[Appeared in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle on 21 Oct 2013, and in Andhra Jyothi on 22 Oct 2013; coauthored with Vinod Kumar]
The state of Andhra Pradesh was forged out of two culturally and historically disparate regions in 1956 under the premise of creating a single state for all Telugu speaking people. Even before the formation of this state, it was articulated by the Fazal Ali Commission, and voiced explicitly through the fears of Telangana people, that a common language was not the only criterion for creating states. There was a sane recognition, though in minority, that there existed other differences which warranted a region like Telangana to exist as a separate state overriding the emotive binding factor like language.
To protect the interests of Telangana people against possible onslaught of more politically empowered, economically emancipated, and Telugu-English-educated people from Coastal Andhra, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 was created to facilitate the conditional merger of Telangana region with Andhra State. The original Article 371 constituted Telangana Regional Committee along with protective Mulki Rules.
However, the experiences of the first fifteen years clearly established that the experiment called Andhra Pradesh was a dismal failure. Driving the last nail into the coffin that buried the safeguards given to people of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh sought to remove Mulki Rules leading to a Telangana uprising in 1969 which was ruthlessly crushed.
When the people of Telangana sought justice from Supreme Court in 1972 that upheld Mulki Rules, Andhra leadership launched a farcical movement for separate Andhra State. Indira Gandhi, succumbing to the blackmail tactics of Andhra groups, passed the Mulki Rules (Repeal) Act of 1973 to overrule the Supreme Court decision removing the protective mechanisms for people of Telangana.
Thereafter, as a conciliatory step towards protecting the interests of Telangana people, a diluted provision of Article 371-D was introduced through 32nd Amendment into the Indian Constitution in 1974 to empower the President of India to provide reservations to people of specific regions within the state of Andhra Pradesh in education and employment.
Using the Article 371 of Indian Constitution, Union Government has created special provisions to protect the interests of people and resources of certain regions within a state and has been applicable to many states, including Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay State, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, et al. But upon reorganization of the states some of these protections have become irrelevant or redundant, like in case of state of Punjab that was bifurcated into Punjab Suba and Haryana Prant in 1966. These two new states which did not need protections anymore after the separation were omitted from Article 371 through simple alteration of text as prescribed in the clause 26 of the Punjab State Reorganization Act. The same procedure towards Article 371 was applied in the case of bifurcation of Bombay State and formation of Meghalaya out of Assam.
Article 371 is a ‘temporary, transitional and special’ provision of Part XXI of Indian Constitution that does not interfere with nor override the powers of Parliament conferred by Article 3 to alter the boundaries of states in India. The Parliament of India, while creating Telangana, is empowered to continue the protections provided by Article 371-D in the successor states. It could be achieved through a simple clause in the upcoming Andhra Pradesh state reorganization act by introducing ‘State of Telangana’ into Article 371-D. Or the Parliament could remove these provisions completely for the both the new successor states through the omission of ‘Andhra Pradesh’ from the same Article as was done in case of Punjab in 1966.
While altering boundaries and creating states, Article 4 of Indian Constitution allows the Parliament to make ‘supplemental, incidental and consequential’ provisions as necessary, as long as these provisions do not subvert the basic constitutional structure.
The current contention that Article 371-D would be a stumbling block in creation of Telangana is nothing but a red herring. It is the last straw in the fight by Seemandhras that are opposing the formation of Telangana. In the case of Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum Vs. Union of India in 2006, which challenged the State Reorganization Act of 1956 on the grounds that it encroached upon legislative domain of a state legislature under entries of Seventh Schedule of Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court upheld the powers of Parliament to create new states observing that ‘the law-making power under Articles 3 and 4 is paramount and is not subjected to nor fettered’ by the lists of the Seventh Schedule.
In addition to introducing Article 371-D in the Indian Constitution, the 32nd Amendment also introduced Article 371-E with the explicit purpose to establish Central University in Andhra Pradesh, and an amendment was made to include this university in the entry 63 of List I in the Seventh Schedule. Therefore, the requirement of a constitutional amendment as raised by Seemandhra leaders in the current debates does not apply to Article 371-D.
The bogey that Article 371-D would obstruct the formation of Telangana has been deliberately created and propagated by Seemandhra leaders only to give a false hope to the activists of Samaikyandhra agitations that there is still some chance to keep the state united, but it has no legal merit whatsoever.