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The creation of Telangana: An excerpt from Jairam Ramesh’s new book

It’s been two years since Telengana, India’s newest state, came into being. Jairam Ramesh’s meticulous new book provides the context to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. An excerpt

books Updated: Jun 18, 2016 12:13 IST
Book Excerpts
telangana

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supporters celebrate victory in the 2014 Assembly elections in Hyderabad. (Mohd.Zakir/HT)

…Speaking of Hyderabad, there were some suggestions that Telangana should be called Hyderabad as that was what had been suggested in the report the SRC had submitted in March 1955. The SRC had said, ‘After taking all these factors into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it will be in the interests of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana if, for the present, the Telangana area is constituted as a separate State, which may be known as Hyderabad State, with provision of its unification with Andhra after the general elections, likely to be held in or about 1961, if by a two-thirds majority the legislature of the residuary Hyderabad State expresses itself in favour of such unification.’ As it turned out, the unification took place very soon thereafter and Andhra Pradesh came into being on 1 November 1956 itself.

On the other hand while some Telangana activists wanted the new state to be called Hyderabad, Seemandhra representatives invoked no less a person than Dr BR Ambedkar to insist on Hyderabad being a union territory. In his thought-provoking book Thoughts on Linguistic States, Dr Ambedkar had advocated that Hyderabad (along with Secunderabad and Bolarum) should be declared the second capital of India after being constituted as a chief commissioner’s province. He wrote that ‘Hyderabad is a far better city than Delhi’ and that Delhi should be the capital during the winter months. It was a most interesting suggestion but perhaps too radical to be taken seriously. But I half-jokingly told my Seemandhra colleagues that on grounds of equidistance perhaps, Nagpur is better situated than Hyderabad to be the second capital!

The GoM meeting on 12 November 2013 was very interesting. We met the political parties of the state. Indisputably, the best presentation was by Asaduddin Owaisi. I am not always a supporter of his politics, but that day he was superb. The memorandum that he handed over was the best-written, best-researched and best-referenced of all memoranda submitted by political parties. It was also quite amusing to see the CPI(M) and CPI take diametrically opposite views when in the 1940s and 1950s, the communists were united and a formidable force to reckon with both in Telangana and Andhra. It was doubly amusing because Sitaram Yechury was from Kakinada in Seemandhra while Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy, the CPI leader, was from Mahabubnagar in Telangana. But it was the presentation by the Congress party that was the most interesting, to say the least. The Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Damodar Raja Narasimha, came and made a case for a separate Telangana. Thirty minutes later, his colleague seated next to him, Tourism Minister Vatti Vasanth Kumar, made an eloquent plea against bifurcation. This, of course, reflected the deep divide within the Congress party which the Antony Committee had been unable to bridge.

People celebrate India's 29th state, Telangana, with fireworks in Hyderabad on June 02, 2014. Telangana, was carved out of Andhra Pradesh after a long standing separatist campaign. (Kodam Hari/HT)

I had to face an hour of public embarrassment on 20 December 2013 at a function organized by India Today to honour the best performing states in different areas. I was the chief guest and had to give the award for the best performing state in the area of governance to none other than my friend, Kiran Kumar Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Fortunately, he was very restrained in his speech, not mentioning the impending bifurcation of the state even once and the different roles we were playing in the process. He extolled the state’s achievements and I did likewise. But I could see people in the audience smiling at our discomfiture since our problems with each other were well known…

In an email, one person accused me of being the new Cyril Radcliffe—the man who divided the subcontinent — immortalized in WH Auden’s poem, ‘Partition’. Radcliffe stayed in Delhi for less than five weeks and never returned. My reply was that unlike the British lawyer, I knew the region that was being reconfigured very well; that I had close ties with it, with my son having studied in Hyderabad between 2002 and 2007 and with my being an MP from the region since 2004; and that I had every intention of returning to both states regularly. But the mail did get me to re-read Auden’s haunting ‘Partition’.

Read:Andhra bifurcation was UPA's most difficult decision:Jairam

Speaking of Partition, at a public function in Hyderabad on 24 December 2015, I was introduced by the organizer as the ‘father of partition’ of Andhra Pradesh. I immediately protested saying ‘bifurcation’, not ‘partition’, please. Partition has immensely negative connotations in our country and bifurcation does not conjure up the images that partition does. But obviously, a reputation once established, howsoever unjustified, is very difficult to obliterate! Strictly speaking, the 2014 reorganization of Andhra Pradesh is neither ‘partition’ nor ‘bifurcation’ but a ‘demerger’ because the two parts were separate prior to 1 November 1956…

Finally, how the wheel of history turns. On 21 September 1973, at the insistence of Indira Gandhi, leaders of Andhra Pradesh had issued the six-point formula to bring back peace and normalcy. As I have explained in chapter 1, this formula followed the agitation launched by coastal Andhra leaders to break away from Telangana—an agitation that had followed a movement started by Telangana leaders to break away from Seemandhra. Forty years later, on 20 February 2014, another Prime Minister who had been Indira Gandhi’s close economic aide for over a decade announced a six-point package, in addition to the various provisions already contained in the Reorganisation Law, to address the concerns of Seemandhra.

Old History New Geography; Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh
Jairam Ramesh
Rupa
Rs 500; PP 242