-Rajesh Tyagi/ 28.12.2009
The issue of separate statehood for Telangana is not new, but is as old as creation of the State of Andhra Pradesh itself, in 1956. The demand was first aired through the 1969 movement, focussed on the issue of underdevelopment of the region. The movement subsided soon as the demand did not commensurate with the material conditions ripe for its realisation in practice, however, it continued to be fuelled by the lack of development of the region. The local sections of the bourgeois, as elsewhere, always sought an opportunity in this under-development of Telangana, to carve out an autonomous territory under their exclusive domination.
BJP fanned the aspirations of local bourgeois, by promising separate state of Telangana in its 2000 election manifesto. However, after coming to power, it did not kept the word, as the Telugu Desam party, its coalition partner did not wish so. Conferring of separate statehood upon Jahrkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh, while denying the same to Telangana, further fuelled the movement. These developments brought new life into the separatist Telangana movement by the year 2000. Congress party MLAs from the Telangana region, supported a separate Telangana state and formed the Telangana Congress Legislators Forum. TDP legislator Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) first strove hard for a ministerial berth in TDP government, but frustrated not to get it, floated a new party in support of statehood for Tenagana, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS.
In 2004, for Assembly and Parliament elections, the Congress party and the TRS had an electoral alliance in the Telangana region with the promise of a separate Telangana State. Congress came to power in the state and also formed a coalition government at the centre. TRS joined the coalition government in 2004 and was successful in making a separate Telangana state a part of the common minimum program (CMP) of the coalition government. In September 2006 TRS withdrew support from the Congress led coalition government at the centre on the grounds of indecision by the government over the delivery of its electoral promise to create Telangana.
In December 2006, the TRS won the by-election to the Karimnagar parliamentary constituency with a record margin. There was pressure on the Congress party to create a Telangana state in 2008.
All TRS legislators in Parliament and in State (4MPs, 16MLAs, 3MLCs) resigned in the 1st week of March 2008 and forced by-elections to increase the pressure on Congress party, and to intensify the movement.
By-elections for the 16 MLA seats, 4 MP seats were held on May 29, 2008, which the TRS declared to be a referendum for Telangana state, which both the Congress and TDP had opposed, but did not opposed the demand for separate statehood for Telangana. To the disappointment of Telangana proponents, the TRS retained only 7 out of 16 MLA seats and 2 out of 4 MP seats after the by-elections.
In June 2008, the TDP also split on the issue of statehood for Telangana afater its number two leader, Devender Goud, the then Home Minister, a politbureau member and Deputy Leader of the Telugu Desam Legislature Party, resigned from the party to form a new party- Nava Telangana Praja Party. In a historical turnaround from its 26-year history, on 9 October 2008, TDP was forced to announce its support for the creation of Telengana. On November 2, 2008, the Nava Telangana Party, declared Telangana a separate province within India, with solemn affirmation and unfurling of the flag.
In February 2009, state government declared that it had no objection, in principle, to the formation of separate Telangana and that the time had come to move forward decisively on this issue. To resolve issues related to it, the government constituted joint house committee.
Ahead of the 2009 General Elections in the country, all the major parties in Andhra Pradesh supported the formation of Telangana, with only exception of Congress who said that muslims in the region do not wish so.
Stalinist CPI and CPM both joined the bandwagon of the opportunist alliance with TDP and TRS to defeat the Congress party for denying statehood to Telangana.
The Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), newly founded by film star Chiranjeevi, supported Telangana statehood prior to elections, but later changed its stance. Nava Telangana Party merged with PRP after it realized that there is not enough political space for two sub-regional Telangana parties with Telananga statehood as main agenda.
However, the Congress returned to power both at the Centre and the state. The grand alliance of TRS, TDP and Stalinist parties, lost in the fray.
In the first week of Dec 2009, the TRS resumed the agitation for statehood for Telangana with its epicentre at Osmania University. Over 40 people committed suicide in support of Telangana state. Strikes shut down Telangana on Dec 6th and 7th. Student organizations planned a massive rally at the state Assembly on Dec 10th.
On Dec 9, 2009, at 11:30 PM, P. Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs announced that Indian government would start the process of forming a separate Telangana state upon introduction and passage of a separate resolution in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, while in fact, no such resolution needed be passed under the law.
Telangana celebrated the decision while regions of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema protested against it.
On 16 December, at least 147 legislators from Andhra Pradesh and many Members of Parliament of different parties, from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, resigned in protest against the decision to carve out the new state of Telangana. 22 Ministers from the State Cabinet also submitted their resignations. On Dec 16, media reported split inside the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) over Telangana issue.
However on December 23rd 2009, the Government of India taking a sommersault, announced that no action on Telangana will be taken until a consensus is reached by all parties. To protest this turn in the policy, the TRS once again resumed its agitation calling for Telangana bandh on December 24 & 25th.
The ongoing movement in Telangana, emerges out chiefly of three factors: Firstly, the global integration of the processes of production making the exploitation of human and material resources, locally viable, leading to disintegration of the national economic structures; secondly, the comparative backwardness of the region, ensuring availability of very cheap human and material resources, and thirdly failure of the working class to resolve the agrarian crisis, through a revolt against the rule of bourgeois, leading to stabilisation of this rule.
The demand for a separate state of Telangana, in the first instance, arises out of the two faceted development of modern day capitalism: integration of economic processes on global scale and simultaneous disintegration of the national economy.
Globalisation of finance and then production, has made it politically conducive and economically more and more viable for combinations of local and regional capitalists to integrate themselves into word capitalism directly, i.e. without the mediation of big bourgeois. Once having themselves integrated into the economic net of world capitalism, small backward states can do well in their separate administrative domains, offering themselves as ‘hubs’ for cheap labour and raw materials. The backward states which hitherto could not have counted upon their own very limited resources to develop further and were forced to depend for the resources like capital and technology, upon more advanced regions, have found in the global capital a powerful resource for their sustenance and development. With the aid of global capital, these backward regions seek a channel to compete with their advanced rivals.
The prospects of these separate states existing as direct colonies of world capital, has intensified the contradictions between different groups and layers of bourgeois, to an unlimited extent. The local bourgeois in comparatively backward regions, is aggressively aspiring for its closer and more independent connection with world capitalism, bypassing the advanced sections. Innumerable groups of local bourgeois are up in arms, laying claims to ‘separate’ and ‘autonomous’ domains for themselves, and a right to connect directly to the world capital.
A new type of separatist movements, are thus coming to the fore, the movements inspired by the petty, limited interests of local bourgeois, unconditionally subordinated to the interests of the world capitalism. These movements, unlike the movements of nationalist bourgeois in 19th century Europe, are not aimed at liberation of the people from the imperialist net. Instead they seek closer and direct collaboration with the world capitalism under the sole and exclusive leadership of the local bourgeois. Their aim is to establish their exclusive domination upon the sale of material and human resources (raw material and cheap labour) of their respective regions, in the world market.
This widespread striving among the local sections of national bourgeois for alienation from the whole and from each other, in the backdrop of disintegrating structures of national economies, has generated a powerful centripetal force leading to profound crisis of capitalism as a whole. There emerges an unlimited and unrestricted passion among the sections of the bourgeois for ‘separatism’, preparing ground for endless conflicts and unrest.
In countries like India with a belated capitalist development, where the ruling big bourgeois could never integrate itself fully into a national class and always remained weak as a social class, the conflicts among the bourgeois factions for sharing the booty directly with international capital, have erupted. These conflicts find a ready echo in the form of national, linguistic, cultural and regional identities and work to cover up the real economic and political interests of the class behind these conflicts.
Demand for Separate State of Telangana
Though the demand for separate statehood for Telangana was raised much before in history, but hitherto the real objective conditions for its realisation had remained absent. Even the proponents of separate statehood for Telangana did not seriously believe that it could sustain for long as a separate state, as its dependence upon economically more advanced regions would not have disappeared merely through formal statehood. It is only with the emergence of the prospects of its more or less independent collaboration directly with world capitalism, with integration of production processes on a global scale that the dependence upon the advanced regions of country and the sections of bourgeois, has virtually eliminated itself, as all the sections of bourgeois in their turn now depend upon the world capitalism for their sustenance.
The demand for separate statehood for Telangana, is the demand really arising out of such aggressive aspiration of the local bourgeois of Telangana, for the maximum possible political autonomy for its own rule. It has come out under the leadership of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), to alienate itself from the domination of more advanced coastal regions and Rayalseema, and constitute itself into a state exclusively under its own domination. It needs such domination not in order to secure any benefits for the working people of Telangana, but to become the sole agency for providing cheap labour and raw materials to world capitalism, from Telangana region.
Historic Backwardness of Telangana conditions the Movement
The comparative backwardness and underdevelopment of some regions within a nation-state, in comparison to others, provides popular and fertile ground for breeding of such movements led by the vested interests of the groups of local bourgeois for realisation of their economic and political aspirations.
As capitalist growth invariably results into unequal development of territories and regions, the aspirations of local bourgeois find a ready echo in the sentiments of people of the backward regions. Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Gorkhaland, all of the regions which have recently presented the movements of the kind which Telangana is now facing, are marked with a common feature of comparative economic backwardness in relation to the rest of the parts of their respective States. These regions with their virgin territories for industrial development and rich human and material resources available at low costs, present ideal landscapes for investments of global capital and conditions for its intensive exploitation.
The demand for separate statehood for Telangana is something beyond the factional strife and party affiliations of the leaders of local bourgeois. The demand arises out of the petty interests of local sections of bourgeois, and confides in the general backwardness of this region as compared to two other parts of Andhra Pradesh, its Coastal region and Rayalseema.
To begin with, Telangana is not a land of scarcity but spectacularly a land of plenty, as far as natural and human resources are concerned. But political discrimination has held it back.
Andhra Pradesh is divided into three regions - coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana. Of the three regions of the state, Telangana region is the largest one spread over an area of 1,14,800 sq.km. comprising of ten districts, including the state capital: Hyderabad. The region lies on the Deccan plateau to the west of the Eastern Ghats range, and includes the north-western interior districts of Warangal, Adilabad, Khammam, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Medak, and the state capital, Hyderabad, all of which are Telugu speaking and were parts of erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, till its accession into India in 1948.
The entire region is divided into two main regions namely ghats and peneplains. The surface is dotted with low depressions. Much of the land in Telangana region is arid and rocky, lacks access to fresh water, and is not nearly as fertile as the agriculturally rich coastal region.
Of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana is today the most neglected. The region has been given a raw deal in education, irrigation, budget allocation and job opportunities.
Despite having the mighty Krishna and Godavari rivers flowing through it, the region faces acute scarcity of water. The reason is not far to seek: no government has cared to implement any irrigation projects here. Nearly 79 per cent of the catchment area of the River Godavari and 69 per cent of that of the River Krishna are in Telangana, but the region barely gets 25 per cent of the river waters. Since the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, successive governments have spent Rs 190 billion on irrigation in coastal Andhra. In the same period, less than Rs 35 billion has been spent on Telangana.
It is only after the demand of separate statehood getting roots in the region, that a foundation stone for an Rs 18 billion irrigation project at Devadula, was laid by the State government.
Educationally, Telangana lags behind the rest of Andhra Pradesh. While the literacy rates in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema are 46 and 45 per cent, respectively, it is only 37 per cent in Telangana.
Telangana has only one university. Coastal Andhra has three, and Rayalaseema, seven. Of the 91 polytechnics in the state, only 20 are in Telangana. Of the 72 government technical institutes, just 26 are in this region.
In 1985, Chief Minister N T Rama Rao pledged 60,000 jobs for youth in the region, but nothing happened. Joblessness among the youth is rampant here. Telangana tops the list in suicides by the peasants in distress of poverty.
Today, eight of the 10 districts in the region are under the sway of armed peasant resistance. Successive governments have used this resistance movement as a pretext to justify the neglect of industrialisation in Telangana. The truth is that the resistance movement itself has erupted directly from the devastation and poverty among the peasantry due to backwardness of the region.
"Farmers in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema are enjoying all kinds of subsidies. Farmers in Telangana are getting fried in the parched fields." This observation by Professor Jaya Shankar, former vice-chancellor of Kakatiya University, who has studied the problems of Telangana, exposes the reason for popular support to the appeal of separate statehood for Telangana.
In this backdrop of the circumstances and conditions, local sections of the bourgeois have succeeded in seeding the illusion in the minds of the people that statehood under its leadership is the only way to wipe out the 'inequality, injustice and discrimination' the rest of Andhra Pradesh has shown to the people of this region.
The operation of capitalist development in the state has led to palpably more unequal development of different regions under it. Rayalseema with more fertile agricultural lands and the coastal region for its trade, took to steady development, while Telangana could not keep pace with these two. With passage of time, the development continued to be more and more unequal and imbalanced against Telangana. This persistent backwardness of the region, in the backdrop of the failures and illusions of Stalinist-Maoist leadership of the communist movement in the country, provided an instant ground for proliferation of the separatist demand of the local bourgeois for statehood of Telangana.
Even in the background of its general backwardness, lie the rich material and human resources of the region, which make it an ideal land for the investment of productive capital.
It is Telangana which supplies coal to produce power in the other two regions of the State, but on its own it could generate merely 1543 MW of power compared to the 7447 MW in the other two regions, because of lack of industrial infrastructure and paucity of investment.
District-wise analysis conducted by the ‘National Council of Applied Economic Research’ in 2001, reveals that the Human Development Index scores two positions in top five for two districts of Telangana, two form Costal Andhra districts, and only one from Rayalaseema districts. In bottom 5 positions there were three Coastal Andhra districts and only two Telangana districts.
The Failure of Telangana Revolt and its Aftermath
Telangana had been the scene for the historic peasant uprising of 1946-1951, which failed due to its flawed Stalinist leadership and led directly to consolidation of the rule of bourgeois-landlords. The powerful peasant rebellion, which could have sent spark for a nationwide uprising of people against the rule of bourgeois-landlords, under the leadership of the working class, was extinguished at the hands of the then Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party, which did not have even a program of its own and for every directive looked towards Moscow to religiously follow its commands.
The revolt began in the Nalgonda district and quickly spread to the Warangal and Bidar districts. Peasant farmers and labourers revolted against the Nizam and the local feudal landlords (Jagirdars and Deshmukhs) who were loyal to the Nizam. The initial modest aims were to do away with the illegal and excessive exploitation meted out by these feudal lords in the name of bonded labour. The most strident demand was for the writing off of all debts of the peasants that were manipulated by the feudal lords.
The peasant war spread in around 3000 villages (about 41000 sq. kilometres) which came under peasant-rule. The landlords were either killed or driven out and the land was re-distributed. These victorious villages established communes reminiscent of Soviet ‘Mirs’ to administer their region. These community governments were integrated regionally into a central organization Andhra Mahasabha.
The violent phase of the movement ended in 1951 after the accession of Hyderabad into the Indian Union in 1949. This was the time when Razzakar Movement was started by Nizams, which was very violent and was also responsible for forcible conversions of religion.
Taking benefit of the illusions of the then Stalinist leadership in national bourgeois, the then Central Government, with Nehru on left and Patel on right of it, sent heavy troops to Telangana to crush the peasant revolt and to take over the regime in Hyderabad state, in 1948. The whole drama ended in accession of Hyderabad State into Indian Union and brutal suppression of the peasant movement, which could hardly find a parallel in Indian history.
Elections of 1952 led to the victory of Congress party in Hyderabad state, which remained in power till 1956, when the region was merged with the Andhra state, to form present day Andhra Pradesh.
The peasant struggles though continued in this region for long in history, but they failed to churn a national rebellion around them. The Stalinist and subsequently the Maoist leadership of these peasant struggles could not orient them against the power of bourgeois landlord combine, partially for its illusions in national capitalists and partially for its lack of faith and misunderstanding the strength and role of working class as leader of the national revolution.
The failure of Telangana uprising in resolving the agrarian question in a revolutionary manner, paved the way for stabilisation of the rule of bourgeois and landlords!
Still the backwardness of Telangana, in the first instance presents a rebellious peasantry, which has risen in historic revolt against the rule of Nizam in 1946 and since has continued armed resistance in one form or the other, providing ready launching pad for a revolutionary movement under the leadership of working class. However, the utter failure of the Stalinist-Maoist leadership of Indian Communist movement to channelize the peasant resistance towards a nationwide revolutionary stride, offered a ready landscape for the local sections of the bourgeois, to exploit the issue of backwardness politically for mobilising popular support in the region and thereby realise its project of turning the region into an investment platform of world capitalism, under its leadership.