When Bombay State was split to form Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960, some Gujarati leaders laid claim to Mumbai. The arguments are very similar to what we hear today about Hyderabad during Telangana separation. That there are many Gujarati settlers in Mumbai, that they feel unsafe there in the hands of Maratha goons, that they had invested too much and made Mumbai with their bare hands, and so on - the usual stuff that always precedes every separation in India.
Some Gujaratis proposed that Mumbai should be made a Union Territory so that nobody gets the city. Fortunately for India, sanity prevailed. Sanity prevailed even when Andhras had laid claim to Chennai when they split from Madras State to form Andhra State. During that time also, there was a discussion as to whether Chennai should be made a Union Territory.
So what’s this whole deal with converting capital cities into Union Territories? Why do people ask something like this during each separation?
Nobody wants to let go of a capital city because everyone is attached to it. Everyone has some connection of some kind, an investment, a relative or the other. And when their capital city goes to the other side, they don’t feel good about it. That happens with every separation. It’s hard on somebody. But the villa has to go to one party. It cannot be split right in the middle.
Right now, there is clamor from Andhra-Rayalaseema politicians and people to convert Hyderabad into Union Territory. Since they cannot get it, they don’t want Telangana to get it either. There are some settlers in Hyderabad who are also clamoring for the same. They don’t identify themselves with the goons of Telangana, ‘so why should we join Telangana’, they ask? Moreover, they claim that they have a cosmopolitan outlook on life which most Telangana people from villages don’t seem to exhibit. Why can’t they be on their own, they ask?
So, is Hyderabad a part of Telangana? Or is it a city that has grown to be quite different altogether leaving behind Telangana? Should each cosmopolitan city in India be asked to vote if they want to be independent of the region they reside in? Should we hold referendums in cities as well, treating them like states?
First, there are no historical precedents where a historically and culturally integrated capital city was made a Union Territory just because two suitors were not ready to settle the issue. It’s like nobody gets the bread just because the two monkeys couldn’t resolve their issues. Some people cite Chandigarh as an example. Chandigarh was a new city that was artificially created and both the suitors agreed to share it. It had no historical or cultural ties with any region. It was right in the middle of the two states bordering both the states. Also, it was agreed that one state would eventually get it into twenty years.
Second, if cities were allowed to break away from their regions just because settlers now outnumber the local people, then the cities of India will not allow settlers anymore in future and that will the defeat the very purpose of creating cities that are open to everyone. Being open to everyone should not be construed as an invitation to flood the city and then hold a referendum to break it away from the region.
No country on the planet has reached a stage where each city or district is asked to decide whether it wants to create a new state for itself just because immigrants now outnumber the locals. Germany, France, USA, Russia, or any country still look at their countries as collection of states or provinces with cities within them, but not a mere collection of cities. Only the capital city of a country is usually given a special status. There is always a strong promotion of cities for each region. More regions are created so that they can create more cities. Therefore, having cities in your region is an incentive. Removing cities from the regions deprives them of their prized possessions.
If we were to grant Hyderabad a status of Union Territory or a State, we are going to set an ugly precedent. Most cities in India are cosmopolitan, some more than others. People of a region sacrifice their local development to contribute to developing their cities with a vested interest, that their cities in turn will help the region. They give up their lands and give it to the cities so that cities can grow. They provide water and electricity from their region to the cities so that they get better resources. Regions gladly welcome settlers to settle in their cities, give incentives to invest in their cities, provide facilities that are even deprived to the people of their region, all with intent to grow their city so that it will in turn contribute to the growth of their region.
So, can settlers migrate to a city, fill it up with a people of their kind and then ask for referendums? If referendums were held now, do you think Mumbai will stay with Maharashtra or Bangalore with Karnataka? Most settlers are averse to getting involved in regional politics. Most of them do not even vote or participate in the local politics. The whole reason they have migrated is because they were looking for opportunity in that city and were ready to live in a different region. The homage provided by the cities and those regions should not be misused whereby settlers will eventually break that city away from the region.
Telangana was marginalized because it was a distinctly different region. Its people felt discriminated by the majority. Now, they want a separate state for themselves. And you deprive them of the only city they have? What kind of justice that would be? The guy who says he has been cheated is cheated further?
Is being cosmopolitan, more developed, a good enough reason for a city to cut itself off from the region? Is being apathetic to local socio-politics, being immune from local economics, being pampered and protected and preserved, a good enough reason to cut itself off from a region?
If every city in India, after receiving such patronage from its region wants to separate out, then there is no longer an incentive to build cities in India. Regions in India will balk at settlers coming in. If the invitation to invest in a city becomes a reason to separate, no state will invite settlers to settle in their cities. They will fear that they will lose their cities.
If we continue that path, Bangalore and Mumbai can easily break away from their states right away. So what are we setting as example to other states? Don’t allow migrants to come in because one day they will ask for a referendum and break away from you?
So what about Andhras that lost Hyderabad?
Whenever there is a splitting of a state, cities get distributed. Only one region can get the capital city. That’s a natural outcome. Andhra gets others cities, like Vijayawada, Vishakapatnam, Nellore, etc, only because they lie inside Andhra region, whereas Telangana gets Hyderabad only because it lies inside Telangana region. Moreover, Hyderabad belongs to Telangana historically, culturally and geographically. It does not share a border with Andhra region. Therefore, the capital city cannot be shared like in case of Chandigarh. Any neutral observer would conclude that the city will go with Telangana.
So what happens to Andhra region which has lost it capital city to another region? They should do the same thing what Gujarat did after they lost their capital city to Maharashtra. They should do the same thing what each of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and Chattisgarh did, when they lost their capital city to another region. They should build a capital city of their own.
A region that has lost the capital city should be compensated for. They should get a package to build their own capital. But that does not mean we should deprive regions of their cities just because one party did not like the separation.
The whole exercise of a city asking for a separate status because it has cosmopolitan characters reeks of elitism, where gated communities and islands of prosperity are created amidst swathes of poverty using the very resources taken from the regions around them. Any move to grant Hyderabad city a status of State or Union Territory is a wrong move. It will set a wrong example to other states NOT to allow settlers into their cities. Maharashtra will now have to get worried that they may lost their city if Vidarbha wants a separate state and lay claim to the city. Bangalore has to worry now whether they should allow migrants to settle in their region. The whole idea of creating cities as a prized possession of their regions gets nullified. This is a retrograde move for India. I sincerely hope that sanity and reason prevails like before.
[The related posts are at: Case for Telangana, Telangana II, Telangana III, Telangana IV, Telangana V: Political angle, Telangana VI: Hyderabad State?, Telangana VIII: You need to make a case, History of Telangana I, Telangana IX: Riots turn ugly, Telangana X: Congratulations!, History of Telangana II, Telangana XI: Why so much opposition?, Telangana XII: Ignorance, Bad Faith and Low Opinion. Telangana XIII: Let’s stay United!, Telangana XIV: Letter to Andhra Brothers, Telangana XV: Concerns, Telangana XVI: Samaikya Andhra, Telangana XVII: More Concerns, Telangana XVIII: Betrayal]