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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Great Debate- A Persepective by Mr.Mohan Guruswamy

This was a briefing paper on TELANGANA prepared by me a couple of years ago at the request of some concerned people.

Telangana: The End of the Beginning.

by Mohan Guruswamy

It was meant to be a new beginning with the reorganisation of India along linguistic lines. The ball had began to roll with the formation of an Andhra state from the old Madras state after Potti Sriramulu fasted himself to death. What followed is now history. The early vision of new nationalism built upon one common language was effectively abandoned. The linguistic states were to provide cohesive and effective states based on a common language and a shared subsidiary history. It was meant to be a new beginning. But linguistic states do not seem to have redressed old problems and have apparently caused more problems than they solved. The recent events in Telangana have now set off a clamour for smaller states in all parts of the country. Is it the end of that beginning?

The Telangana crisis is now getting more complicated each passing day. No sooner did the Congress party's "high command" concede the demand for a separate state, its leaders in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra rose in apparent revolt with a vociferous demand for a united state. Now the Home Minister has very categorically reversed his government's earlier position conceding a Telangana state. Despite this it seems that the partition of AP is inevitable. Even if that partition is inevitable, the future status of Hyderabad - India's fastest growing metropolis - is now stirring the pot even more. The problem is that Hyderabad lies squarely within Telangana, very unlike Chandigarh which sits astraddle the Punjab/Haryana fault-line thereby making it a perfect bone of contention. The leaders of the non Telangana regions seem to veering towards a price for it. A tag of Rs.2 lakh crores is being bandied about as a "compensation" for their perceived "investment" in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

And within the twin cities a sentiment is developing for a Union Territory status to protect its cosmopolitan character. Recent events in Bombay, with rabble rousers like Raj Thackeray seeking to arouse intense regionalism by stoking antagonism towards migrants from other parts of India, give rise to concerns that, one day, this too might happen in Hyderabad. As it is the Telangana Rashtra Samithi of K Chandrasekhara Rao had given the slogan "Andhra wale bhago!”

Like India, Hyderabad and Secunderabad comprise only of minorities. The Muslims of old Hyderabad are its largest minority. The next big minorities are the large populations from the Andhra region and Telangana. In addition Hyderabad has people from almost every part of India living in it. Every group brought with it something that made the city unique. The Marwari businessmen and bankers of the old city harnessed its wealth to lay the foundations of today's industrial powerhouse. The Maharashtrians with their fondness for soirees established a unique school of classical Hindustani music ; the Kayasthas fused the cooking styles of the Deccan with that of Lucknow to create the famous Hyderabadi cuisine; the Tamil speaking Mudaliars built English language schools and ran banks in Secunderabad; the Gujaratis contributed with their resourcefulness and entrepreneurial abilities; the coastal Andhras made it a great centre for IT, even far bigger than Bangalore's; and the Sikhs and Punjabis gave it a vigour and drive. Today you run into all of India here. Bengalis, Oriyas, Biharis, Malayalees, Kannadigas and even proud people from all over the Northeast. To get a feel of who lives in Hyderabad one needs just to open the film pages of a newspaper on a Sunday morning and see the morning shows of regional cinema from all over the country advertised. This and the unique Deccani Hindustani patois have given the twin cities a very special personality. Will this be so in a Hyderabad that will be capital of only Telangana is a question that now bothers many old Hyderabadi’s? To get a better understanding of all these issues, the reader needs to be familiar with two different stories with very different timelines, that of Hyderabad and Telangana.

There once was a Hyderabad.

On the morning of September 13, 1948 five infantry battalions and an armoured regiment of the battle hardened Indian Army under the command of Maj.Gen. JN Chaudhry commenced Operation Polo by entering the princely state of Hyderabad, over a year after independence and after the patience of the new Indian Union was tested beyond endurance. The Nizam of Hyderabad like the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir too entertained notions of an independent state and had so far managed to avoid accession. In the meantime the Nizam sought to widen the issue by moving the United Nations, took the advice and assistance of Pakistan, and began stockpiling arms. The Times in London reported on August 9, 1948 that the Hyderabad army was strengthened to 40,000 and supplies of arms were being received, presumably from Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Hyderabad Mir Laik Ali boasted that if “the Indian government takes any action against Hyderabad, 100,000 men are ready to fight. We also have a hundred bombers in Saudi Arabia ready to bomb Bombay!”

Within the Nizam’s realm, militant Razakars led by Qasim Razvi , had stepped up their campaign of terrorizing Hindus and whipping up religious sentiments among the Muslims. After five days of the “police action”, actually a military operation, it was all but over and the Hyderabad army commanded by Maj. Gen. El-Edroos formally surrendered. The Indian Army’s “police action” was as violent as it was swift. It killed 1373 Razakars and captured 1911. In addition Hyderabad State Army lost 807 killed and 1647 captured. The Indian Army’s losses were never officially revealed but a figure of less than 10 killed is commonly accepted. It was a sudden and crushing to a movement that had vowed to hoist the Asafia flag on the Red Fort. The surrender itself was not without drama. The Nizam made an abject and pathetic speech on the radio. He tried to shift the blame on to the extremists led by Qasim Razvi. It was hardly convincing, but the Indian government appointed him the Rajpramukh or Governor of the state of Hyderabad.

At the time of India’s independence, Hyderabad was the largest Indian princely state in terms of population and GNP. Its territory of 82,698 sq. miles was more than that of England and Scotland put together. The 1941 census had estimated its population to be 16.34 million, over 85% of who were Hindus and with Muslims accounting for about 12%. It was also a multi-lingual state consisting of peoples speaking Telugu (48.2%), Marathi (26.4%), Kannada (12.3%) and Urdu (10.3%). Its diversity and broad heritage can be seen today in the historical monuments at Ajanta, Ellora and Daulatabad in Marathwada, Bijapur, Bidar, Gulbarga, Anegondi and Kampili in Karnataka, and Warangal and Nagarjunakonda in Telangana.

Hyderabad city’s history goes back to the 11th century when the Kakatiya kings of Warangal built the fort that later became famous as Golconda . Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah founded the capital city that we now know as Hyderabad in 1590. Quli Qutab Shah was quite a romantic fellow and first called his city Bhagyanagar after his Hindu born Queen Bhagmati. Bhagmati later took the name Haider Mahal and hence Hyderabad. Haider Mahal also inspired him to pen the immortal lines: “piya baaj pyaala piya jaaye na, piya yakthil jiya jaaye na.” This romanticism suffused the spirit of Hyderabad through most of its existence.

Hyderabad, not only had its own Army, but also had its own Railways, Airline, Postal Service, Radio Broadcasting network and currency. The Nizam and his court ruled over it with the British Resident keeping a close and watchful eye over everything. The British Army also had a permanent garrison, just in case the “faithful ally of the King Emperor” was ever found lacking in faith.
As can be imagined it was a Muslim dominated state. Typically in 1911, 70% of the police, 55% of the army and 26% of the public administration were Muslims. In 1941 a report on the Civil Service revealed that of the 1765 officers, 1268 were Muslims, 421 were Hindus, and 121 others, presumably British, Christians, Parsis and Sikhs. Of the officials drawing a pay between Rs.600 –1200 pm, 59 were Muslims, 38 were “others”, and a mere 5 were Hindus. The Nizam and his nobles, who were mostly Muslims, owned 40% of the total land in the kingdom. Quite clearly it was too much of a good thing for so few and the time for its end had come.
The Asaf Jah dynasty came into being in the waning years of the Mughal Empire. Mir Qamruddin a Muslim general of Indian origin was first appointed Governor of the Deccan in 1707. He was called the Nizam-ul-Mulk. He returned to Delhi soon after as uncertainty and turmoil overtook the house of Babar. Qamruddin after a brief stint as the Mughal wazir returned to the Deccan in 1723 to carve out an independent domain for himself. He was now Asaf Jah I. On his death in 1748, his second son and a grandson, who secured the support of the French and British respectively, contested the succession. The French won this time, but in 1761 the French were all but beaten by the British in the Carnatic wars. In 1798 Hyderabad came under the dominance of the English when Asaf Jah II entered into a Subsidiary Alliance with the East India Company, which made sure that Hyderabad remained under the Nizam’s rule, but under their guidance.

As can well be imagined there was absolutely no political activity in the kingdom for most of this period. The faithful ally remained just that while the British waged war on the Maratha’s, Sikhs and then by introducing the doctrine of the lapse gobbled up princely state after state. Even the 1857 war passed Hyderabad by. The first stirrings began in 1927 when the Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen was formed to unite various Islamic sects for “the solution of their problems within the principle of Islam”; and to protect the economic, social and educational interests of the Muslims.

In 1933 an association of mulki’s or local born Hindus and Muslims called the Nizam’s Subjects League was formed as a reaction to the continued domination of gair-mulki’s in government, even though most of them were Muslims. This was soon to be known as the Mulki League. It was the Mulki League that first mooted the idea of a responsible government in Hyderabad. In 1937 the Mulki League split between the more radical elements that were mostly Hindus and the more status quo inclined. This led to the formation of the Hyderabad Peoples Convention in 1937, a prelude to the establishment of the Hyderabad State Congress the following year. With this the movement for political and constitutional reform picked up momentum.

The Hyderabad State Congress agitation coincided with a parallel agitation led by the Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha of VD Savarkar on Hindu civil rights. To a large extent the interests of the Congress and Hindu organizations coincided. This put them squarely against the Majlis who were now led by Bahadur Yar Jung who was also the founder of the Anjuman-i-Tabligh-i-Islam, a proselytizing Muslim organization whose prime activity was the conversion of Hindus. Bahadur Yar Jung was a charismatic figure became popular among the Muslims. He also had the ear of the Nizam, Osman Ali. The main thrust of Bahadur Yar Jung was to establish that Hyderabad was separate from the rest of India and that it should be declared a Muslim state. The Majlis also considered British style parliamentary democracy as unsuitable to India in general and Hyderabad in particular. Bahadur Yar Jung summed this up very succinctly: “The Majlis policy is to keep the sovereignty of His Exalted Highness intact and to prevent Hindus from establishing supremacy over Muslims.”

The leadership of the Congress took more nationalist overtones after the arrival of Swami Ramanand Tirtha on the scene. Tirtha hailed from Gulbarga and as a young man became a sadhu. He became President of the Hyderabad Congress in 1946 and attracted around him several young men who rose to prominence in independent India. Foremost among these was PV Narasimha Rao. Others were former Home Minister and Maharashtra Chief Minister, SB Chavan, former Karnataka Chief Minister Veerendra Patil, and former Andhra Chief Minister M Channa Reddy. In doing so Tirtha transformed the Congress from a party dominated by Marathi speakers and Arya Samajis into a broad-based organization representing the diversity of Hyderabad.

While the Congress was gaining strength, the Communists were also active in the Telugu speaking areas. They captured the Andhra Mahasabha that was formed in 1921 to represent the interests of the Telugu speaking people in 1942. Unlike the Hyderabad Congress, which took the cue from Mahatma Gandhi and launched a movement for democratic rights in the state to run parallel to the Quit India movement, the Communists joined hands with the Majlis to support the Nizam, who being a faithful ally of the British was fully immersed in the war effort. When WWII ended the Communists, now following the militant line of BT Ranadive took the path of armed revolution. It is said that when they went to Stalin for help in 1948, he took one look at the map and decided that armed insurrection was impossible to sustain in landlocked Telangana. The CPI was accordingly advised to seek other ways of coming to political power.

The advent of the Indian Army brought in its wake great changes that were sought ever since political activity began in the state. The Muslim elite soon found themselves marginalized and many migrated to Pakistan. Others like Ali Yavar Jung made a smooth transition into the new order. A new bureaucratic elite was quickly installed even as the communist insurrection was being quelled. The Nizam quickly came to terms with the new circumstances and became the Rajpramukh of the newest state of the Indian Union. Nothing reflected the handing over of the baton better than the transition in the Secunderabad Club seen in its picture gallery of past Presidents. The Club was for long the citadel of power, prestige and privilege in the state and always had a senior Britisher as its President. Maj.Gen. El-Edroos C-in-C of the Hyderabad State Army became its first non-British President in 1947. In March 1949 he made way for Maj.Gen. JN Chaudhry, Military Governor. The times still keep changing and the pictures truly reflect this! Chaudhry was succeeded by a slew of civil servants, including my father the late NK Guruswamy IAS. Now we have pictures of businessmen, many of them hailing from the coastal Andhra region.

The States Re-Organization Act of 1956 was the beginning of the end. The Marathi speaking areas went to Maharashtra, Kannada speaking areas to Karnataka, and Hyderabad city and Telangana were absorbed into Andhra Pradesh.

And now there is Telangana.

A second Telangana movement for a separate state seems to be in its final act now, with K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) ending his "hunger strike". This will hopefully see the culmination of the Telangana statehood movement that actually began way back in 1956 when the composite Andhra Pradesh was created by dismembering the old Hyderabad state. When the re-organization of states was undertaken in 1956, the people of Telangana expressed apprehensions about being forced into a shotgun marriage with the Andhra region. The people of Telangana also spoke Telugu but it was quite different from the Telugu of the coastal people. Telangana boasted of a heritage quite different from the Andhras. The Kakatiya kings of Warangal and the Vijayanagar kings were Telangana dynasties. The Muslim rulers of Golconda and later of Hyderabad only came to the fore when the Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan along with some Hindu rulers of coastal Andhra kingdoms ganged up on Vijayanagar and defeated it in the decisive battle of Talikota .

The Andhra region was also much more developed and wealthier than Telangana, with the British having invested a good deal in education and infrastructure, while the Nizam of Hyderabad seemed more preoccupied with collecting baubles like the Jacobs diamond and accumulating a huge personal fortune. He was reckoned to be the richest man in the world. In fact this took him to the cover of Time magazine well before Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with truth placed him there! So wealthy was the Nizam that he gifted an entire Spitfire squadron to Britain when it was being pushed to the wall by the German Luftwaffe.

As the Nizam thrived, so did his court and the feudal bureaucratic elite. Hyderabad blossomed into a beautiful and well laid out city. What began as the Muslim citadel in the Deccan had now acquired its famous cosmopolitanism. But the common people of Hyderabad, like other princely states, remained excruciatingly poor. The Hyderabad model of development ended a few miles out of the city where the wide and smooth concrete roads terminated into narrow and pock marked bitumen topped roads. There was little irrigation and the only sign of any government usually was the Police Station!

Thus, in the aridness of the Deccan a fertile ground was created for a popular communist movement which morphed into India's first armed insurrection. This was the first Telangana movement, which was terminated on orders from Joseph Stalin himself. Stalin also saw in that Telangana movement the glimmerings of Maoist dogma which postulated that the villages will strangle the cities and take over the state. In the first Lok Sabha election of 1952 the Communist leader Raavi Narayan Reddy won Nalgonda with a plurality that exceeded even Jawaharlal Nehru’s margin in Phulpur. After Stalin’s diktat that it will be the workers who will spearhead the revolution, the Communist Party of India reverted to trade unionism, which it soon discovered was a far more lucrative proposition than the grind of revolution in the hinterland. This was why Charu Mazumdar, who spawned Naxalism in India, denounced the CPI and CPM and took to waging the Peoples War.

The apprehensions of the people of Telangana and the Hyderabad elite in 1956 were not entirely unfounded. At that time Jawaharlal Nehru assuaged them somewhat with safeguards like reservations in educational institutions and government for mulkis, as the locally born were known . But most of these assurances remained on paper and the people of Andhra gained ascendancy over Hyderabad's and Telangana's social and economic life.

By the mid 1960's things were hotting up again. I remember long afternoons in the canteens of Nizam College and later in the Arts College of Osmania University in heated and passionate discussions on the desirability of a separate state. My good friend Jaipal Reddy, now Union Minister, earned his political spurs as the Congress Party’s student leader championing a unified Andhra Pradesh. Jaipal who had a long innings as Osmania University’s unchallenged student leader, during which time he took three masters degrees, lost his student constituency but went on to bigger things. Many of our more ideologically committed contemporaries took to the gun and joined the now resurgent Naxalite movement in the forests of Telangana, inspired by Communist ideologues like Vempatapu Sathyanarayana and Adhibatla Kailasam. When they were killed in Jalagam Vengala Rao's (then Home Minister) reign of terror, Kondapalli Sitaramiah took over and greatly expanded the Peoples War Group. In this manner the original Telangana movement revived.

In 1969 the bleak prospects in the real world agitated the students of Osmania University enough to launch a separate state movement. This movement was seized by Congress dissidents like Dr.M Channa Reddy, a charismatic leader whose commitment to a separate Telangana was only exceeded by his hunger for an office of profit. Under his leadership over three hundred students lost their lives but the hacks of the Congress party were satisfied with the removal of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy and the promise of office. But instead of Channa Reddy, Mrs Indira Gandhi found PV Narasimha Rao more convenient.

Soon the agitation revived, but now in both parts of the state. The Andhra side too now wanted a separate Andhra state and the Telanganites resumed their agitation. But in reality all they wanted was the removal of Narasimha Rao. The BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu earned his spurs by vociferously championing a separate Andhra state. His party now supports a separate Telangana. Mrs Indira Gandhi had no choice but to kick PV Narasimha Rao upstairs as a cabinet minister in her government. This done the Congress Party went back to business as usual, till the advent of KCR, who was a Deputy Speaker under the Telugu Desam dispensation of Chandrababu Naidu. KCR fell out with Babu, and guess what he took to next? Separate Telangana!

But let's take a step backwards for a moment. Till 1998 the BJP supported a separate Telangana, as it smaller states in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal. But when the election manifesto of 1998 was being written LK Advani insisted that the reference to a separate Telangana be removed from the manifesto as he had done a deal with Chandrababu Naidu’s for support to a BJP led government. It was only after Naidu deserted the NDA did the BJP once again begin espousing a separate Telangana. Such was the strength of commitment our national parties to the cause!

After a good show in the 2004 elections KCR too settled down to a good life as a cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government, till cries of betrayal turned his party against him. But by now YS Rajasekhara Reddy was well and truly in charge and had successfully marginalized all rivals, inside and outside the party. In the 2009 elections the separate Telangana party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), now in alliance with the Andhra dominated TDP, CPM and CPI was reduced to a mere two seats in the Lok Sabha and ten in the assembly.

The integration of the Telangana region of the erstwhile Hyderabad state and Andhra region of the old Madras state in 1956 was intended to be a trial marriage. The Andhra’s of Madras were the ones who wanted a Telugu state. It was originally a rallying call of the communists that was deftly appropriated by ambitious Congressmen in Madras wanting a more active share of the pomp and prize of high offices, not possible in the composite Madras state. The people of Telangana always had doubts about this union, and the vivisection of Hyderabad state. It took all the charm and authority of Jawaharlal Nehru to persuade Telangana Congress leaders to accept a trial. Jawaharlal cajoled them to give it a try for five years. If it doesn’t work for you, come back to me and we will do something about it was the implicit assurance. They don’t make leaders bigger and taller than Jawaharlal and when he gave an assurance it was taken.

The case for a separate Telangana was not based on an economic argument then. Our story is of a deep cultural divide between two peoples united by language but divided by habits, values, history and culture. We know that language alone cannot be the basis of statehood. German is spoken in Austria as well, but Germany and Austria are different countries. Ukrainian and Russian are 90% identical. The Ukraine in Russian means border territory. Yet they are separate countries. Within India, the four BIMARU states (Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP) have dozens of dialects latticed together by Hindi. Yet they are separate states. Language like religion cannot be the sole basis of nationality. The story of Pakistan tells us that you can never be united by religion alone. The story of Germany and Austria tells us that you can never be united by language alone. And the story of Spain and Portugal tells us that you cannot even be united by a confined geography.

India is a vast mosaic of peoples where colors, sounds, shapes and landscapes change after every few hours of road travel. To argue that all Telugu speaking people are one is nonsensical. No state in India, even a small one like Nagaland can claim a monochromatic oneness. In Nagaland behind every successive ridgeline there is another tribe speaking a different language and wearing a different tartan. Tangkhul and Angami, or Konyak and Ao are as different as Telugu is from Tamil and Bengali from Oriya. Andhra Pradesh is not an exception.

Two centuries ago when the Nizam of Hyderabad ceded the Circars and the British Presidency usurped the Rayalaseema region, the basis of separateness was established. Geography only accentuated it. The British invested in education and enriched the delta districts with canals and roads. Even without the tax revenues of the Circars, the Nizam was the richest man on earth. Even richer than the British sovereign he was a vassal to. It tells a lot about the kind of regime the Nizam’s ran. The hard soil and constant toil for so little, and the prolonged subservience to an Urdu speaking elite made the people of Telangana different and also disadvantaged compared to their other Telugu-speaking brothers. This fact is indisputable.

Large states in India are really large. If UP were a country, it would be the sixth largest one in the world. AP is bigger than the UK. Large states in a centralized dispensation are difficult to govern. They make the government distant from the people. They are inefficient and wasteful. And you cannot have uniform policies over large tracts with different agro-climatic and socio-cultural regions. Aristotle wisely opined that “it is an injustice to treat equals as unequal’s, just as it is an injustice to treat unequal’s are equals.” Which today is broadly the complaint of the Telangana people.

The Srikrishna Committee Report: A Waste of Time.

The long awaited Srikrishna Committee report is now out. It makes no specific recommendations and has thrown the ball squarely back to the politicians to decide. Thus, even though it was completed in time, it has largely been a waste of time. All it did was to keep Telangana tempers bottled up for some months. Now be ready for the explosion.

The Report’s tendency is towards retaining the status quo with some palliatives to assuage the sentiment widespread in the Telangana area. To serve this end it has sought to disprove the claim of most Telangana protagonists that the Telangana region remained backward and under-developed even after more than half a century as a part of Andhra Pradesh. It has marshaled numbers and has used data to support its case. As a professionally qualified economist and policy analyst, I know very well that facts can be used to prove or disprove pretty much any proposition. The Srikrishna Committee has used the economist on board to good effect and he has done a pretty good job of what he obviously was tasked with. But what the good Dr. Abusaleh Shariff misses is that the issue is not one of regions as much as it is about people. The essential grouse of the Telangana protagonists is that the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 was not adhered to and the people of Telangana were systematically excluded from the development process and were given short shrift in the political process.

Two examples are all it takes to establish this. At the time of integration, it was promised that the Telangana would have a Regional Council that would oversee the development works and most importantly all land transfers. This was to ensure that wealthier migrants from the coastal Andhra region did not buy out the individually poorer people of Telangana. This has happened in every Telangana district where large migrant populations from coastal Andhra have bought up vast tracts of the best canal and tank irrigated lands. All around Hyderabad city people like Ramalinga Raju of Satyam accumulated thousands of acres of land. The migrants will argue that land was bought legally and everything was paid for. That is exactly what the Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine say.

Now if the Srikrishna Committee spent some of its time studying who owned how much, it would have got a pretty good understanding of what the Telangana protagonists were really talking about. Instead it went out of its way to make a case that all was well in Telangana and that the area had done well. An area is about geography and a people’s fears and aspirations are the stuff of politics.

It was this fear of being swamped, widespread among Telangana people, which was very apparent to the States Reorganization Commission (1953-55) headed by Justice S Fazal Ali. The SRC’s recommendation is as follows: “the residuary State of Hyderabad might unite with Andhra after the General Elections likely to be held in about 1961, if by a two-thirds majority the Legislature of Hyderabad State expresses itself in favor of such a unification. The SRC also recommended that the residuary state should continue to be known as Hyderabad state and should consist of Telugu-speaking districts of the then princely state of Hyderabad, namely, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Warangal (including Khammam), Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Hyderabad and Medak, along with Bidar district, and the Munagala enclave in the Nalgonda district belonging to the Krishna district of Andhra.” This recommendation of the SRC was not heeded and it is the root of today’s popular demand.

Statistics are the essential truth. However much we might seek to misinterpret them they show up the reality in pretty stark terms. Water for agriculture has been a big issue for the people of Telangana. The region is home to two of India’s greatest rivers, the Godavari and Krishna, yet canal irrigation accounts for little more than 10% of the irrigated acreage. The area irrigated by private sources, such as wells and tube wells account for about 65% of all irrigated acreage. Tanks which used to account over 60% of Telangana’s irrigated acreage in 1956 now account for less than 5%. In terms of state supported irrigation, even semi-arid Rayalaseema with 20% under canal irrigation does much better than Telangana. By contrast over 50% of the irrigated acreage in Coastal Andhra is by canals and another 15% or so from tanks. Mind you water from canals and tanks comes free to the user, whereas well irrigation entails huge capital costs and recurring expenses. To rub salt into Telangana’s wounds, a good part of the water from essentially Telangana projects like the giant Nagarjunasagar project is drawn away into Coastal Andhra.

The Srikrishna Committee was constituted to examine issues that have led to widespread alienation in Telangana. Instead of doing that in an honest and dispassionate manner, it seeks to establish that the claim for a separate Telangana is without any economic or social basis. Its main recommendation is that a single state with some constitutional provision to assuage Telangana sentiments will suffice. The least the learned Judge should have known is that such constitutional arrangements will inherently be unconstitutional, if they are only applicable to one region. The Constitution is for the whole country, and what’s good for the goose must be good for the gander. The sorry state of our democratic process is illustrated by the fact that despite the demand for a Telangana State being supported by all the elected representatives of the region and by every political party except the CPM, it is sought to be fobbed off taking recourse to the specious and nonsensical logic that the Naxalites will somehow take over Telangana in the end. If mal-governance becomes the only reason for the takeover by Naxalites, then it would seem the whole country is ripe for it?

We have backwardness written into our geography. We have backwardness written into our sociology. And we have backwardness hardwired into our mentality. Even if the dubious arguments that more money has flowed into Telangana and Telangana has progressed more than the other two regions advanced by the Srikrishna Committee are accepted, it still does not erase the argument in favor of a smaller state. I have dealt with the speciousness of the economic argument elsewhere. A smaller state does not threaten the more recent settlers, just as it didn’t the old settlers. Ask the Maharashtrians of Sultan Bazar, the Gujarathis of Jeera, the Tamilians of Walker Town, the Marwari’s of Maharajganj, the Rajputs of Dhoolpet and even the Andhra’s of Mushirabad. Telangana has been home to many others. It’s only that the sons of the soil have not fared as well as others. Now is the time to redress that situation.

Mohan Guruswamy

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