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Volume XLIV, No.51

TELANGANA STATE: A Case of Undemocratic Response to a Democratic Demand

by K. Vidyasagar

Tuesday 24 April 2007

The Jai Telangana Movement (JTM) has once again attracted the national headlines. The movement that evoked popular response in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh in 1969 is back to square one. It reminds one of those momentous events which happened in the wake of the ‘Paris commune’, a century ago! Incidentally, such youth movements were being organised at home and abroad during that period. The rise of the Naxalite movement in various parts of India is a case in point. At the international level, anti-American movements in the backdrop of the American fiasco in Vietnam and elsewhere were also popular. More than anything else, it was the students and youth who raised the banner of revolt against their systems and political regimes. Obviously, those movements shook the established regimes and their political leaderships. Like the Jaya Prakash Narayan (JP) Movement of the mid- seventies, the Jai Telangana Movement was a democratic movement.

Historically speaking, the Constitution of India has a provision, under Article 3, which facilitated the creation of at least one dozen new States in the last 50 years, and that too without the recommenda-tion of any so-called SRC. Irrespective of the opinion of the concerned parent State, the provision empowers Parliament to alter the boundaries of any State, if such a demand is found to be democratic and popular. The only one-point demand party, the Telangana Praja Samiti (TPS), became popular throughout the region and thereby secured electoral support in the Lok Sabha elections held in 1971 itself. For, this movement-turned-party, TPS secured the popular mandate in terms of winning 11 Lok Sabha seats (out of 14 seats), swimming against all the currents entrenched in the Congress and the electoral Communists, from the Telangana region. The TPS’ victory was preceded by the unparallelled sacrifice of students and youths of Telangana in terms of year-long agitations throughout the Telangana region.

Incidentally, it was Indira Gandhi who faced the challenges of both these movements, but failed to manipulate them successfully. Although she ensured the coercive suppression of the Jai Telangana Movement in 1969-70, she could not contain the democratic aspirations of the people electorally. Failing to respond to such democratic upheavals in a peaceful manner, she had to resort to anti-democratic and unethical means, only to bring out the democratic spirit of that movement. Of course, the leaders and followers of the JTM failed to withstand the pressure tactics of the Indira Gandhi Government and thus yielded disgracefully. Thus, the Channa Reddy leadership had to yield to the pressures and favours of the Prime Minister, in terms of surrendering all the TPS MPs to Indira Gandhi for a few crumbs and thereby sabotaged the movement once and for all. Although the JTM has always been a democratic movement, as the popular mandate was recorded whenever there was one, the Central leadership played a dubious role. It offered an undemocratic agreement. The so-called gentleman’s agreement was offered as a condition for Telangana’s merger to dilute the popular aspirations of the people.

It is pertinent here to recall the violation of this undemocratic agreement by the first ever Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, ridiculing the post of Deputy Chief Ministership as the sixth finger and thus useless! While he served as Deputy Chief Minister in the B. Gopal Reddy’s regime till October 31, 1956, the post became ridiculous to him by November 1, 1956! It was one of the six points of the six-point formula that was violated on the very first day of formation of Andhra Pradesh. Leave aside its sanctity and popular support, the six-point alone was the basis of the State formation. There was no referendum of our people, nor was there any recommendation of the SRC (which recommended against the merger of Telangana with the Andhra State indeed!) to that effect. Even the Hyderabad State Assembly was divided on the hasty decision. Surprisingly, Prime Minister Nehru’s views on the need for continua-tion of Telangana reflected the feeling of the then Central Government.

Then, what precipitated the illegal action of hasty merger was the imposition of the Andhra Congress leaders’ viewpoint in the form of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, a historical blunder that was never respected either in letter or in spirit. Who were these gentlemen? Which party did they belong to, by and large? It is those Congress leaders who were under the control of the Congress coterie that played a dubious role so as to bulldoze the Telangana leaders. Since the Congress party members largely represented the ‘gentleman’s agreement’, that party alone has to own the responsibility. Incidentally, the formation of the State was contractual and conditional (as it was subject to the six-point formula/gentleman’s agreement), and its violation on the very first day can be interpreted as negating the State formation itself! How can the contract be continued if one of its conditions was violated? Does it not tantamount to a one-sided contract? It is regrettable to note that such a one-sided contract has been imposed on Telangana for that past five decades, thanks to its leaders’ stony silence. Thus, the JTM will continue to agitate the minds of those undemocratic Central leaders who offer undemocratic solutions, as usual!

Obviously, the JTM raised the banner of revolt against the Congress governments both in Hyderabad and Delhi only to seek separate Statehood for its region, as was the case before. Unlike the case of smaller States’ movement in India, the JTM was not about ‘administrative convenience’ through ‘reducing the size of Andhra Pradesh’. It is ridiculous to treat the Telangana issue as an issue of ‘size’ or ‘administration’ of the region, as is diplomatically raised by parties and groups like the BJP and RSS. As a matter of fact, once the demand is conceded, Telangana would be a State bigger than 16 of the existing States in India today! With a population that is more than one-and-a-half times that of Nepal, the Telangana State would be of 3.5 crore size. Unlike other three States which were created by the BJP in the year 2000, the State of Telangana does not require any special money for the construction of its State capital city, as the centuries-old Hyderabad is located in the heart of Telangana itself!

Nor is it about ‘regional development’ of ‘backward Telangana’. But it is about the state response to the most democratic demand of creation of a new State. In any case, it is ridiculous to view the Telangana State demand as a demand for either ‘welfare’ or ‘development’, be it regionally or economically, as is propagated by the present Chief Minister. Because, once such argument is promoted, then there are electoral Communists ready to join the chorus of raising the question of ‘backward regions’ and demand to treat Telangana on par with those backward regions of the State, namely, Rayalaseema, Uttarandhra etc. Then they would be generously seeking ‘packages’, ‘development funds’ from the Central Government and thereby confusing the genuine demand of Telangana State once and for all. In other words, Telangana is a very distinct and unique case. In case of comparison, it could be compared with either Kashmir or Junagarh; both were once princely states in India. Prior to these being made part of India, these states were given the promise of holding ‘plebiscite’, indeed!

In fact, the case of Telangana is more a revival of an old State, than a creation of a new State! Telangana, as part of erstwhile state of Hyderabad, existed as an independent State during the period 1952-56. The state was trifurcated in the name of ‘linguistic reorganisation of States’, only to please those Andhra Congress lobbyists who were divided on a common capital for the Andhra State. The Telugu-speaking Telangana State was merged with the Andhra State, against the feelings of the Telangana people, their representatives and also against the recommendations of Justice Fazal Ali, who chaired the first and last ‘States Reorganisation Committee’, popularly known as SRC. As usual, the electoral Communists played the dubious role of ‘class collaboration in the name of linguistic unity’. Thus, the saga of the Telangana struggle continues unabated, and there is no end in sight! It is immaterial if the JTM is led by KCR of the TRS today or any other leader tomorrow, for that matter. Ultimately, the democratic component of the Telangana demand will keep the JTM alive in the days to come.

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