A few months ago union cabinet minister Chandrashekhar Rao quit the UPA alliance on the issue of creating Telengana state. A few days ago Devender Goud, number two to Chandrababu Naidu in TDP, and Peddi Reddy split their party on the Telengana issue. Telengana is Andhra's perennial dispute. The demand for Telengana state is perhaps the oldest protest movement in India. Political opportunism and lack of vision have prolonged the agony of the Telengana people.
In 1947 Telengana was the princely Hyderabad state. The Nizam of Hyderabad wanted independence. Sardar Patel forcibly prevented that. Telugu speaking people were spread in 22 districts. Nine were in Hyderabad, twelve in the Madras Presidency. In 1953 all Telegu districts of Madras were separated to form a new Andhra state. It was the first Indian state formed on a purely linguistic basis. Later Andhra was merged with the Telugu speaking area of Hyderabad to become present day Andhra Pradesh.
However, common language is not the only criterion for identity. From its birth Andhra Pradesh was harassed by the demand of a separate Telengana state. The shared history of Telengana people united them culturally. Pandit Nehru appointed the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) to create linguistic states. It was against merging Telengana with Andhra. The 1955 SRC report said: 'We have come to the conclusion that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana area to constitute a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State'
The central government ignored the SRC recommendation. It established unified Andhra Pradesh in 1956. The government reassured the Telangana people that their concerns would be met. Telengana people continued to complain. After 52 years the complaints persist, the assurances continue. How and why did this happen?
Telengana leaders were opportunists. From the days of Chenna Reddy an army of leaders rose to power on the support of the Telengana movement. After assuming office each leader merged with Congress to betray Telengana. National leaders were shortsighted. Language cannot be the sole criterion for statehood. If it were, Goa would be part of Maharashtra. UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana would be one state.
Andhra politicians resist creating Telengana state because they oppose shrinking Andhra. Their fear is understandable. It could be removed if all large states were divided into smaller states. Such demands with varying intensity exist in almost all of them. Maharashtra can be divided in four, UP in 4 more after Uttarakhand. Regional parties do not want to reduce turf. But why should they? Why cannot a Telegu party hold power in three states as well as it does in one?
Small states mean faster progress. Haryana and Himachal proved that. Cultural identity and administrative convenience should be the criteria for carving new states out of even one linguistic group. It should be done systematically. It can be done with minimum discord if new states are within the boundaries of the large state to be divided. Parliament should appoint a second commission to reorganize states. Creating new states ad hoc by responding to violent protest after hundreds are killed is a stupid way to introduce change.