents. Most important among the safeguards was job reservation for Mulkis – that is, residents of Hyderabad State. A Regional Committee was created to ensure protection of Telangana interests by the State government.


We have to recall all these developments which form the background for the formation of Telangana Rashtra Samiti by K. Chandrasekhara Rao in 2000. Its main plank was to constitute a separate Telangana as it existed before the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.  Between 1956 and 2000, the State had gone through several agitations.


In November 2009, the Home Minister announced in the Lok Sabha that the Government would initiate the process for creation of separate Telangana. But, instead another committee – Sri Krishna Committee – was constituted.


By this time, the issue itself has developed several new dimensions unknown in 1956.  The Committee worked out six possible options, but strongly favoured the retention of a united Andhra Pradesh with constitutional provisions for empowerment of Telangana area as the best option.


The story of Telangana is a lesson how not to resolve a problem. It best illustrates the dangers in vacillation of policies, indecision, and short-term political calculations in dealing with a long-term problem. Certainly, there is today no solution acceptable to all parties concerned.  From Vishalandhra to Telangana, the road is long and arduous, and the end uncertain. Conditions have so altered from the days of Vishalandhra that even if Telangana is formed, the woes of this region will not end but may assume different forms.


Already, the region called Rayalaseema, distinct from coastal Andhra, has been claiming separate State to further its own prospects. There are differences within parties on breaking the State. The advantages of a big State for development are lost sight of in the attraction of power, positions, and offices that a new State can bring. But, the course of fragmentation will not find an end. We have to plan for inclusive development of all regions and all people. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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