Andhra State was the first linguistic state that came into existence after India’s independence. When Nizam of Hyderabad in 1947 started toying with the idea of becoming an independent nation, Nehru ordered Indian military into Hyderabad state and merged the territory into Republic of India.
Hyderabad state was then made up of Kannada, Marathi and Telugu speaking regions. To decide how Indian states should be constituted, Nehru appointed the States Reorganization Commission. The commission recommended the merger of Telugu speaking Nizam region with the Andhra state, but recommended a waiting period of 5 years before the merger, to allay some of the concerns expressed by a handful of Congress party leaders. However, there was a strong desire among the Telugu people of all regions to unite. When a resolution for merger was placed in the Hyderabad assembly, 2/3rd of the legislators from Nizam ruled Telugu region favoured an immediate merger. Eventually, after a good bit of deliberation, Nehru’s government agreed to constitute all non-Hindi speaking states of India along linguistic lines.
Breaking the national model of linguistic states to allay the political movements started by leaders like KCR would open a pandora’s box for similar movements across several linguistic states of India. This could potentially be a destabilizing force on the nation. Succumbing to the demand for division of Andhra Pradesh will add fuel to the movements for Bodoland out of Assam, Kongu Nadu out of Tamilnadu, Tulu Nadu out of Karnataka, Vidarbha out of Maharashtra, Gorkhaland out of West Bengal.
The announcement made by Home Minister Chidambaram on December 9th 2009 to divide Andhra Pradesh was done in haste. Unlike creation of states like Chattisgarh or Uttarakhand, division of Andhra Pradesh is complex and convoluted.
Capital city Hyderabad is a major source of state revenue. According to a clarification given in the State Assembly in 2008 by the then Finance Minister Rosaiah, 37% of the state’s revenues come from Hyderabad alone. Andhra Pradesh state budget is well over one lakh crore rupees. In a divided state, Hyderabad city would fall in the Nizam Telangana region. As a result, Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema will claim a stake in Hyderabad’s revenues. They will argue that they too have contributed to the growth of the capital. An amicable solution to this thorny problem is almost impossible.
If Andhra Pradesh state is divided, there will be a bitter battle among Rayalaseema, Coastal Andhra and Uttara Andhra regions to have the state capital in their own regions. Rayalaseema will insist on having Kurnool as the capital, whereas Coastal Andhra will insist on having Vijayawada or Guntur as the capital, while Uttara Andhra will insist on making the port city of Vizag as the capital of the newly minted state. This battle for capital will no doubt turn into an intractable mess and may lead to violent movements for further division of the state into Rayalaseema, Uttara Andhra, and Coastal Andhra.
Hyderabad city has millions of Telugu people that came from all parts of the state. Vitriol used by leaders like KCR, with statements such as “Tongues will be cut if anybody demands UT status for Hyderabad”, or threats of “civil war” or slogans such as “Telangana wale jago, Andhra wale bhago”, or TRS party MP Vijaya Shanthi openly saying, “whoever enters the Telangana region (for campaigning) will be axed” have instilled fear among the populace. Assaults on prominent leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan and IAS officer Vijayanand and many more have caused millions of people from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to question their personal security in a Telangana state.
There are several other intractable issues on the economic front. For example, two of the major power and irrigation projects in the state, Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam are situated right on the border of Nizam Telangana and Coastal Andhra. Add to this mix the disputes that will arise over allocation of river waters to the newly formed states. Problems such as these make the division of Andhra Pradesh a non-trivial matter.
It is clear that the Maoists are in favour of dividing the Andhra Pradesh state. In fact, it can be argued that they are the ones who sowed the seeds for the current separatist movement. Years before KCR dreamt of starting the movement for a separate state, the Naxal’s North Telangana Special Zonal Committee (NTSZC) in 1997 has passed a resolution favouring the formation of Telangana state. During this session detailed strategies about how to build the movement for a separate state have been schemed. Not surprisingly, many of these tactics are currently being employed by the separatists. On January 3rd 2011, KCR, while welcoming former Naxal Sambasivudu into his paty’s fold, promised to endorse and implement the Naxal agenda after the formation of Telangana state. A divided Andhra Pradesh state will strengthen the Naxal movement. A smaller weaker Telangana state could potentially turn into another Maoist hotbed like Chattisgarh and plays into Naxals dream of creating a Maoist corridor of Telangana, Bastar (Chattisgarh), South Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. This is a matter of grave national security.
For too long, Congress, BJP, TDP and other smaller parties used the issue of Telangana for their short term political gains. Andhra Pradesh today is reaping the follies of these myopic positions. The time has come for all political parties to put the interests of nation ahead of their political expediencies. The time has come for the central and state governments to unequivocally stand against not only the division of Andhra Pradesh state but also against division of all linguistic states. Our country has more important priorities at this juncture. If our leaders intend to achieve the double-digit GDP growth and if they are serious about competing with other emerging economies like China, the separatist movements such as the one in Andhra Pradesh should have been nipped in the bud, and it is still not too late.
Save Andhra Pradesh!