Although the creation of the 29th state Telangana is being looked at both an extension of Congress’ cold electoral math as well as bringing to fruition the four-decade long struggle of the people of the region, it is also being seen as an invitation for other separatist movements to further intensify their demands for new and smaller states carved out from the existing ones. The foremost amongst these demands, that of the Gorkhaland in West Bengal and Bodoland in Assam, have neither the economic triggers, nor the cohesive political ideology underlining the claims.
Following the Telangana decision on 30 July, politicians have reared their heads latching on to secessionist sentiments that are sure to inflame voters’ minds and help them score in the perilous game of one-upmanship. With Mayawati asking for a four-way splitting up of Uttar Pradesh, the Bodoland People’s Front demanding to cut off a chunk from the northeastern state of Assam, and the Gorkha Janmukhti Morcha (GJM) having revived their claim to a separate Gorkhaland, the political climate in the country has become extremely volatile and vulnerable to eruptions of violence and mass demonstrations either in support or opposition to the respective causes.
Nevertheless, the ground reality is not conducive to further ringing the division bell, as this could very well lead to a disastrous ‘balkanisation’ of India, a situation wherein too many small states put the federal structure of the nation at risk by posing governance and security threats.
The decision on Telangana was bound to have wide-scale ramifications, although the state must ensure that it does not spawn further instability by promoting random separatist bandwagons. While the Telangana had a long history of agitation, both along political and linguistic lines, the primary reason behind the movement has always been the economic neglect and deprivation of the region, despite Hyderabad being located right in the heart of the region.
However, its formation has been overshadowed by narrow political calculations, thus opening the doors for more pre-election machinations to agitate over splintering the existing states further into tinier regions. This is bound to deal a lasting blow on the secular and multicultural character of the democratic republic, and also to the federal nature of our government. Fomenting separatism along religious or linguistic axes is an affront not only to the idea of India, which perhaps keeps updating itself with time, but also a threat to the internal security of the nation, with too many states being difficult manage and man for terrorism and other crimes.
While the case of Telangana looks more like a ‘demerger’ than a ‘division’, demands such as those of a separate Gorkhaland or Bodoland are untenable and without a veritable historical fulcrum. While it’s true that Darjeeling has a good share of settlers from Nepal, that does not merit slicing of West Bengal into two, although it is true that the region has been neglected over the decades. Nevertheless, discounting the historical baggage in case of Telangana and mounting pressure on the government for more independent states would surely lead to more trouble for all.