Growing Demand of Separate Telangana- Unethical Politics
Rejoinder to Sreedhar’s “Separate Telangana: Beginning of the End

M Bharath Bhushan and E Revathi

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 Congress-I and Telangana Rashtra Samithi had political alliance and ‘controversial’ understanding on the demand of separate state during the recent elections that dethroned Telugu Desam does not require any additional emphasis to point out the importance of the demand for separate state. Today Congress-I at Delhi and Hyderabad and some senior leaders in the state speak regularly of the issue and also claim as the sole force that could give statehood. All the politics are about the “appropriate time” and the art of its interpretation. 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 gaddhi to get Telangana statehood. Today even TDP talks of Devender Goud as the chief minister if there is Telangana. It is necessary to accept these facts to acknowledge that demand for the separate state has a history and peoples 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 Congress-I may have to deny separate statehood for Telangana. Author argues emphatically that Telangana state is not going to be a reality. It is very prophetic and based on author’s strong conviction of the mind of the Congress-I that seems to have concluded its stand. Sreedhar is more categorically than Pranab Mukherjee or Sonia Gandhi that the issue of separate statehood is now a non negotiable. The paper may have been more serious and had credence if the author is spokesperson of the Congress-I.

Sreedhar’s paper requires attention because of its questionable approach, rationale and interesting addition of new forces against the demand of separate Telangana. Approach is Congress centric and personalized. 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 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 fails to comment what the thirty five 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 TRS that not only broke down but brought all political parties to the level of 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 is not initiated by one of the Congress leaders, especially one who has weight to throw around or disturb the peace of delhiwallahs. TRS leaders like KCR and Narendra failed to get the attention as they are from TDP and BJP respectively. Secondly the Congress started doubting the credibility and ability of 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 pursuing by creating employment opportunities in a big way making the demand for Telangana irrelevant. Fourth, more than one million Andhras who have gone to Europe and North America in 1980s and willing to come back to industrialize 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 inter-linking of rivers will go astray with the separate Telangana. The list of why-nots is not over if one cannot ignore the smaller ones. TRS did not show any concern for the state development in the past three months when Delhi elite was worried about the floods. Further the stature of TRS leadership (KCR and Narendra) is poor, “Telangana political elite are a divided lot”, 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 argument, predictions and rationale.

A few reasons or factors that block the separate statehood are new and reflect the fresh forces and factors. They include NRIs’ resistance to 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 Telangana issue to the likes and dislikes of Congress. It is true that a separate state demand has to negotiate with the political forces including Congress-I. But the paper fails to see that Congress is also to negotiate with the forces of coalition government that was not there in 1969. It is better to see and acknowledge the demand for separate state independent from 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 limitation 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 the part of situational analysis. Sridhar 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 Telangana movement to that of Congress party at one level. And also it reduces the issue to events from 1969 to present day TRS pull out from the Delhi sarkar. Further it takes a convenient view of Congress to that of Indira family with just two more references of Channa Reddy and YSR. It assumes that it is agreed that Congress has grown 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 same interest but also by deftness that was lacking in Indira.

Further the paper is lopsided in carefully enumerating every section including the Andhra NRIs who do not favour while it keeps mum on what the population of Telangana who opposed idea of Visaalaandhra and to the merger in fifties and had periodically been protesting against the violations of the promises and intermittently erupting into large scale struggles from 1969 to the present day.

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

It may not be out place to mention some studies by scholars on the Telangana movement that kept multiple factors independent and also see the interdependence. Therefore, they rise above trivial analysis and biases and also make arguments sharper and intellectually demanding as they address issues like regionalism, identity, autonomy, internal colonialism, nationality, social movements so an so forth. There are studies that describe and examine than supporting or opposing the social forces that emerged with challenges nation states started confronting with in the past few decades.

These studies may evoke agreement or further debate but they stimulate informed debate. Some of these studies include K R Acharya, CH 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 TRS party is non-congress-I and that it failed to have any impact because they lack the charisma of ones like Channa Reddy and while the Sonia Gandhi is smarter today than Indira of 1969 is nothing but stating the obvious, even if the statement is not contested. Four decades ago there was little non-congress in Andhra Pradesh . And that Congress does not listen to less important forces only because they cannot afflict or make a dent speaks of the lack of moral approach to issues. It is only realpolitik that is stressed which is also the disease of any other party. Similarly that ‘Telangana elite is a divided lot’ also lends credibility to the allegation that Congress-I is run by opportunism rather than by any principle based statesmanship.

Similarly the analysis is affected by love and hate towards Congress and TRS respectively. On the contrary the TRS is of low quality mettle because it doesn’t have the right pedigree. TRS has roots of TDP and BJP. Paper indulges in trivialization and liberally personalizing the debate of a movement by likes and dislikes of personalities representing political parties with conflicting positions on the issue of separate Telangana.

New forces standing in the way separate Telangana

It is mentioned that a million Andhra NRIs are against separate Telangana. What makes the NRIs lose if the state is small or big? When these one million Andhra NRI plan to start investing and which parts of Andhra Pradesh they like to invest 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? Has 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” if not to lose the foreign investors. One only hopes 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 stands on the separate Telangana issue. It is that NRIs are being projected as anti Telangana and that they have regional interests than the spirit of a genuine entrepreneur.

Is 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 million dollar question. Does the proposed inter-linking river project with massive money bags and endless controversies and violations going to make Telangana unviable? Does that mean the interests of the overall development and equitable development, which is the sated objective of inter-river linkage, only a myth? 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 who are not Telugu but Tamil neighbors? 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 credibility of the central authorities under the Congress rule. It’s not out of place to see why the neighboring 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 for separate Telangana before the damage is done irreversibly leaving Telangana deprived of water resources once for all if the statehood is delayed?

Is Telangana state going to be niche for terrorism?

Although these excuses are stale that Telangana will become a tool of the Naxalites as the paper tries to paint something more than the old story. It has no credence as the Naxalite problem is not confined 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, Chattisgarh, Bihar and almost everywhere. It is also not out of place to mention that Naxalism did not take birth from Telangana and Naxalism of Telangana region was led and guided by Andhra comrades for long time. It came from West Bengal and is very much part of our contemporary national ethos and mores. It is strange that we find people suddenly becoming shortsighted to associate Naxalism with only Telangana. It 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 TRS alone. TDP hailed naxals as real patriots- nijamayina desa bhaktulu (Naxalites are real patriots, said NTR). Current Congress-I party has promised peace with Naxals during the elections. What written and unwritten agreements Congress-I had with the Naxalites before and after the general elections had to be seen instead of simply branding that TRS has links with Naxals. Also it is important to examine the connivance and facilitation of the Congress senior leaders in mediating with Naxals, if all the media reports and the admissions of the Congress leaders were not wrong. Responsible 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 Congress-I wants to combat. Does that mean a separate Telangana will be a niche for terrorism and hence the Congress-I jihad against terrorism will not allow Telangana? Is Hyderabad and Telangana more prone to Monica Bedi’s or Telangana and Andhra Pradesh more predisposed to violence that marred Gujarat or Maharashtra? Is it fair to subscribe such communal fears and allegations against Telangana only when there is talk of a separate state or because there is Muslim population of considerable size? Doest it not amount to say that Visaalaandhra is to suppress the likely terrorist threat owing to the Muslim population of Hyderabad?

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