If one were to listen to the current arguments positioned by Seemandhras, the central government in New Delhi, and some of our Telangana leaders, you may actually start believing that creating a new capital city is indeed a time consuming and complex process that could take many years. There is a general consensus amongst many stakeholders that it may take as much as ten years for Seemandhras to create a new capital city. While Seemandhras believe that they may need many decades because they hope to create an exact replica of Hyderabad before they let go Hyderabad, many naïve Telangana concede that it is only ‘fair’ to allow Seemandhras to continue using Hyderabad as temporary capital for a period of ten years.
Does it really take so many years to create a new capital city as we are being led to believe?
Let’s look at some real examples from geopolitical history and see if there is any merit in this common belief shared by most Seemandhras and some Telanganas.
When the Labor Party came to power in England in 1945 following the World War II, they had an explicit agenda – to grand independence to its biggest colony, the Indian subcontinent. Lord Mountbatten was chosen as the last Viceroy to oversee the transition of power from the King of England to the people of the subcontinent.
In a press conference held on 3rd June 1947, Lord Mountbatten announced the date when the Indian subcontinent would become independent. It is believed that Mountbatten chose 15th August because two years ago, on the same day, Japan had surrendered to Allied Forces where Mountbatten presided over the ceremony. With that announcement it became evident that the Indian subcontinent, with a history of nearly three thousand years, will be divided in matter of two months – borders will be drawn, nations created, and a new capital city formed. But, there was no talk of sharing New Delhi as the capital for two countries. Instead, a new capital city for Pakistan was created out of the existing city of Karachi. All it took for a new nation to have its own capital city was just two months.
Czechoslovakia, a country in Central Europe, got divided into Czech Republic and Slovakia. The constitutional act was passed in November of 1992 and the two new nations came into existence on 1st January 1993. It took only two months for Slovakia to have a new capital city in Bratislava.
Let’s take a look at the division of states in post-Independent India. When Madhya Pradesh was formed out of erstwhile states of Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal State, a new capital city was created out of the existing city of Bhopal. The officials living the erstwhile capital cities of Nagpur, Indore and Rewa moved into Bhopal when the state was created. The act was passed on 31st August 1956. Madhya Pradesh with Bhopal as capital city was created on 1st November 1956. It took only two months to create a new capital city.
In the same way, new capital cities were created out of existing towns of Ranchi and Raipur for Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh respectively. The bills received President’s assent on 25th August 2000. Chhattisgarh was formed on 1st November, and Jharkhand was formed on 15th November of the same year. It took less than three months to create new capital cities. The old capital cities were not shared.
Lessons from history
Looking at these precedents from geopolitical history, it is pretty clear that a new nation or a new state can operate out of an existing city from day one after the division. It does not take more than two months. Most often the necessary infrastructure is already available in the district headquarters of many towns. Some states go on to build a completely new capital city at a later point of time – like Gujarat which built Gandhinagar close to Ahmedabad. Pakistan built Islamabad in 1960.
Sharing of cities after the division of states or nations is NOT a common practice anywhere on the planet – and there are valid reasons for it. A formula for sharing capital city may work out only in rare instances like when the division has been imposed by an external party against your interest, or when the city shows the necessary attributes of being shared, like in case of Punjab and Haryana sharing Chandigarh. The example of Chandigarh is not the norm but an exceptional exception. There was no widespread people’s movement in Punjab or Haryana prior to the division. Chandigarh was not a historical city; it was an artificially created new city without any historical affiliation to either of the states. Also, it landed right on the border for two new states.
To believe that sharing of capital city even after the division is ‘unavoidable’ or that it is ‘fair’ is actually dangerous and runs counter to all tenets of geopolitical wisdom. There is an underlying reason why the new states and new nations operate out of new capital cities right from the first day of the division.
The original premise for most divisions is that at least one of the regions has sought separation and has made a compelling case for it. The division is proposed as a solution to a problem that originates from two distinct regions unable to coexist under the same administrative setup. In such a situation imposing a shared capital to two newly formed states creates more complicated problems instead of providing a solution.
Forcing those two new states to continue to share a capital city even after the division runs counter to the very premise on which these two states were created. It is like forcing a couple seeking separation to live together after the divorce. If they could have shared a capital amicably then why did they seek separation in the first place? For this obvious reason no sane society would like consciously force the newly formed entities to continue sharing cities.
Especially given the history of nearly six decades of conflict between Telanganas and Seemandhras in the united Andhra Pradesh where people of Telanganas have been seeking separation, proposing a solution that would involve sharing of a city will be a historic blunder.
It is pretty evident from the history of creation of new capital cities that it does not take much time - either it is new nations or new states. And yet, Seemandhras have created this fictitious notion that it is a very complicated procedure which could take many years. And unfortunately, it looks like our innocent Telanganas have fallen for this convoluted argument. Some of our Telangana leaders are prepared to accommodate Seemandhras to continue to operate out of Hyderabad not realizing how and why such sharing could lead to far bigger and dangerous problems for Telangana.
Instead of the solving the problem, India would push Telangana into another quagmire which could take another sixty years to extricate itself. It is like introducing new wounds to fester. These wounds will eventually consume these two new states forever, creating more friction and more animosity between the people. A clean slate Telangana is what is needed – without sharing the capital city even for one day after the division.