SriKrishna Committee Report is now being studied by the Central Government in New Delhi to provide a solution to the Telangana issue. Unfortunately, the report fails to provide a political solution to the current problem, and instead provides too many options thereby creating confusion. It provides six options which are self-contradicting making a mockery of itself. It has too many factual errors, and in some places downright supercilious when it calls entire people of Telangana lazy and subservient.
The report not only puts on record its prejudices against creation of new states in India but also callously dismisses a 54 year old struggle and a genuine aspiration of 35 million people as ‘having some merit’ and ‘not entirely unjustified’. The report not only fails to deliver a practical solution to the impending problem in Telangana, but it poses a grave danger to Indian democracy by establishing an undemocratic yardstick for creation of new states in India.
Back in 1950s, the national leaders of the newly formed Indian Republic looked at the state divisions based on regional identity with strong suspicion. These leaders were still recovering from the aftermath of Partition and the recently concluded exercise of annexation of various reluctant kingdoms. Linguistic Provinces Commission under SK Dar and JVP Committee headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramaiah rejected the idea of forming states based on language. The Dar Commission said ‘Nationalism and sub-nationalism are two emotional experiences, which grow at the cost of each other’ and therefore ‘all sub-national tendencies in the existing linguistic provinces should be suppressed’. The JVP Committee held the security and unity of India paramount to caution that the ‘language could equally be unifying and divisive force’.
However, the ethos that set democracy in motion in this country was guided not by such apprehensions expressed in these two commissions or committees but from practical experiences coming from dealing with expedient problems of that time. Certain events transpired in this country immediately after our Independence and solving them created a guiding benchmark for evolution of states in this country.
One such event is the demand of Andhra state. This demand influenced creation of Article 3 in Indian Constitution in the present form, led to constitution of States Reorganization Commission (SRC) that upheld the rationale to create linguistic states based on regional aspirations, led to rejection of recommendations from JVP and Dar Committee, and thus ultimately led to creation of a mature decision process in this country that dealt with many aspirations for statehoods in India.
Many states, like Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra State, Maharashtra, Gujarat, were formed to satisfy the aspirations of people of India who have come together under the banner of one language. Many other states, like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, were formed to satisfy other regional aspirations. It is clear now that these benchmarks set forth during the early years of formation of India have resulted in creating a vibrant democracy in India contrary to the unfounded fears held by our leaders of that time that the country would disintegrate. It is apparent to any political observer now that the creation of new states to satisfy the aspirations of people based in regional identities actually strengthened Indian democracy, not weaken it. Rejection of recommendations of Dar Commission and JVP Committee are equally important for setting the above mature precedents.
A new benchmark for creation of states in India?
Another such committee now expresses apprehensions about creating states based on regional aspirations. SriKrishna Committee Report makes a clear departure from the innumerable precedents of the last sixty years that helped India become a mature democracy, strengthening its sovereignty, and setting a great example of staying united though extremely diverse. This report questions the legitimacy of people’s aspirations to demand a separate state and negates it in favor of keeping states united where majority will continue to suppress the minority.
Authors of Indian Constitution made extensive debates before they decided on steps to reorganize states in Indian Union. To make a case for Article 3 in the present form, they cite the example of then Andhras trying to create a state for themselves from Madras State. During those discussions, they made it clear that it is the will of the people which is paramount and that a majority should not be in a position to suppress a minority within a state. So that a minority group can form a state, they vested the powers to form a state only with Indian Parliament with clear implications that a ‘consensus’ may never be reached within the state.
SKC Report challenges the ethos of Article 3 that gives the will of the people the required legitimacy to form a state. It also challenges the SRC recommendations which considered the desire of a region to form a separate state, by asking ‘whether a region can be allowed to decide for itself what its political status should be’. This is a dangerous observation, goes against the spirit of democracy in India, stops creation of states in future, making our country static in state boundaries. If the will of the people cannot decide the fate of a political status of a region, who else should decide?
SKC Report recommends Option 5 for creating a separate Telangana only if other two regions agree, thereby completely negating the very idea on which Article 3 was based. Their recommendations go against the vision of the authors of Indian Constitution and the spirit of SRC. Subjecting a minority to the tyranny of majority, the committee makes a mockery of Indian democracy.
If SriKrishna Committee Report becomes the yardstick to examine and satisfy aspirations of a region in India, then there is danger that we would reverse all these healthy precedents of the past. A minority group will never be in a position to form a state no matter how much they are suppressed or marginalized. All state formations would come to a halt in this country.
Are SKC members against creation of new states?
A constitutional democracy creates various safeguards to protect the interests of the minorities and underprivileged. When a majority colludes out of self-interest to form a single group, it can easily suppress the minority. To overcome this, Indian Constitution has provided various safeguards, like reservations for lower castes and women, and similarly it allowed for creation of new states out of regions.
SriKrishna Committee Report equates formation of new states within Indian Union to creation of new nations and goes onto provided ‘economic’ criteria to oppose such divisions. It cites the trend in the world ‘towards economic integration with economic blocs consisting of many smaller nations being formed in the interest of enhancing economic opportunities’ and discourages formation of smaller nations because they contribute to creating ‘barriers to inter-state and intrastate trade and movement of goods and services.’
What SriKrishna Committee misses out is that states are not nations. And that states are not formed on the basis of economic considerations but to fulfill regional aspirations. The report states that ‘division of Andhra Pradesh can only be a negative factor which would inhibit the economic growth of the newly formed states.’ It goes on to say that ‘economically, the land locked region of Telangana may also lose out on access and opportunities to the eastern coastline which has a major port in Vishakhapatnam and many other sea ports.’ The argument against ‘land-locked’ states has no merit. Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, are all land-locked states.
The report negates the statehood for Telangana on the grounds that it ‘would only create a demand for a great number of small states resulting in problems of coordination and management.’ Observing that one of the members is a retired judge, it is indeed a crooked way of delivering justice – to say that we cannot dole out justice because others would ask for the same.
While citing the recommendation of Fazal Ali’ SRC, the SKC report cites only those remarks which were against formation of separate Telangana while omitting the remarks which supported formation of separate Telangana. Also, SriKrishna Committee members did not consider the rationale of how nearly thirteen states have come into existence in independent India. It is clear that SriKrishna Committee started out with a prejudice against creating smaller states, against creating Telangana. Such a Committee’s report should not be allowed to become a benchmark because it would mean there can be no land-locked states or smaller states in India ever again and that economic considerations would prevail over democratic aspirations.
An unbiased arbiter?
Telanganas have been demanding a separate state since fifty years, with the current agitation going back 15 years. Telanganas have cited discrimination meted out to them on various aspects in the state, in empowerment, in irrigation, in jobs, in opportunities etc. The committee was formed to ‘examine the situation’ in the state with reference to ‘demand for a separate State of Telangana’ and to ‘review the developments in the State since its formation’. It was given a mandate to be an unbiased arbiter to examine if indeed Telangana was discriminated. The contention is between people of Telanganas who cite discrimination from Seemandhra-controlled Government of Andhra Pradesh. Justice SriKrishna seems to have forgotten what the role of a judge is. The committee, instead of donning the role of an unbiased judge between these two parties, has become a prosecutor on the side of Government of Andhra Pradesh. The Committee has used the facts given by the Government of Andhra Pradesh without questioning them, using the reports provided by Seemandhra leaders as ‘evidences’ while rubbishing all the facts and statistics provided by Telangana experts, economists, statisticians, professors, employee unions, engineers, poets, and scientists. If SKC were to believe the statistics provided by Seemandhra-controlled Government of Andhra Pradesh without questioning them, then why did we need the committee in the first place? If all these statistics are correct, and therefore there is no discrimination towards Telangana, then why did so many political parties, eminent leaders, including Home Minister support the Telangana’s statehood movement? It was egregious of SKC members to thank only a dozen Seemandhra VIPs at the starting of the Report but none of the Telangana members.
If such a report becomes a benchmark for resolving regional issues in this country, let it be known that privileged will always win over the underprivileged. This country will no longer stand for justice but for establishing the tyranny of the privileged.
Not only does SriKrishna Committee Report fail to provide a political solution to the current Telangana issue, it does not even deserve the acclaim of an academic report. It has innumerable number of factual errors and is surfeit with obvious contradictions. SriKrishna Committee recommends six possible options for resolving the current problem in the state.
The Option 1 of keeping the state united as status quo is negated saying it is not possible to run the state the same without ‘some intervention’ on behalf of Telanganas. It cites the reason for Telangana movements in the past and the present as ‘partial implementation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement… the denial of fair share of water and irrigation resources, and perceived neglect in economic development of Telangana region.’ And yet while recommending the Option 6 of keeping the state united with ‘constitutional/statutory measures to address the core socio-economic concerns about development of Telangana region’, it prescribes the same measures which are all considered to be failures in the history of Andhra Pradesh. It is an irony that SriKrishna Committee recommends Telangana Regional Council (TRC) without realizing a similar sounding Regional Standing Committee recommended by Gentlemen’s Agreement failed miserably resulting in violent Telangana agitations of 1969. Telangana people are condemned into repeat history with the same experiments which stand failed.
The committee while giving the six options discusses the bogey of increase in Maoist activities in the state and keeps these discussions a secret. The committee believes that keeping the state in the present condition (Option 1) is likely to give a fillip to Maoist movement, and in another context it states that ‘Telangana with or without Hyderabad is likely to experience a spurt in Maoist activity’. Since a spurt Maoist activities is an eventuality in this region no matter what the solutions is how does it matter which option is chosen?
Mohan Guruswamy writes: “…demand for a separate Telangana state [is] 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”,
Why Option 4?
The mandate of SriKrishna Committee was to examine two options of creating separate Telangana and keeping the state united. The members have overstepped the mandate given to them and have raised several unnecessary options and issues creating more confusion. Also, some of these options suggest the deviousness of the members who wrote the report. For example, the inclusion of Option 4 in the report can only be seen as a revenge of Seemandhras to deprive and punish people of Telangana of some of prime assets. This option creates a new union territory for Hyderabad including many mandals and villages of Telangana. No evidence of people’s demand is given as to why certain tracts of Telangana lands are added to create a corridor, except for satisfying the Seemandhras desire to have access to this city. It should be noted that no mandals or villages from Rayalaseema or Coastal Andhra are added to this Union Territory.
While one of the biggest moot points for Telangana movement has been the deprivation of water, this option further exacerbates the sad plight of Telanganas by denying two of the biggest irrigation projects of this region. Both the Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar projects are included in union territory of Hyderabad.
SKC report does not look at some relevant historical precedents while proposing Option 4. There are uncanny similarities between the debates on Hyderabad with those of Bombay and Madras. SKC completely and deliberately ignores these debates. Demands for union territory status for the city of Madras were made when Andhras separated from Madras State. The logic provided by the Andhras was that the city was developed by them and that a substantial size of population in Madras was Andhras. However, Madras remained with Tamil Nadu clearly rejecting the above logic provided by Andhras. While rejecting the claim it was stated that such a precedent would lead to making most of the cosmopolitan cities of India into union territories. In case of Bombay, the city was administered as a union territory for four years, and later made capital of Maharashtra, clearly rejecting the experiment as major failure. The demands made by Gujarati community were that Marathis were a minority in Bombay, that they were the investors and businessmen who built the city, that the city of Bombay was far more important to India as a port and a financial hub, that the city was cosmopolitan in nature and therefore should not be given to Marathis. In the end, these objections were rejected and cultural and geographical linkages were given the most importance overriding any apprehensions and fears over the future city and State.
This option creates 4 states out of Andhra Pradesh without admitting it – Telangana, Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Hyderabad. While the committee rejects Option 5 on the grounds that it is hesitant to divide a linguistic state, it does not cite the same reasons to reject Option 4. Instead, it portrays Telangana man as a villain who would oppose this option.
Why India should reject SriKrishna Committee Report?
A jury’s verdict is not supposed to satisfy everyone but deliver justice even when it faces stiff opposition from certain groups. The SriKrishna Committee report while trying to satisfy everyone has left victims dissatisfied. The best possible option recommended in the report is nothing but a rerun of failed history imposed onto Telangana people. The recommended steps are not original, lack creativity and lack maturity that is expected from a committee comprising of a retired judge, known bureaucrat, an economist and a social scientist. The report does not use the benchmarks used in creation of other states in India and does not provide a clear rationale behind its approach when dealing with case of Telangana.
The entire report is biased and has a tone which is objectionable. It is riddled with factual inaccuracies, mistakes and plain lies. The members resorted to frivolous and non-serious remarks during press meets, and partied with vested interests who wanted to derail statehood to Telangana.
Indians should clearly understood that India’s strength lies in celebration of its diversity, allowing various groups to retain their identity within the confines of an overarching identity of being Indian. Creation of new states based on regional aspirations led to quasi-federalism in India thereby strengthening the democratic institutions in the country. These were possible because of application of recommendations of State Reorganization Commission while rejecting the recommendations Dar Commission and JVP Committee.
SriKrishna Committee report tries to create a new yard stick that reverses the norms and ethos used in creating new states in India. It puts a stop to creation of new states in this country. That will only push the desperate people in India to find solutions outside the purview of Indian constitution which will undermine India’s democratic credentials and thereby threaten India’s unity.
This report sets an ominous trend in Indian democracy and hence its rejection in its entirety is the duty of every Indian who believes in democratic values and deliverance of justice in this country. India should continue the path of creation more states in India in accordance with regional aspirations of its people.