Telangana today evokes images of gun-toting khaki-clad Naxalites and students immolating themselves—both conjuring horror and violence. In contrast, the Telangana movement for a separate state is both a peaceful movement and a movement for peace, an anomaly in a region marked by continuing violent struggles. By and large, the separatists have been peaceful, resorting to fasts, dharnas and processions. Telangana, which has seen decades of violence—from the Communist-led armed struggle of the forties to Naxalite violence the seventies onwards, and the horrific police repression of both—yearns for peace. The call for a separate Telangana is also a call for development on its own terms, to enable vertical contradictions within the area to be resolved within it.
The Telangana slogan is a six-decade-old one. In 1952, the Hyderabad Legislative Assembly voted to keep the Hyderabad state intact and separate. The States Reorganisation Commission, appointed by the Nehru government, also cautioned against forced unification in 1955. The gentlemen’s agreement in 1956 (between Telangana and Andhra leaders) stated that the utilisation of Telangana’s huge surpluses should be within the area of Telangana. This was not done. Data from 1966-67 shows 88.4 per cent of government canals were in the Andhra region, and only 1.4 per cent in Telangana. Subsequent developments confirmed the fears of the people of Telangana. Telangana has failed to get an equitable share of public investments, there is discrimination against its people both in public education and employment, and a clear denial of political power to leaders of this region. Two major rivers pass through Telangana—the Krishna and the Godavari; neither irrigates the area substantially. Instead, their waters go to the coastal Andhra districts of Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari.
One could ask what is new about inequitable distribution—it’s seen across the country—in Vidarbha, Kutch, Banda or Azamgarh. What is new is that the Telangana leadership has come of age in all spheres—in independent political leadership (as in the TRS), in business and enterprise, in academics, in running newspapers and magazines, and especially in culture. Over the last decade, Telangana districts have been topping school-leaving exams, and have provided the largest chunk of passport-seekers. Quite naturally, the new leadership cannot afford to put up with second class status, in terms of public investments, jobs and education; it can even less tolerate the marginalisation of its culture—its dialect, songs, food and customs, and see the culture of the four coastal districts hold precedence. Telangana youth have imposed a ban on shooting of films by coastal Andhra film-makers in their areas, and are working against the release of new films under coastal Andhra banners in Telangana.
In the 1969 agitation no political party, except for the now-defunct Swatantra party, was willing to openly support a separate Telangana state. Half a century later, all political parties, except for the CPI(M) (who say they will not oppose it), openly favour a separate Telangana.
Though the separatist movement is more than half a century old, it has seen a hostile media, led by Andhra-controlled conglomerates, and mainstream literature has not even looked at it. In this context, the two books, the one by C.H. Hanumantha Rao, a respected economist from the region, and the other edited by activists, is more than welcome.
Rao’s book is a reasoned argument for the viability of smaller states, and persuasively lays out the case for them, whether it is Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, and shows that growth in GSDP has been better there than when they were united. Working from the premise that regional disparities exist across India and poverty alleviation programmes have been unable to solve horizontal equity issues, Rao argues for smaller states for better governance. The second book lays out in detail the history of the issue and the current conflicts. Bharat Bhushan sees the gadi (the castle of the Telangana zamindar) as a metaphor for oppression and injustice and as containing the key to unravelling the systemic legitimisation of exploitation. It is an irony that the excellent overview by Duncan and Forrester is four decades old and still relevant. Both books required better editing and presentation.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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