INDIAN NEWS & TIMES

Friday, September 30, 2022

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India’s ruling Congress party-led government has announced the formation of a new state of  “Telangana to be carved out of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh

The creation of Telangana reflects the end of a long journey for those who have campaigned for statehood – and the beginning of a fresh set of wrangles over the shaping of the new state

The movement for Telangana has rolled on for decades with peaks and troughs of popular mobilisation. Electoral alliances have been made and broken in the name of statehood. Short term political calculations by a nervy Congress party ahead of next year’s elections have governed Tuesday’s announcement more than grander visions about the restructuring of Indian political or economic life

The splitting of Andhra Pradesh marks the first time in India’s post-Independence history that a “linguistic state” – a state created for speakers of a regional language, in this case Telugu – has been divided

Indeed it was in the Andhra region that the strongest campaign for the reorganisation of state boundaries around linguistic communities – rather than administrative histories – took place in the early 1950s

Protests that followed the death of a local political leader on hunger strike led India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to concede the division of the previously bilingual Madras state

The Telugu-speaking districts of Telangana were then added to the eventual state of Andhra Pradesh. And in the coming years, further linguistic states were created in south and west India

Telangana

  • Population of 40 million
  • Comprises 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh, including city of Hyderabad
  • Landlocked, predominantly agricultural area
  • One of the most under-developed regions in India
  • 50-year campaign for separate status
  • More than 400 people died in 1969 crackdown

States were created for speakers of Kannada (present day Karnataka), Malayalam (Kerala), Marathi (Maharashtra) and Gujarati (Gujarat); and later Punjab and Haryana were divided too (although religion, as well as language – Punjabi and Hindi – was at stake in the latter instance)

With the exception of India’s numerically preponderant Hindi speakers (more than 40% of the population) who are spread across multiple states in central and northern India, most other Indian states are now home to a single dominant regional linguistic community

Nehru had previously opposed such a scenario for fear of creating inward-looking states that would imperil the consolidation of Indian nationhood, and even encourage separatism

Yet, language did become a dominant pillar of regional political community. The regionalisation of Indian politics in the last few decades is a story that is firmly rooted in these linguistic states

Since 1989, no single national party has won a majority of parliamentary seats across India. Many of the regional parties which are now critical players in federal coalition governments derived strength from regional nationalist identities grounded in language

Rather than promoting the break-up of India, the ability of the central government to create new states has in many – though not all – cases helped to accommodate regional aspirations

In more recent years, several new states have been created in the Hindi belt where language has not been a major issue.

In 2000, the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were created in regions with sizeable tribal populations, and following a decades-long movement for a tribal state in Jharkhand. The hill state of Uttarakhand was also created in the Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh

Across the Hindi belt, the deepening politicisation of lower castes made it harder to hold together large states that had previously been bastions of upper-caste and class dominance

Thus the creation of new states has been embedded in the decentralisation of political life