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PERSPECTIVES

A Telangana State?
An Illustrative Analysis of the Stakes in Modifying Internal Borders
Lorraine Hohler

The internal boundaries within the Indian Union indicate how the central government recognises ethnic and linguistic realities. Through the example of the movement of the creation for Telangana, this article seeks to analyse the limits of the Indian administrative framework and its linguistic foundations, the issues at stake, and the likely impact of new territorial changes.

Administrative Network of India he process of territorial division by the State stems from two fundamental objectives: territorial control and integration. Optimal control and efcient administration of the geographical area require that the latter be broken up into a series of smaller units joined together constituting either a simple subdivision of central power, or individual geopolitical players in their own right. The desire to mitigate the centrifugal forces that can threaten territorial integrity also justies the creation of units based, partly, on the recognition of regional specicities or local territoriality.1 The structure of the network and the powers attributed to each subdivision are specic to each state and are based on political, geographical, historical and even linguistic criteria, the ultimate aim being to bring together the territory as an organised unit. While some states choose to opt for an equal division favouring geometrical subdivisions, others adopt an administrative architecture where big and small entities stand alongside each other. The analysis of the administrative network does not focus on the geographical structure of the subdivisions alone, but also on their status in terms of power, and on the relations that each link has with the higher or lower links. The changes in the internal boundaries of the Indian Union that took place from 1956 onwards full the two imperatives mentioned above. By juxtaposing state boundaries with linguistic frontiers, the central government made it easier to manage them by facilitating contact between the populations and their administrators. It also reduced the centrifugal tensions resulting from regional feelings. While the Hindi-speaking area
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was fragmented into a dozen states, without taking into account some strong regional dialects like Bhojpuri or Marwari, which could legitimately serve as the basis for separate states, each of the Dravidian languages in the south enjoyed political recognition. The process of decentralisation initiated in the 1990s itself aimed at delegating part of the central governments responsibilities to the lower levels and favouring a better distribution of power between the different subdivisions by giving more independence to the states and by giving a political identity to the districts and the panchayats. The choice of altering, or not, the administrative network should also be considered as a strategic act resulting from a political scenario imposed by the ruling power or from a situation of crisis. Rosire (2008) argues that, In no case administrative boundaries are the result of happenstance. They always express a political will, if not a compromise between several wills. In India, the relevance of the linguistic argument cannot hide other more debatable stakes. The choice of linguistic boundaries met the aspirations and pressures of the dominant castes whose areas of inuence matched the areas of their vernacular language. On the other hand, by homogenising states in terms of dominant castes, the Congress was able to rely on them and on their inuence at the local level to politically dominate the Indian Union. By creating large states in the north, the centre also ensured political dominance of the Hindi belt. The changes in borders since 1956 have followed the same logic of political accounts. Behind the linguistic or ethnic arguments, formation of new states also took place taking into account geopolitical considerations (the north-east), political gains (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand) or as a remedial measure to an emergency (Gujarat). The Case of Telangana From the very beginning, the demand for the creation of Telangana was characterised by its opposition to the linguistic
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Lorraine Hohler (lorraine.hohler@yahoo.fr) is a PhD student in Political Geography, afliated to the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, France and to the Centre for Human Sciences, New Delhi.
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principle. Right from the time when Andhra Pradesh (AP) was created in 1956, by integrating Telangana with the State of Andhra, created in 1953, the opponents of the merging put forth the idea that linguistic homogeneity did not justify a political union of the two regions, which had different pasts, different cultures and different levels of development. The latter were afraid of an internal colonialism within the new state. Nehru made the comment that an innocent girl called Telangana is being married to a naughty boy called Andhra. It is their choice to continue or to get separated. While the majority of Telangana politicians were opposed to the unication of the two Telugu areas, other arguments had inuenced the nal decision, including the strengthening of the Reddy caste who supported the Congress Party, the reduction of water conicts, and the choice of Hyderabad as an acceptable capital. The movement rose once again in 2009, after the death of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the then chief minister of AP, and was strongly backed by the people, even more than in its rst attempt. The current leaders of the movement have always condemned the economic, political and cultural disparities that divide the state and the diversion of resources of Telangana (lands, water and jobs). The central governments decision on 30 July 2013, to nally divide the state of AP, puts an end to more than 50 years of political and social struggle for equity and justice. The future creation of the state poses a twofold challenge to the linguistic principle, as it will require the division of the rst state in India created on linguistic lines and will mark the aspirations of a heterogeneous subregion in terms of language and people. In the case of Telangana, the regional identity clearly prevailed over the linguistic or caste identity. While language is generally a symbol and a powerful instrument of the unity of a population or a nation, it is not enough to maintain the community cohesion, with the latter being fragmented by inequalities, even discrimination. Economic disparities and the feeling of negation of local cultures can create
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solidarities and social consensus, which result in political repercussions that are just as strong as those stemming from linguistic and religious differences. Though it seems unlikely that the centre will once again reverse its decision as in 2009,2 it is necessary to understand the governments reluctance to allow a new border change and to analyse the stakes and the consequences of this political act. National Stakes At the national level, the stakes involved in the creation of Telangana are to be seen in the short-term and long-term perspectives. For the Congress Party, currently in power in AP, the state has always been an important vote bank. It has sent in the maximum number of Congress Members of Parliament (MPs) during the 2004 and 2009 general elections. Seriously undermined during the last by-elections, the party doubted whether it would keep power in Telangana, where the regional party Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), whose unique agenda was the creation of the new state, was beneting from the discontent simmering in the region. On the other hand, by nally granting statehood to the region, the Congress risks losing the rest of AP, whose leaders were largely opposed to the division, and where the new regional party the YSR Congress won the last by-elections. This unstable equilibrium explains the indecisiveness of the centre until now, which was looking at the 2014 elections more than the democratic aspirations of people. The nal decision is more the result of a cold political calculation that led the party to choose the best alternative in terms of votes. It has forced the party to reconsider its political allies in AP as well as at the national level in order to offset any likely reverses that the party might suffer in the region. By conceding to the demand of the Telanganites, the party could also lose some of its regional partners who are also facing separatist movements in their respective states. But, the Congress is not the only party that was pondering over the political equation Telangana represents. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too saw the
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region as a likely vote bank for the 2014 elections, with the same political logic that had led it to create three new states in 2000. The Telangana region looked even more important as the party had just lost in Karnataka. The decision of the centre has pulled the rug out from under the BJP, which will have to reconsider its tactic in Telangana. The latter had promised the formation of the state in the case of victory of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the next elections. But, challenged at the regional level by the TRS, the BJP appeared to have adopted a dangerous tactic of religious polarisation, which might have helped the party get the votes of the Hindu community. The debate regarding the creation of Telangana is part of the larger debate on whether or not a reorganisation of the Indian states is necessary. The decision in favour of Telangana will strongly reinforce the claims of other separatist movements, and this risk of reopening the Pandoras box also explains the doubts of the centre. Therefore, immediately after the announcement by the centre, the Gorkhaland activists renewed their campaign for the splitting of West Bengal. While some of the claims are based on linguistic and ethnic arguments, most subregional demands are based on economic interests and issues of governance in view of the increasing geographical disparities in the contemporary economic context. Within a very weak network, big states like AP, Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra, for example, despite their larger resources, failed to efciently overcome the disparities in development between the poor regions and those which already had good infrastructure and had beneted from private and public investments. Distance, population density, existence of political minorities at the subregional level, and historical and territorial differences are seen as the many obstacles between individuals and the existing authorities, preventing an efcient and egalitarian management of the region. With the central government largely withdrawing its sphere of inuence from the social sectors and delegating a part of its authority to the states,
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the least developed subregions3 could benet from a redrawing of their borders, from a new sovereignty that would allow them to manage their own development programmes. However, the creation of new states, based on a divisive logic, brings up the question of a likely geographical, economic and political fragmentation of the Indian Union. In the context of liberalisation and globalisation, the states are increasingly tempted to attract private investment by offering favourable tax policies, setting up of special economic zones (SEZs) with special facilities and privatisation of their natural resources. This, all the more so, as the states, starting with AP have taken the initiative of breaking the state/centre relationship in order to establish new state/ international relations by taking out international loans. An increase in the number of territorial units, without national regulation, will only intensify this economic competition between the states without necessarily improving the overall situation of the population or even guaranteeing equitable territorial development.4 The states of the Indian Union are not merely administrative units, but increasingly sovereign political entities in position of negotiating their support to the central government. Thus, an increase in their number, coupled with the temptation to use their inuence to defend their own regional interests, increasingly risks weakening the coalitions at the centre and the implementation of national policies, which are the only guarantors of territorial equity. However, the formation of new states can also weaken the capacity of the bigger states to take decisions or block them, thus allowing a larger number of states to make their voices heard. The division of the bigger states would allow the political centre of gravity of the Indian Union to shift towards a more equitable structure in terms of decisionmaking. By lessening the feeling that the big northern states dominate the Indian political scenario, the smaller states, until now considered to be mere satellites, could feel more integrated and heard.
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Finally, the question of nancing the new subdivisions, their political and economic viability, the geopolitical issues related to certain demands in Assam or in West Bengal, and the real intentions of the separatist leaders have all got to be taken into consideration. Regional Stakes At the regional level, the issues involved are varied in nature. In India, the majority of internal border conicts are related to water. The states are ghting even more for this resource, as most of their population is engaged in agriculture and depends on it. Moreover, the demand for water is increasing with the development of mega cities and industries. When AP was created in 1956, one of the main justications for merging Telangana with AP was that the merger of the two Telugu entities would considerably reduce water-related conicts as the two major rivers of the region owed through the new state. With Telangana state, the river Krishna will mark the new border between the new state and the rest of AP (now referred to as Seemandhra), requiring a common management of the river basin, whereas the river Godavari will mainly fall within Telangana. Thus, there is no doubt that if the authorities of the new state try to exploit to the maximum its water resources, the authorities of Seemandhra will insist on an equitable sharing of these waters. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the coastal regions of AP have based their economic development on the exploitation of the water resources of the separatist region. The major hydro projects built over these two rivers, which have mainly enabled the irrigation of the Seemandhra regions, will see their usage diverted with the birth of a new border. With the entry of a new player, new water-related conicts are likely to crop up, adding to those already existing between AP and its neighbours.5 The future of Hyderabad is also an issue in the conict that is pitting the proponents of Telangana against those in favour of a united AP. The metropolis, which is today a major economic centre and the cause of disagreement between
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the two parties, was mainly developed during the 1990s under the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, headed by leaders from the Seemandhra region. Apart from international investments, the government encouraged in particular the arrival of a business class from coastal AP, which had reinvested the surplus money that it earned from agriculture, thanks to the green revolution, in the capital city. In the metropolis, 75% of the regional companies belong to the Andhras and 80%6 of the employees are from the same region. The Andhras have also made investments in the nearby districts of Medak and Rangareddy, where they own more than 50% of the regional businesses. For all the people of Seemandhra, the metropolis presents an opportunity not only for young students wishing to pursue their studies, but also for those seeking employment. For the people of Telangana, Hyderabad is all the more important, as the urban framework of the region is practically non-existent beyond the capital and because of the hardly developed second-rank cities and lack of infrastructure. The proposal to make Hyderabad a union territory or a common capital for the two future states was unanimously rejected by the proponents of Telangana. Apart from the problem of geographical discontinuity that such a solution would entail due to the landlocked nature of Hyderabad, the borders of the neighbouring districts would also have to be redened as the city spills over into them. The future of Hyderabad seems still uncertain even though the centre appears to be in favour of a temporary joint capital for the two states, till the new AP state builds a capital with necessary infrastructure. However, this solution raises a lot of issues, for example, temporary status of governmental jobs, common management of the land and redistribution of taxes between the two states. The tribal question also requires special attention. The tribal population of AP lives almost exclusively on the edges of the border areas of the state contiguous with the tribal zones of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, with which the connections are
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important. The tribes are one of the poorest and least developed segments of the population of the state. Less educated than the rest of the population, dependant on agricultural revenues and living with poorly equipped infrastructure and in areas with difcult access, they continue to be the victims of a long, old process of land alienation. In the past, the process of land grabbing was mostly organised by migrant farmers from Telangana and coastal AP, but today it is more an appropriation by the state for development purposes. The tribes of Telangana mainly support the creation of the new state with the hope that the new leaders will nally conduct targeted and concrete policies for them. However, for a few years now, a new political movement has surfaced demanding the formation of a big tribal state, Manyaseema, comprising all the tribal majority areas of AP. This movement is indicative of the conict between the Telangana primitive tribes living in forested areas, and the Lambada7 population, localised mostly in the plains, and considered as non-locals and migrants from other Indian states grabbing the benets being extended to the scheduled tribes (STs). While several tribal organisations demand categorisation of the STs on the basis of their socio-economic status, others consider that the primitive tribes will not have their chance in a Telangana state where they will have to compete with the Lambada population, which is more developed and has beneted in the past from the majority of the ST reservations. As, until now, the movement has been missing strong tribal leaders and presents little involvement from the rest of the population, the risk of future territorial fragmentation cannot be ruled out. From this viewpoint, the progress of this political movement will depend on the manner in which the state of Telangana will tackle the tribal issue and bring about the political and economic integration of the primitive tribes. Telangana Level With regard to Telangana, the formation of a smaller unit will provide autonomy to the region, which until now was
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considered the preserve of a political minority and was subject to the decisions of the leaders from Seemandhra. This will also alter the demography of the new state in terms of castes and minorities. The population of Muslims that today constitutes 8.9% of the population of AP will go up to 12.5%, whereas the tribal population will go up from 6.5% to 10%.8 Apart from the fact that their political representation will be strengthened thanks to their numbers, these two minorities hope to improve their visibility and see that their interests are better served. The former, in return for their votes, could ensure that certain measures are taken in their favour such as recognising minority languages or a renegotiation of the reservation quotas for their community. In this context, it is not surprising that the TRS leader has promised to make Urdu an ofcial language if his party wins the elections in the new state. The advantages of small states for minorities were already noticed by Ambedkar (1955) before the creation of linguistic states:
The rst safeguard is not to have too large a State. The consequences of too large a State on the minority living within it are not understood by many. The larger the State the smaller the proportion of the minority to the majority... A small stone of a consolidated majority placed on the chest of the minority may be borne. But the weight of a huge mountain it cannot bear. It will crush the minorities. Therefore creation of smaller States is a safeguard to the minorities.

Conversely, the demographic importance of the dominant castes will undergo a change. In AP, the dominant castes are numerically superior in the Seemandhra districts, where they account for about 30% of the population, whereas in Telangana they represent just about 10% of the population. Some leaders of the movement put forth the idea that in a state with 90%9 of the population being lower castes and minorities, they will not fail to improve their socio-economic situation and will be able to better reorient the policies of their representatives in their favour. The creation of Telangana will in part resolve the long conict between the two main scheduled caste (SC) groups, the
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Malas and the Madigas, for subcategorisation. As most of them come from Seemandhra, the Malas beneted from the politics of education and development started by the British missionaries during the colonisation, whereas the Madigas, more localised in Telangana, saw their situation as having improved only recently. As with the primitive tribes, the Madigas consider that in a united state they were not able to compete with the Malas, who took most of the reserved jobs and positions in the universities. While some believe that there will be a redistribution of powers within the future state of Telangana, others, on the contrary, believe that class and caste domination, already present in the region, will just continue. If most of the power remains in the hands of the state government and largely delegated to its representatives at the local level, and not to elected political institutions, the formation of a new state does not appear to be very meaningful. Similarly, the process of decentralisation at the local level cannot be effective if the already dominant castes and elite classes appropriate the political and technical powers conferred on districts, mandals, panchayats, and if real agrarian reform does not take place. In the last years of the movement a signicant change could be observed with the increasingly visible participation of the lower castes, who were demanding, besides a geographical Telangana, a truly social Telangana. Now that the decision of the centre seems irreversible, the voices of the dalits, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and tribal civil servants and students are again making themselves heard in order to demand a recasting of the social relations within the new state. Today, these groups are demanding their integration into the decision-making process, not by forming caste-based parties, but by ghting for the replacement of the traditional elites. Moreover, two demands dene their political ght: the need for real agrarian reforms, and job reservations in private companies. In Osmania and Warangal Universities, movements based on the Dalit-Bahujan ideology are spreading and
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claim more political and economic space for the backward castes of Telangana and the recognition of their identity and culture. The objective could be seen both as a ght against the social and economical inuence of the forward castes and the political inuence of the BJP. There is strong hope in Telangana concerning the student movement and its ability to inuence the policies of the future state as noticed by Kannabiran et al (2012): Students from oppressed classes are not only holding mainstream political formations to account in unprecedented ways, but are also providing direction to the movement. Recently, the president of TRS reiterated his wish to make a dalit the rst chief minister of Telangana, if his party is chosen to rule the future state.10 Beyond an obvious policy of accommodation, would this gesture be followed by a real policy of social integration? Indeed, many dalit and OBC leaders consider the TRS as the party of Velamas, a dominant caste, less powerful than the Reddys and Kammas, which could politically arise with the creation of the state. In addition, many intellectuals and activists are denouncing, through the movement for Telangana, the comeback into politics of the old landlords who were defending the idea of a Telangana state in which their interests could be protected against the rich migrants and investors from Seemandhra. Conclusions Though the Telangana movement does not represent the only or the most important movement for autonomy in India, it is illustrative of the limits of the Indian administrative network, in terms of design as well as the distribution of powers between different levels, and of its dependence on political considerations. While there is no doubt that linguistic boundaries are pertinent in the interests of administrative rationalisation and democracy, these cannot ignore the fact that linguistic homogeneity is not synonymous with regional cohesion. Any alteration in an administrative boundary must not be seen only in the light of the changes that are likely to take place within the new state, but must
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be examined from a multidimensional perspective. The formation of a new state in India results in the formation of a new geopolitical player who has to engage not only with the central government, but also with its neighbouring states. To maintain national cohesion this new entity should act with a view to cooperation, not competition with its partners. Similarly, the formation of a new state involves a re-examination of the division of powers and resources between the different levels and nding the perfect balance between the measures undertaken by the central government, the states and the local players. The sovereignty that the central government offers the new state does not necessarily signify that the local population will benet if the powers devolved are grabbed by the administrative elite and political structures that already exist. An administrative reorganisation of India must be accompanied by an assessment of the efciency of decentralisation and administration, and the role of the central government, as guarantor of territorial equality, vis--vis the failure of the states with respect to development and democratisation from the bottom up. Finally, the creation of new states should not be determined by political reasons and electoral short-term logic, or happen when the level of crisis and violence reaches a point of no return. Modication of the administrative network must follow the aspirations of people with the desire to live together and build an egalitarian development project, within an integrated national space.
Notes
1 For Richard Hartshorne (1950) the management of diversity is the most important challenge that inuences the territorial action of the State, as he wrote, The primary and continuing problem of every state is how to bind together more or less separate and diverse areas into an effective whole. 2 In December 2009, Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram announced that the government would start the process of APs division. It backed down later under pressure from public opinion and political leaders from Seemandhra. 3 Duncan B Forrester (1970: 6) gives the denition of a subregion as a smaller area within a region or nation which for economic,
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6 7

8 9 10

geographic, historical, and social reasons is aware of possessing a distinct identity. At the AP-level, Haragopal (2010) denounces the economic competition between spaces due to globalisation. The state, which is expected to be a protector of the sovereign power of the people and resources, has turned into a facilitator of the movement of the global capital a shift in the very role and character of the nation stateSince there was no viable opposition the process led to widening of inequalities across the castes, classes, gender, rural, urban, and forward and the backward regions. It is these widening inequalities between the agriculture and service sector, between metropolitan Hyderabad and rest of the state, between the backward regions and relatively advanced regions. AP is currently in conict with Maharashtra and Karnataka regarding the sharing of the waters of river Krishna. AP also contests the Babli dam project on river Godavari decided by Maharashtra. Finally, the state is at odds with Chhattisgarh and Odisha regarding the Polavaram project. Source: Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Originally from Rajasthan, the Lambada population is in majority living in the rural areas of AP, but not far from the cities where they got their education and governmental employment. AP is the only state in India that gave them the status of ST, whereas they are classied as OBC in Maharashtra and scheduled caste (SC) in Tamil Nadu. Source: Srikrishna Committee Report (2011). Ibid. The TRS has announced, in the past, a probable merger with the Congress, if the latter created Telangana. Since the centres decision to nally divide AP, the regional party has remained silent on this idea.

References
Ambedkar, B R (1955): Thoughts on Linguistic States (Aligarh: Anand Sahitya Sadan). Forrester, D B (1970): Subregionalism in India: The Case of Telangana, Pacic Affairs, 43(1): 5-21. Haragopal, G (2010): The Telangana Peoples Movement: The Unfolding Political Culture, Economical & Political Weekly, 45(42): 51-60. Hartshorne, R (1950): The Functional Approach in Political Geography, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 40(2): 95-130. Kannabiran, K, N Madhusudhan, S Ashalatha, S Ramdas and M P Kumar (2012): On the Telangana Trail, Economic & Political Weekly, 45(13): 69-82. Rosire, S (2008): Dictionnaire de lEspace Politique : Gographie Politique et Gopolitique (Dictionary of Political Space: Political Geography and Geopolitics) (Paris: Armand Colin).

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