[This article is intended for the audience who are outside Andhra Pradesh and trying to figure out why this new state is being formed.]
Demand for Telangana is a sixty year old demand. It has erupted in major agitations and movements over the last six decades in various forms. The current movement spanning the last four years happens to be the greatest and biggest people’s movement in India after the Independence Movement. It has galvanized millions of people into participating in thousands of rallies and protests, in hundreds of major agitations which saw outpouring of people in lakhs. It also resulted in nearly thousand suicides.
If you think Anna Hazare Movement saw outpouring of youth onto streets of India for a genuine cause, then imagine a movement which is thousand times bigger spread over four years. If you think Indian Independence Movement touched the common man, then imagine a movement which has reached grass roots far more extensively than that, touching almost every man, every woman, and every village in the region.
Think of a movement which saw the leaders of Congress, the right-wing BJP, left wing Communist Parties, the Muslim parties, former naxalites, all sitting on the same stage fighting for the same cause. Imagine a movement where farmers, bankers, rickshaw pullers, lawyers, fruit vendors, businessmen, are all marching for the same cause.
Imagine a movement which spawned hundreds of books, thousands of songs, and movies. Imagine a movement that has foisted young men and women onto the stage, where they spoke to an audience for the first time. Imagine new leaders and activists born. Imagine creating singers out of ordinary boys and girls. Imagine various creative expressions of protest, Dhoom Dhams, the celebration of songs and dance spanning over months and weeks going into late nights, where women and men participate in gusto, Vanta Varpu, where a stretch of hundred kilometers of road is used for cooking and dining, and human chains going for hundreds of kilometers.
Telangana Movement is one of the greatest democratic expressions this subcontinent has witnessed in the last few decades. It has created thousands of Joint Action Committees (JAC) all under the aegis one mother JAC. There’s a JAC for each district, each village. There are JACs for bankers, for lawyers, for miners, for auto-drivers, for pharmacists, for doctors, for engineers, for lecturers, for students, and so on. Imagine them springing into action with receipt of a single SMS.
Telangana Movement has created a generation of responsible citizenry, politically aware youth, authors, singers, and balladeers. It has spawned a generation of intellectuals who debate the constitution of India to its deepest details. It has made many of us better human beings, able to appreciate the concerns of the common man, an ability to empathize with people’s movements world over.
Here I address some of the usual concerns raised by observers in India.
With such state divisions, we will disintegrate India.
Unlike what most Indians believe, division of state is not the same as disintegration of India. In fact, no state division has resulted in disintegration of India. Barring for losing territories in its wars with its neighbors, India has never disintegrated. It has only added new territories like when Goa or Sikkim joined the Union. No state has ever opted to get out of India though such fears were good enough to stop North India from imposing Hindi onto Tamils.
Looking at history of India we see that state division has been a continuous process. Let’s take a look at the formation of states in India by year:
1. Andhra State (1953)
2. Andhra Pradesh (1956)
3. Karnataka (1956)
4. Kerala (1956)
5. Tamil Nadu (1956)
6. Maharashtra (1960)
7. Gujarat (1960)
8. Nagaland (1963)
9. Punjab (1966)
10. Haryana (1966)
11. Himachal Pradesh (1966)
12. Manipur (1972)
13. Meghalaya (1972)
14. Tripura (1972)
15. Sikkim (1975)
16. Arunachal Pradesh (1987)
17. Goa (1987)
18. Mizoram (1987)
19. Chhattisgarh (2000)
20. Jharkhand (2000)
21. Uttarakhand (2000)
India is a strong and vibrant democracy because it allows reorganization of states through a constitutional procedure enshrined in Indian Constitution as Article 3. As a testament to the fact that India is a living democracy, and not a dead or static one, the above states have been created to satisfy legitimate aspirations of people of India who wanted to define themselves through a regional identity while maintaining their proud identity of being Indian. Formation of these states has not led to disintegration of India and it has not made the people any less Indian.
Shouldn’t we remain united? Why we should divide?
If unity is important, then we would have only one state in India with only one district. If unity was important we would never have created Gujarat, or Haryana or Himachal Pradesh. In fact, Andhra State (not Andhra Pradesh) would not have formed out of Madras State in the first place.
Unity cannot be imposed at the cost of sacrificing our diversity. India is not a homogenous population. It has group and regional identities which are as important as national identity itself. We are a united nation only because our local identities are recognized – that’s how the new generations of Indians look at themselves. For the sake of unity, Bengalis would not like to be grouped into a big state in which UP, Bihar and Orissa are all combined. Bengalis, I assume would like to have their state West Bengal, the way Gujaratis would like to have their state called Gujarat.
Can small be good?
Haryana was formed out of Punjab and is doing well. Gujarat was formed out of Bombay State and is doing well. Recently, with creation of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh, it became clear that small states could do much better than big states. Uttarakhand has averaged 9.31% growth annually, Jharkhand 8.45%, and Chattisgarh 7.35%, some of them more than national average. Per Capita of Chattisgarh is 29,000 while it is 18,000 in Madhya Pradesh. Infant Mortality in Uttarakhand is 44 compared to 67 in Uttar Pradesh. Literacy Rate in Jharkhand is 61 compared to 55 in Bihar.
Smaller states are able to give better administration, allow for electing leaders with more accountability, and give empowerment through better representation of various regional identities.
When will these state divisions stop?
Those who ask such a question expect our nation to be static. But a thriving democracy allows creation of new states and new districts according to aspirations of people or for administrative purposes. The neglected, the backward, the discriminated regions may want to create new states while those groups who don’t feel the same may see advantages in a bigger state.
India with nearly 1,200 million people has only 29 states while USA with 300 million people has 50 states. Telangana, after formation, will have a population of 35 million. If it were a country, it would rank 36 out of 242 countries in the world, making it more populous than Canada, Australia or Malaysia. We already have very big states. Creation of more states is a natural process and it cannot be put to a stop. Nobody put a rule out there that we cannot have more than 28 states as if it is a magic number.
In fact, India is going to see creation of many more states in the near future. At least another 20 states could be created in the next 10 years. And if that happens, we should welcome it, not always give the silly excuse that as a nation we will disintegrate. Some people ask- when will this division stop? Why won’t this go spiraling out of control? Why won’t there be 100 states or 1000 states?
Most people do not understand why India continues to be a united nation. It stays united not because its people are coerced into staying together, but because Indians continue to have faith in this country. We are all willing citizens of this country, not the oppressed subjects. India will not break up so easily just because we create few more states. In fact, creating more states will result in reaffirmation of our faith in this country that it will address our genuine problems.
There will come a time when regions will no longer find an incentive to create smaller states, because they tend to see advantages living big states. That day, an incentive to create smaller states will naturally stop. We have a long way to go before that happens – we are not there yet.
Related Posts: Managing States in India, When will these state divisions stop?, Case for TelanganaExcessive Nationalism and Blurring of Local Identities, Regional Parties and Coalition Politics, On Group Politics, When majority is not right, Duties of the Majority and the Privileged, Excessive Nationalism and Blurring of Local Identities.