It is rare to find one’s dream becoming reality. But thanks to the utmost perseverance and consistent struggle of millions of people, Telangana has crossed another milestone to become a tangible reality. As a strong advocate for the Telangana state for over two decades, I’m naturally in a state of bliss. Even as I take part in the celebrations, there is an element of sadness amidst this joy. There have been hundreds of friends, teachers and colleagues who either fell to the bullets of the State or left this world in utter helplessness and with a sense of betrayal.
The demand that was first raised at the States Reorganisation Commission in 1954 has finally witnessed its fruition in the CWC resolution. Indeed, the decision was not an easy one, as the resolution noted. It’s more so for the people of Telangana. In fact, it is not even a division of an existing state or the creation of a new one, but terminating the merger of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh, which happened in 1956, since the merger conditions were violated time and again.
The first massive protest against the violations came in 1969 when the State suppressed the people’s movement by shooting down 370 students and youth on the one hand and overrunning the leading political formation at that time, Telangana Praja Samiti, on the other. However the aspirations did not die down and the revival in the mid-1990s led to the formation of the TRS. The Congress’ electoral alliance with the TRS in 2004 and the Central government’s announcement on 9 December 2009 that it would “initiate the state formation process” is all history. But that promise was also betrayed and at least 1,100 students and youth committed suicide protesting the delaying tactics of the government.
In the context of this long and sad tale, the jubilation on the streets is both overwhelming and humbling. Thousands of demonstrators with sweets, fireworks and mutual congratulations are also taking the news with a pinch of suspicion.
The CWC resolution leaves scope for at least three suspicions. Though it requested the Centre to take steps in accordance with the Constitution to form a separate state, it did not specify any definite timeframe, compared to the promise of “definite timeframe” in addressing the concerns of the people of other regions. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said it might take four-five months. But given the 9 December statement and going back on it on 23 December, it is difficult to believe the UPA government.
The second suspicion relates to the common capital issue. Though there were reasonable apprehensions in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions with regard to access to Hyderabad, the idea of a common capital raises more doubts than answers. Historically, such an arrangement of making an earlier capital common never occurred. Much smaller cities and towns than Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur and Tirupati were made capitals. Indeed, when Andhra was carved out of Madras state in 1953, its capital was shifted overnight to Kurnool, a much smaller town. Retaining Hyderabad as the common capital may be helpful for the rich and powerful politicians from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema who have assets in Hyderabad, but for an ordinary citizen in Srikakulam or Chittoor, it would be an unnecessary hassle to travel 200 km in a different state to reach his capital. Given the apprehensions among the Telangana people on the highhandedness of the rich and political class from the other areas, what would they do in these intervening 10 years?
The third suspicion is about the CWC’s appeal for recognising Polavaram as a national project. The disputed project on the Godavari river was conceived as a water provider for the industrial corridor between Visakhapatnam and Kakinada as well as to transfer water from the Godavari to the Krishna basin. There have been a number of technical and environmental objections to the project. Now it is hurried since it is being built on water for which the residuary state doesn’t have a right. In other words, the project would steal waters from an upstream state that is being formed now.
I’m happy that the Telangana dream has become a reality. But, I’m also doubtful whether the Congress is trying to play its dirty game even at the last minute.