Recent weeks have witnessed passions being aroused over the issue of creation of a separate state of Telangana.
In the beginning of December the president of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, K. Chandrashekar Rao went on fast, demanding that the Congress Party introduce a bill in Parliament for the creation of a separate state of Telangana. Strikes and bandhs were organised in support of this demand, paralyzing Hyderabad and other cities in Andhra Pradesh, while scores of people committed suicide. Eventually, on December 9 the Union Home Minister announced that the Andhra Pradesh state assembly would be asked to pass a resolution for the creation of a separate Telangana state and the process of creation of the separate state would be initiated soon, following which KCR ended his fast. However this immediately led to several MPs and MLAs from Andhra Pradesh submitting their resignations in protest and passions were once again inflamed.
History of the Demand for Telangana state
The demand for a separate Telangana state has a long history behind it. The Telangana region corresponds to the Telugu speaking part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. The region lies on the Deccan plateau to the west of the Eastern Ghats range, and includes the northwestern interior districts of Warangal, Adilabad, Khammam, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Medak, and the state capital, Hyderabad. The Krishna and Godavari rivers flow through the region from west to east. It has been the heartland of many great dynasties. In the early 18th century, the muslim Asafjahi dynasty established a separate state of Hyderabad. Later Hyderabad entered into a treaty of subsidiary alliance with the British Empire, and was the largest and most populous princely state in India. Telangana was never under direct British rule, unlike Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh, which were part of British India’s Madras Presidency.
When India became independent from the British Empire, the Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to retain his independence, but the newly formed Government of India amalgamated his state of Hyderabad by force on September 17, 1948. At that time the Telugu-speaking people were distributed in about 22 districts; 9 of them in the Telangana region of Nizam’s Dominions (Hyderabad State), 12 in the Madras Presidency and one in French-controlled Yanam. The Communist Party of India led a peasant uprising in this region from 1946 to 1951, which was crushed brutally by the Nehru government after independence. Meanwhile Telugu speaking areas were carved out of an erstwhile Madras state by popular agitation by the leaders like Potti Sri Ramulu who died while on hunger strike, leading to the creation of Andhra state in 1952.
The States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) appointed by Nehru in 1953 had recommended a separate state of Telangana and a single state of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema, but the then Government of India headed by Nehru ignored this recommendation after having unleashed brute force against the masses of peasants and revolutionaries in Telangana. In 1956, following the linguistic reorganization of states, Hyderabad was divided with some parts of it included in Maharashtra, some parts in Karnataka and the rest in a unified state of Andhra Pradesh.
The demand for Telangana state was raised in 1969, with agitations by students and government employees, in which nearly 360 students died. It receded into the background for a period, during the rise of the Telugu Desam Party, and has resurfaced in recent years.
When the states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarkhand were formed in the year 2000, the agitation for a state of Telangana started again, and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was formed. After the Parliament and Assembly elections in 2004, where TRS and Congress party had a coalition, TRS included creation of the Telangana State as a part of the ‘common minimum program’ agreed with Congress.
In 2008 when there were still no talks on the separate state, TRS started putting pressure on the Congress government (both at the state and Central level). All the MPs and MLAs of the TRS party resigned. The Telangana State movement started to intensify more when E. Peddi Reddy who was with Telugu Desam Party, started a new party named Nava Telangana Praja Party. In October in 2008, Telugu Desam Party declared its support for a separate Telangana state.
What are the issues agitating the people of the region?
The agitation of the people of the Telangana region is a manifestation of their anger against the capitalist system prevailing in India and the structure of political power within the present-day Indian Union.
Uneven development of capitalism, with wealth and capital investment being concentrated in certain regions to the neglect of other regions, is a factor that has, time and again, fuelled the demand for creation of separate states. This is also true of the Telangana region. The aspirations of the regional bourgeoisie for a greater share of power and wealth and the mobilization of the people’s sentiments against their perceived discrimination have found their reflection in the demand for the creation of a new state.
In the Indian Union that was constituted after 1947, political power is concentrated in the hands of the central state. The central state defends the interests of the biggest monopoly capitalists to loot and plunder the land, wealth and resources and exploit the labour of our people. The Constitution of India grants the central state the right to dominate over all the regions within the Indian Union, in utter disregard of the rights and demands of the nations, nationalities and peoples who inhabit this country. The parliament can override the will of the state legislatures; the central state can ride roughshod over the sentiments of the people in any state or region, in the interests of the big bourgeoisie. Within each state, uneven capitalist economic and political development has led to major imbalances and resentment against unequal political representation. This also finds reflection in the demand for creation of new states.
Within this power structure, the principal parties that control the state and represent the interests of the biggest monopoly capitalists, have perfected the practice of temporary accommodation of the interests of the regional capitalists, represented by various smaller regional political parties. At the same time, the clash between the interests of different sections of the capitalists is fought out by the rival parties representing their interests, utilizing the discontent of the people. These parties set one section of people against another, to break their fighting unity against their common enemy, i.e. the capitalist system and the Indian Union that does not serve their interests. The people who fight for their rights are then blamed as being ‘narrow minded’ and ‘selfish’. The use of brute force to crush their struggles is justified, while the central government comes forth as the ‘saviour’, who allegedly “looks after the interests of all”. The actual concerns of the people of any region, and the rights of nations, nationalities and peoples are never addressed. The contradictions remain unresolved. The problem is kept under a lid, and allowed to flare up whenever it suits our rulers to incite passions and manipulate mass sentiments in their own narrow interest.
Need for reorganization of the Indian Union and a new political power structure
It is clear that the reorganization of states within the present Indian Union has not addressed the problems of the people of the affected regions. Where new states have been recently created, such as in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand or Chhattisgarh, the exploitation and plunder of the people and their resources by the big monopoly bourgeoisie, Indian and foreign, has only increased many times over. In other areas, the continued discrimination and marginalization from political power, the lack of rights of people to make any decisions that impact their lives, is manifested in the demand for creation of new states.
What is urgently needed is a new political power, which will have as its top priority the defence of the interests of the working people, not the interests of the big capitalists. What is needed is a new state under the control of the people, which will reorganise the economy to meet the ever growing needs of the population, rather than to generate maximum profits for the monopoly capitalists. The Indian Union has to be reorganized as a voluntary union of different nations, nationalities and peoples, wherein the rights of each constituent to decide its own future course will be respected. This is the only way forward, for addressing the real concerns of the people of each and every part of our country.