Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Telangana: the last straw

India has been going through one of the most important phases in its political makeup. The government of India, today decided to initiate the formation of the new state of Telangana. This is the last of the of most remarkable events happening in India which herald the paradigm shift in Indian polity. India has been always defined as nation with multiple fault lines formed on the basis of region, religion, caste and language. The recent events have shown that India of today has moved on.

While region and language formed major political forces in the first few decades after independence, religion and caste became majorly important after 1989. The political effectiveness of religion and caste wore out quickly due to its excessive use in the past few decades. The last general elections show that they now constitute a force on a decline. Region and language played a big role in the southern states and the regional parties have cashed on them for about half a century. The Telangana issue finally manifests their downfall.

Today the only factor that matters in the hearts and minds of the Indian populace is their development. Some fear that Telangana has opened a Pandora's box and now similar demands will emanate from Vidharbha, Bhudhelkhand, Saurashtra,... The demand for smaller states is based on the hope for equitable development. Thus the issue today is about the greater decentralization of power and finances which presents itself as demands for statehood. At the time of freedom, the concern about keeping the unity and territorial integrity of India were supreme which lead to a constitution with a federal structure and a strong centre. Today, India is much more confident of keeping its flock together and hence there is a need to revisit the federal structure of the nation to keep in touch with the aspirations and needs of the current times.

PS: Telangana movement also reassures the people about the effectiveness of non violent Gandhian means of protest, something which was missing during the Gujjar aggitation, Nandigram or the Gorkhaland movement. But of course such means do succeed only if there is a genuine problem and considerable public support.

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