The controversy over India’s 29th state

Supporters of Telangana say they need a homeland of their own, but opponents fear losing the capital, Hyderabad.

The decision to create Telangana state has aroused strong emotions on both sides [AFP]
The decision to create Telangana state has aroused strong emotions on both sides [AFP]

Hyderabad, India – A police constable in the Andhra Pradesh state assembly took everybody by surprise by shouting out “Hail Telangana!”, referring to the new state created by the Indian cabinet on October 3.

Before being whisked away by his comrades, he pleaded: “Sir, please, don’t scuttle the Telangana process. Don’t spoil the festive mood.”

Telangana will be carved out of the current state of Andhra Pradesh. But for the past two months, people in Andhra Pradesh’s Seemandhra region have protested the split. 

The protest movement is not only against the creation of Telangana. Many oppose the division because the vibrant state capital, Hyderabad, is being given to Telangana. The city is home to 14 state-run universities, hundreds of multinational companies, and world-class medical facilities – a dream destination for many young people in search of jobs.

For their part, many in Telangana support the creation of the new state, arguing that people from Seemandhra have long monopolised jobs and resources. They say their dominance in politics and business is suffocating, and worry that a constant influx of enterprising people from Seemandhra into Hyderabad could make Telangana people a minority in their own land.

Al Jazeera spoke with six Indians – three from the Seemandhra region and three from the Telangana region – about the creation of a new state.

Against the creation of Telangana:

Chandrasekhar Kalkura, hotelier, 60, from Kurnool

Hyderabad is not simply a geographical area … People over the decades migrated there from all regions and made their home. As their capital, it provided home and livelihood. If you ask these people to build a new capital and leave, it would create a trauma.

And further, investments to building a new capital … are unproductive and a burden on the state and federal governments. A faulty development model – which excessively focused on Hyderabad at the cost of other towns in the state – is making people disinclined to give away the capital to others.

I am opposed to the splitting the soul of Telugu people … Division of the state is a matter related to Telugu pride and sentiment. Andhra Pradesh has been achieved not simply by merging two regions, namely Hyderabad and Andhra states. It was the unification of Telugu souls. The efforts to bring them together for an identity began in 1914 … Andhra Pradesh’s formation in 1956 was the completion of identity formation of Telugus.

Mylarapu Anil Kumar Shetty, teacher, 35, from Badlapalli in Anantapur district

The idea that Hyderabad, until now our capital, will not be your capital is difficult to assimilate. I visited Hyderabad only twice, but the capital looms large in our lives. I want my son and daughter to go there one day and get a decent living. There is no city equal to Hyderabad in providing education and employment in the state. I cannot visualise a future without Hyderabad.

It took 60 years for Hyderabad to reach this level with industries, companies, laboratories, educational institutions and big hospitals. People from all regions have gone there, settled and contributed to its development

It is impossible to create a new capital that could provide shelter and livelihood to millions of people in the next 10 or 20 years. Two or three generations have to live without the idea of a perfect capital, if the state is divided.

Byreddy Panduranga Reddy, farmer, 55, from Mydukur

My farm gets water from Kurnool-Cuddapah canal, which draws water from Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers. I am told that after the division, Telangana becomes the owner of these projects and releases water only after serving its requirements. History proves that water disputes are not resolvable.

Irrigation is going to be the first casualty of the division of the state. Rivers and projects go to Telangana and the other region has to depend on the mercy of Telangana for water. At present, the water is an intra-state issue. The government used to release the water according to the requirements of the regions. After creation of Telangana state, the water issue will become an inter-state issue, which needs third-party mediation at times of dispute – which only prolongs the problem.

Having seen the resentment, [the] federal government has to shelve the proposal. We will not allow our future generations [to] suffer from the vote politics of the Congress party. What is being witnessed in Seemandhra is a tsunami of anger. It is a people’s movement, no political party is involved in it.

For the creation of Telangana:

Gattu Saidulu, driver, 32, from Warangal

I don’t think I would get any benefit from the Telangana state. I have to live on the labour of my hands … But, as a Telangana man, I feel we should be the rulers of our state. Why should we be ruled by foreigners?

When we want our own state, who are they to stop it? I don’t know anything about politics, but I want back our Telangana from Andhra settlers.

Nobody knows what [will happen]. These Andhra people have stalled [the state’s creation] once, three years ago. They are attempting to stall it now as well. But … young people sacrificed their lives by self-immolation protesting the delay in announcing Telangana. If Sonia Gandhi stops, she would suffer the curse of our people.

Kalluri Srinivas Reddy, journalist, 32, from Yadagiri Gutta in Nalgonda district

This fear [that Telangana people will drive out Seemandhras from Hyderabad] is baseless and created only to incite the gullible public [to] oppose the Telangana state.

Why should Seemandhras alone harbour such a fear? … It is the fear of Seemadhra politicians who amassed wealth in Hyderabad. These people have to quit Hyderabad. They successfully portrayed their fear as people’s fear.

[People in Seemandhra] talk about water-sharing, education, employment et cetera as complex problems. They are non-issues. The water distribution is governed by tribunals and agreements. Nobody can control the jobs in private sectors. Anybody can study in the colleges in Hyderabad, which are privately run. So there is no justification for the movement.

The problems of Telangana are unique. Outsiders cannot understand them. So, self-rule is the only option available to us.

Puli Srinivas, trader, 37-years old, from Adilabad

Andhra politicians, who dominate the economy of Telangana by setting up industries and buying lands at a cheaper rate, are whipping up opposition to bifurcation. See, who are the owners of these private schools, buses, hotels, movie companies, hospitals and industries? All are from Andhra region. They migrated to Hyderabad, bought the lands when they were dirt-cheap. Now, prices have gone up and real Telangana people do not possess lands in Hyderabad. They are demonising Telanana people and generating a fear of possible attacks at the time of division.

Telanganas have been fighting for justice from the “settlers”. They are ruling the backward people by using their money power and muscle power … Our culture and language are different. They think they are civilised, and deride us as country bums. Now, education has spread in Telangana. People realised the conspiracy in the formation of Andhra Pradesh. So, we want self-rule. Self-rule is the solution for Telangana problems.

The Andhras have the capacity to stall it. Let us see what is in store for Telangana children … If our future generations are lucky, Congress would ensure that Telangana state is formed in the next couple of months.

Source : Al Jazeera

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