Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2006 > December 09, 2006 > Growing Demand for Separate Telangana and Unethical Politics

Volume XLIV, No.51

Growing Demand for Separate Telangana and Unethical Politics

by M. Bharath Bhushan and E. Revathi

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Rejoinder to Sreedhar’s “Separate Telangana: Beginning of the End”

Telangana is today a hot issue and something no party can ignore to address. It has become imperative for every political party worth the name in Andhra Pradesh to acknowledge the issue of separate Telangana. That the Congress-I and Telangana Rashtra Samiti had a political alliance and ‘controversial’ understanding on the demand of a separate State during the last elections that dethroned Telugu Desam does not require any additional emphasis to bring out the importance of the demand for a separate State. Today the Congress-I at Delhi and Hyderabad and some senior leaders in the State speak regularly of the issue and also claim to be the sole force that could give Statehood to Telangana. What the politicos are harping on boils down to the “appropriate time” and the art of its interpretation. The Bharatiya Janata Party also speaks of being the only party that could get separate Telangana. Both parties ask for the price of giving them the gaddi to get Telangana Statehood. Today even the TDP talks of Devender Goud as the Chief Minister if there is Telangana. It is necessary to accept these facts to acknowledge that the demand for the separate State has a history and people’s support and cannot be wished away by the changing equations of political parties.

Sreedhar’s paper titled “Separate Telangana: Beginning of the End” published in Mainstream (September 29-October 5, 2006 ) requires some attention as it compiles a list of reasons that the Congress-I may have to deny separate Statehood for Telangana. The author argues emphatically that a Telangana State is not going to be a reality. It is very prophetic and based on the author’s strong conviction about the attitude of the Congress-I that seems to have led him to such a conclusion. Sreedhar is more categorical than Pranab Mukherjee or Sonia Gandhi that the issue of separate Statehood is now non-negotiable. The paper may have been more serious and could have had more credence if the author was the spokesperson of the Congress-I.

Sreedhar’s paper requires attention because of its questionable approach, rationale and interes-ting addition of new forces against the demand for separate Telangana. The approach is Congress-centric and personalised. Further, it draws attention to the question of national security and interesting forces coming into play like the choice of NRIs and lastly the futility or incompatibility of the inter-linking of rivers with the demand for a separate State.

He takes the view that there is no scope of another opinion on the matter of a movement that is more than four decades old. We make an attempt to briefly lay bare the facts and the limitations of the argument put forth by Sreedhar.

His enumeration of forces opposing separate Telangana include the ten lakh Andhra NRIs who don’t like the State to split but curiously he fails to comment on what the thirtyfive million Telangana people want. Sreedhar is all praise for Sonia’s deft handling of the issue but does not comment on what was the basis of the electoral alliance and coalition affair it had with the TRS that not only broke down but in the process exposed all political parties as shameless power brokers who make promises only to get into power.
The paper states four major factors that have been decisively conclusive of the denial of the demand for separate Telangana. The movement lost its chance apparently, firstly, because it was not initiated by one of the Congress leaders, especially one who has the weight to throw around or disturb the peace of the Delhiwallahs. TRS leaders like KCR and Narendra failed to get the attention as they were from the TDP and BJP respectively. Secondly, the Congress started doubting the credibility and ability of the TRS to govern the State because of its links with Naxalites. Thirdly, the State has turned into a knowledge-based industry during the TDP regime which the YSR Government is vigorously seeking to strengthen by creating employment opportunities in a big way thus making the demand for Telangana irrelevant. Fourthly, more than one million Andhras who have gone to Europe and North America in the 1980s and are willing to come back to industrialise the State don’t like the State to be split.

It further adds that the State of Telangana is out of question because the Central Government is wedded, more than the in the past, to combating terrorism, both internal and external. The ‘economic development’ close to the heart of the Delhi elite finds separate Statehood incompatible. Besides, the entire developmental strategy of the AP Government, which is tied to the inter-linking of rivers, will go astray with a separate Telangana. The list of why-nots is not over if one cannot ignore the smaller ones. The TRS did not show any concern for the State’s development in the past three months when the Delhi elite was worried about the floods. Further, the stature of the TRS leadership (KCR and Narendra) is poor, the “Telangana political elite are a divided lot”, the TRS leadership is alienated from the people and is no more than “a bunch of local leaders”. That is the long and short of the arguments, predictions and rationale.

A few reasons against the separate Statehood are new and reflect the fresh forces and factors. They include the NRIs’ resistance to the splitting of the State and the incompatibility with the current government’s strategy of inter-river linkage for accelerating development with huge investments. And national security, although not all that new, does not permit today separate Telangana because of the threat of terrorism.

Approach

Sreedhar’s paper is handicapped for its over-simplification of the Telangana issue to the likes and dislikes of the Congress. It is true that the demand for a separate State has to negotiate with the political forces including the Congress-I. But the paper fails to see that the Congress has also to negotiate with the forces of the coalition government that was not there in 1969. It is better to view and acknowledge the demand for a separate State independent of the strengths or limitations of the supporters and opponents of the demand in order to understand the roots of the demand. One could take the strengths and limitations or assets and liabilities of the stakeholders while making an analysis of the possibilities of success or failure in achieving one’s demands. That is part of the situational analysis. Sreedhar fails to differentiate this and consequently is biased by the personality and party factors.

Sreedhar’s paper is ill-informed, if not in poor taste, for the prejudiced portrayal of individuals. It narrows down the issue of the Telangana movement to that of the Congress party at one level. And it also reduces the issue to events from 1969 to the TRS’ pull-out from the Delhi sarkar this year. Further, it takes a convenient view of the Congress being the Indira family with just two references to Channa Reddy and YSR. It assumes that everyone agrees about the growth of the Congress in quality or statesmanship from 1969 to 2006 because if Indira Gandhi was forced to be firm for reasons of “national security” Sonia Gandhi is guided by the same interest but also by deftness that was lacking in Indira.

Further, the paper is lopsided: while carefully enumerating every section including the Andhra NRIs who do not favour a new State, it keeps mum on what the population of Telangana (who were opposed to idea of Visaalandhra and the merger in the fifties, and had periodically been protesting against the violations of the promises, those protests intermittently erupting into large scale struggles from 1969 to the present day) want.

Several studies have differentiated to make an objective analysis of the movement by looking at the personality factors distinct from the movement and issues of regional inequalities and conflicting social forces reflected in the movement. Parties and personalities may or may not become the media for articulation of the social demands. Unfortunately Sreedhar’s paper, commenting about a historical process spanning four decades, takes a a-historical approach.

It may not be out place to mention about some studies by scholars on the Telangana movement that kept multiple factors in view to point out that these were independent of each other and yet did not fail to see their interdependence. Therefore, they rise above trivial analyses and biases and also make arguments that are sharper and intellectually demanding as they address issues like regionalism, identity, autonomy, internal colonialism, nationality, social movements and so on and so forth. There are studies that describe and examine—rather than supporting or opposing—the social forces that emerged with challenges to nation-states and started confronting one another within the past few decades.

These studies may evoke agreement or further debate but they stimulate informed debate. Some of these studies include those of K.R. Acharya, C.H. Hanumantha Rao, Dagmar Bernstorff, Duncan B. Forester, Hugh Gray, W.H. Morris Jones, Selig A. Harrison, K. Seshadri, K.C. Suri, D.A. Washbrook among others.

Rationale

That the TRS party is non-Congress-I, that it failed to have any impact because its leaders lack the charisma of the likes of Channa Reddy and that Sonia Gandhi is smarter today than Indira of 1969—these are nothing but stating the obvious. Four decades ago there was little of non-Congress politics in Andhra Pradesh. And that the Congress does not listen to less important forces only because they cannot make a dent speaks of the lack of moral approach to issues. It is only realpolitik that is stressed and this is also the disease of any other party. Similarly, that the ‘Telangana elite is a divided lot’ also lends credibility to the allegation that the Congress-I is run by opportunism rather than by any principle-based statesmanship.
Similarly the analysis is affected by love and hate towards the Congress and TRS respectively. On the contrary it gives the impression that the TRS is of low quality mettle because it doesn’t have the right pedigree. The TRS has the roots of the TDP and BJP. The paper indulges in trivialisation and liberally personalises the debate with regard to the movement by reducing it to the likes and dislikes of personalities representing political parties with conflicting positions on the issue of separate Telangana.

New Forces standing in the way of a Separate Telangana

It is mentioned that a million Andhra NRIs are against a separate Telangana. What makes the NRIs lose their sleep if the State is small or big? When these one million Andhra NRIs plan to start investing, which parts of Andhra Pradesh they would like to invest in is all mere speculation if not gossip. Has any study indicated that foreign investment flows are proportionate to the size of the State wherein the larger States are attracting larger chunks of foreign capital? Have the NRIs’ investments been affected by one’s affinity or love for a State or business equations? Most of the promised investments to Orissa are by non-Oriya entrepreneurs as much as many significant groups eyeing Andhra Pradesh are non-Telugu. Sreedhar’s theory needs serious examination and if proved correct may recommend the recently carved States to roll back in time and go for a “rewind” or else they would lose the foreign investors. One finds there is more imagination than any fact in this regard.

But it does not fail to point out one interesting factor in connection with the NRIs’ stand on the separate Telangana issue. It is that the NRIs are being projected as anti-Telangana and that they have only regional interests to serve rather than the spirit of a genuine entrepreneur.

Is the Inter-river Project pursued by YSR and Delhi Congress anti-Telangana

Why the inter-river linking project is incompatible with Telangana coming into being is a million dollar question. Does the proposed inter-linking of rivers project with massive money bags and endless controversies and violations going to make Telangana unviable? Does that mean the interests of overall development and equitable development, which is the stated objective of the inter-river linkage, only myths? It is assumed that river management and irrigation projects are guided by ecological and cost effectiveness and political mechanism facilitating a sharing and peaceful ambience going beyond the parochial and myopic interests of regions or States for that matter. Didn’t Andhra Pradesh send water to Chennai where the people are not Telugu but Tamil neighbours? Is it not the job of the Central authorities to look into issues of larger ecological rationale and environmental justice? Sreedhar’s arguments bring into question the credibility of the Central authorities under Congress rule. It’s not out of place to see why neighbouring States like Orissa question the morality of these agencies. Does Sreedhar’s fear suggest that inter-river projects should be opposed tooth and nail by those demanding separate Telangana before the damage is done irreversibly leaving Telangana deprived of water resources once and for all if the Statehood is delayed?

Is Telangana State going to be a Niche for Terrorism?

Although the excuse that Telangana will become a tool of the Naxalites is stale, the paper tries to dish out the same the old story. This argument has no credence as the Naxalite problem is not confined to Telangana alone in the State or in the country. Naxalites are also in the coastal region of Vishakapatnam, Srikakulam, East and West Godavari districts (Andhra Pradesh), Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and almost everywhere. It is also not out of place to mention that Naxalism did not take birth in Telangana and Naxalism of the Telangana region was led and guided by the Andhra comrades for a long time. Naxalism came from West Bengal and is very much part of our contemporary national ethos. It is strange that we find people suddenly becoming shortsighted to associate Naxalism with only Telangana. This is an ill informed alibi if not an irresponsible allegation.

Further, it is not a secret that love for Naxalites is shared by all political parties and not by the TRS alone. The TDP hailed the Naxals as real patriots—nijamayina desa bhaktulu (Naxalites are real patriots), said NTR. The current Congress-I party had promised peace with the Naxals during the elections. What written and unwritten agreements the Congress-I had with the Naxalites before and after the general elections had to be seen before speaking of the TRS’ links with the Naxals. Also it is important to examine the connivance and facilitation of the Congress’ senior leaders in mediating with the Naxals, if all the media reports and the admissions of the Congress leaders were not wrong. Respon-sible comments cannot be blind to these facts.

But what is more important is the ‘possible’ connection of Naxalism with or/and its place in the current threats of terrorism that the Congress-I wants to combat. Does that mean a separate Telangana will be a niche for terrorism and hence the Congress-I’s jihad against terrorism will not allow Telangana? Is Hyderabad and Telangana more prone to the Monica Bedis or Telangana and Andhra Pradesh more predisposed to the violence that marred Gujarat or Maharashtra? Is it fair to subscribe to such communal fears and allegations against Telangana only when there is talk of a separate State or because there is a Muslim population of considerable size? Does it not amount to saying that Visaalandhra is intended to suppress the likely terrorist threat owing to the Muslim population of Hyderabad?

These allegations need substantiation. The Congress plays on anti-communist allegations as the well as the anti-Muslim communal approach according to their suitability at the “appropriate time”. These are very old stories. These stark opportunistic positions of the politicians and prejudiced writings deeply misrepresent the reality.

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