People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
A Diversionary Demand
THE demand for a separate Telangana state has surfaced again in Andhra Pradesh. It has acquired prominence after the deputy speaker of the state assembly, Chandrasekhar Rao, resigned from the post and the Telugu Desam. He announced the formation of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti to fight for a separate state. The Congress MLAs from Telangana region have also demanded a separate state. They have set up a Telangana Congress Forum and the 41 Congress MLAs from the region have petitioned the Congress high command to accept the demand.
The formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1955 took place after a prolonged struggle for the formation of a linguistic state for all the Telugu-speaking people. The Vishalandhra movement was in the forefront of the countrywide movement for the formation of linguistic states in the 1950s. Such a mass movement arose because the new Congress rulers went back on the commitment made during the freedom struggle for the reorganisation of states on a linguistic basis.
The Vishalandhra movement was led by Communist Party and other democratic forces. People from all Telugu-speaking regions --- whether they be of the coastal region under the Madras province or the Telangana region of the erstwhile Nizam's Hyderabad or the portions which will fell within the Bombay province --- voiced the demand for a linguistic state for the Telugu people. Scores of people died while fighting for this demand.
The formation of linguistic states was an important democratic step in post-independence India. For people to have a state in which their language could be used in the administration and other walks of life, was an essential condition for democracy. However, the aspirations of the people could not be fulfilled by the bourgeois-landlord policies pursued by successive governments. In every state, there are regions which are backward for historical and socio-political reasons. In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana is one such region. Under the Nizam's rule, it was a bastion of feudal landlordism and was, compared to coastal Andhra, backward in educational and infrastructural facilities. The Congress, which ruled Andhra Pradesh till the eighties, did nothing much to tackle the causes of backwardness and to develop the region.
In the late sixties, there was an agitation for a separate Telangana state citing backwardness and discrimination as the main reason. The Congress party, at that time too, got divided on regional lines. After a turbulent and prolonged agitation which continued till 1973, a six-point plan was formulated for the benefit of Telangana and its people. This included certain guarantees about the proportion of jobs in government service for Telangana people and other measures for developing the region. Nearly three decades later, not much progress has been registered in this regard. There is a feeling of neglect and discrimination among the people. The most vocal are the middle classes and educated sections who are now rallying behind the demand for a separate state.
In Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema is also a backward area. In every state, there are backward regions, compared to relatively more advanced ones. Instead of tackling the basic problems such as the nature of capitalist development and the lack of planning and balanced utilisation of resources, sections of the bourgeois-landlord classes fight each other for carving out their own share of power and resources.
The demand for new states carved out of existing ones has thus been voiced within the unified linguistic states. This has got a fillip after the recent decision to carve out three new states --- Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal. The BJP is fully committed to break-up of the existing linguistic states and the formation of small states. Such small states would facilitate having a strong authoritarian centre which can ride roughshod over the states. Unified linguistic states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are in a better position to assert the rights of states and strengthen the federal system. The BJP stand is based on the Hindutva ideology which is inimical to states based on strong linguistic-nationality identities.
The Congress party has no such approach. It is purely guided by opportunist considerations. The demand of the Telangana Congressmen is made primarily out of concern that the new outfit, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, does not take away its activists and mass base. The Andhra Pradesh PCC president, Satyanarayana Rao, has gone to the extent of advocating smaller states in order to keep the Telangana Congressmen happy. Faced with mounting demands from Congressmen from places like Vidarbha and Telangana, the Congress president has set up a five-member committee to study the demands and formulate the party's stand. Based on past experience, the Congressmen in these regions will back such demands and help the BJP in its overall aim of weakening the states.
Apart from weakening strong states and the federal set-up, the demand for a separate Telangana is diversionary. The acute problems of unemployment, lack of irrigation and education facilities and socio-economic backwardness are all caused by bourgeois-landlord policies which have distorted priorities. These are common problems in varying degrees of people of all regions. Only a united struggle by all sections of the people against government policies and against the cornering of resources by the bourgeois-landlord classes can lay the basis for a balanced and all-round development.
The separate Telangana demand finds a response because of the acute frustration particularly among the younger generation. The naxalite PWG has supported the demand. A section of the intellectuals also support this demand in the hope of better prospects. Only the CPI(M) and the CPI, who have carried forward the legacy of the Vishalandhra movement, have firmly stood by a united Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu Desam has so far resisted this demand.
It is essential to convince the people of Telangana that there are no shortcuts to economic development and social progress. The heroic Telangana armed struggle of the peasantry did more for smashing the feudal oppression because it tackled the root problem. The common struggles and movements which took place in the past decades, should be the basis for emphasising the common bonds. The fight for a better life for the people of Telangana will succeed only through this unity. Immediately, the democratic forces in the state must demand that effective steps be taken to ameliorate the problems being faced by the people in the Telangana region.
The Left forces in Andhra Pradesh have an important responsibility of keeping the unity of all sections of the Telugu-speaking people and to show the hollowness of the demand for a separate state.