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If Telangana is the symptom, what is the disease?

Kiran Batni http://kiranbatni

Updated: February 21, 2014, 12:10 PM IST
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"Statehood for Telangana reinforces this fatal message and pushes India into greater darkness-that darkness which envelops the entire nation when all power is diverted to New Delhi"

The main argument for a separate Telangana state was that the region is underdeveloped. This, of course, is the argument of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the party that spearheaded the movement for the new state. The Government of India, on the other hand, does not exactly require a reason to create new states by splitting existing ones. The two biggest parties that call themselves 'national', Congress and BJP, have a so-called 'principled stand' on the creation of small states. Being a euphemism for 'divide and rule', this is an ethically hollow stand as I have argued in these columns before.

But let me come to the main issue that I want to focus on in this article: underdevelopment. Clearly, nobody denies that the problem is of prime importance in Telangana - at least not any more. But what is the reason for Telangana's underdevelopment and what is the solution? Statehood proponents have a simple answer to this question: the reason is the absence of statehood; the solution is, well... er... hmmm... statehood!

Why? Why do they think so? Why this mindless fixation on becoming a separate state in the Indian Union? This is because the Telugu people, like the other linguistic peoples of India, are power-starved by the overly centrist Indian polity. All real power and the means of development are located in New Delhi and, already, the states are little more than municipalities. The degree of development, therefore, appears to be directly proportional to how close you are to New Delhi. Why not 'report' to the 'boss' directly and get rid of the middle management - Andhra Pradesh? Why remain a sub-municipality when you can become a municipality yourself? This is the thinking.

New Delhi loves this type of thinking because it likes its food in small chunks; pre-digested is especially good. People without unity are well-behaved as they enter the mouth of the hungry monster. The political leaders of Telangana love this type of thinking because New Delhi will have to keep its paternalistic promise of being the chief fodder-distribution authority and, by default, they become the regional fodder-distribution agents with good chances of enriching themselves privately. All this passes off as a solution to the problem of underdevelopment when nobody is really concerned.

Even if we were to admit, for argument's sake, that this is a solution, what exactly is the reason why there should be only one new state? If it's true that a new state solves the problem, why not have ten new states in the place of Andhra Pradesh? Why only one Telangana? There is no answer to this question. Nor is there an answer to the question as to why, if a separate state solves the problem, a separate country or nation will not solve it in a better way.

In reality, statehood for Telangana provides only the illusion that the people of the region will get more power and that development will automatically follow. Of course, a few politicians will have more fodder in their pockets, but that's neither power to the people nor their development.

The way to bring power to the people is to actually empower the states by getting rid of the unitary Constitution of India and rewriting it from scratch, defining all power to the states and only defense and external affairs to the Centre. If Andhra Pradesh had had real power, if it weren't a municipality in the Empire for all practical purposes, the Telugu people could have handled the problem of Telangana's development internally, and in reality.

A united Telugu speaking population is in the best position to develop itself, and this is the most important reason why the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is a disaster. The rest of India, represented by the Government of India, can only provide the illusion that it is in a better position to develop the Telugus. This illusion is necessary to feed the Government of India's insatiable hunger for power, one that is out to consume India.

The development of Telangana is intimately tied to the development of the Telugu language, and it is a no-brainer that the Telugu people, when united and focused on the problem, are the ones best suited to achieve it. The Telugus must take up the development of Telugu on a war-footing. Telugu must be made a fit vehicle for science, technology, and education at all levels and in all disciplines. Impossible as this may sound to the trained ears of the English speaking Indian elite, this is the only model that has ever been proven to work anywhere in the world. Take the example of Korea, Israel, Japan, or whatever. The people of these countries cannot even imagine a world in which their language is of secondary importance to them. In India, with all the linguistic confusion and chaos that the Government of India likes to create, this simple yet powerful idea is beaten to death.

This development of Telugu and the people of Telangana could have been possible if Andhra Pradesh weren't a dummy state in the all-powerful Union of India. It could have been possible if the Government of India had not built up the image that Indian languages other than Hindi are inherently useless, and that all development can only trickle down from its offices in New Delhi, in collaboration with the English elite, passing through local fodder-distribution agents in glorified municipalities.

Statehood for Telangana reinforces this fatal message and pushes India into greater darkness-that darkness which envelops the entire nation when all power is diverted to New Delhi. One only has to wait and all the heat and light in New Delhi will burn it down to the ashes. One only has to wait and all the darkness will consume the people of Telangana, as it will the people of the rest of India. Will we wait, or will we come up with a meaningful Constitution of India? That's the question.

First Published: February 21, 2014, 12:10 PM IST

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