History in the making

Today India may get a new state! Since the 1960’s there has been discussion of bifurcating Andhra Pradesh (the existing state in SE India) and creating Telangana (the newly proposed state). Telangana (possibly under the name “Hyderabad”) would become India’s 29th state — and it would open doors for other regions that wish to succeed from their current states. (I understand Darjeeling is interested in statehood, too.)

There is a storied history behind the original formation of Andhra Pradesh. Essentially (as I understand it), Andhra Pradesh was formed from the Telugu speaking portion of Madras (eastern side of present-day Andhra Pradesh) and the Telugu-speaking part of Hyderabad (western side of present-day Andhra Pradesh). For those formerly part of Madras, being part of Andhra Pradesh was a good thing– apparently, they felt under-represented and steamrolled by the Tamil-speaking majority of Madras. Now they had power! However, those formerly of Hyderabad were unceremoniously cleaved off their home territory and wedded to their neighbors, much to their chagrin.

Hyderabad was a “princely state” and a pretty massive one at that. In fact, after Partition, King Nizam of Hyderabad refused to join India and declared Hyderabad to be independent from the India Union. His state had the most land of any princely state, numbered 16 million people, and by all accounts was one of the — if not THE — most prosperous states in India. Now, India was cool with the other (minor) princely states making their own decisions about joining the Indian Union (or Pakistan). But, Hyderabad was HUGE, in the middle of the newborn country, and it had its own army. Thus, the India Union took matters into its own hands: it invaded as a “police action” and forced Nizam into accession. India won; Hyderabad lost/was liberated from its monarchy (depending on one’s view).

At the time, the Nizam was concerned about the division of his territory among multiple states, but he was said to have been especially lukewarm to the Telangana-as-part-of-Andhra Pradesh idea. (Query how much negotiating power he had since his defeat… What could he do? As it was, ‘delegations’ were trying in vain to appeal before the UNO/International Court of Justice at the Haig against India’s Police Action in Hyderabad.) The people of Telangana were the majority in their princely state and the capital city of the state (also called Hyderabad) was in Telangana region. They were the most powerful people in the most powerful state — the polar opposites of their powerless “peers” from Madras.  Nehru was aware of the Nizam’s concerns (& the appeals to UNO/International Court of Justice) and “tacitly avowed at Nizamabad meeting on 5th March, 1956 that if Telangana people were ‘not satisfied’ with Andhras in A.P. they could seek a separation like that of a dissatisfied husband and wife.” Provided, of course, they stop pursuing their claims at the UNO/International Court of Justice, which they did. Fast forward to today: looks like they’re in divorce court….

As one could imagine, the current proposal is not universally embraced. “United Andhra Pradesh” supporters (mainly those from the former Madras area) are protesting across the state today. The national government has sent 1,000 paramilitary soldiers to hot button regions of the state to maintain order. (This isn’t near me — I am in another state, further west, and perfectly safe.)

Also to be expected, the pending national approvals — widely anticipated to be granted — have a huge political motivation. It appears that the party in power believes making 2 states in a region known to be supportive of the party will help ensure re-election of their party. There are some gerrymandering factors that seem to be motivating the division of districts along the line of bifurcation, too.

This does raise a rather awkward issue about what to do with the city of Hyderabad — the 6th largest Indian city & the biggest city in current day Andhra Pradesh. The current thinking seems to be that Hyderabad will become the shared capital for both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana/Hyderabad for at least 5 years.  (Which seems odd to me – like having Berlin be the Capitol of both East and West Germany whilst they were divided…)

Anyhow, nothing like living history!

CREDIT: Map from http://www.ndtv.com

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One response to “History in the making

  1. Pingback: Cyclone (not the roller coaster!) | Dez in India

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