The Telangana issue has forced one to think? Are we on the verge of breaking down as a nation? Separatist movements certainly can't be good for the health of a democracy like India. Is the nation witnessing a resurgence of regionalism? Here's a citizen's perspective on a problem of national proportions.
For the past few days, front pages of newspapers have been carrying photos of protesters demanding formation of a separate Telangana state carved out of Andhra Pradesh. How valid are the demands of the protesters, how justified are their means in getting these demands met, and is the government taking right steps to resolve the issue – these are some of the questions that need to be answered.
However, the news made me uneasy for another bigger reason – the apprehension that the present scenario may threaten the very integrity of the Indian Union.
As pointed out earlier, almost every Indian state is reeling under separatist movements or terror attacks. Case in point: J&K where terrorism rules; Uttar Pradesh where various groups are demanding a division of the state into four parts, of course, based on cultural identity of the population in respective areas; Punjab has been facing, since long, the demand for Khalistan; then we have the Naxals/Maoists in Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.
Significantly, we have already witnessed formation of Jharkhand (from Bihar) and Chhattisgarh (from Madhya Pradesh) and Uttarakhand (from UP). In these cases, the government’s stance was that smaller states would make for easier governance. Agreed, but, if the trend continues won’t we be reduced to a motley collection of states based on regional identities, favouring insular existence where a person from another state would be treated as a ‘foreigner’.
Even though it may be politically motivated, but when there is resentment against migrant labourers from UP and Bihar residing in Mumbai, you have to admit something is amiss. For one, a nation divided within could be a sitting duck for any real foreign invasions and it’s an open secret that we don’t have that ‘friendly’ neighbours.
One has nothing against formation of new states as long as it’s based on logical considerations like good governance. But when it becomes just an excuse for politicians to garner votes by allowing divisions based on regionalism, it rings an alarm bell. Also, in recent past, some of the states have demanded greater autonomy.
History repeats itself – maybe a cliché but one which one fears may prove to be true, if we keep moving on the path of regionalism and communalism. Study the struggle for Indian independence and you will find that it were these very evils that the freedom fighters had first to deal with, before making the British quit. Despite their ideological differences, the freedom fighters called for a united India – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Once we achieved independence, the princely states were abolished to ensure a “federal constitutional republic governed by a Parliamentary setup” and not independent entities joined together, which may have weakened the nation in the long run.
Now, more than six decades after independence we seem to be back on the path to self-destruction as regional identity overtakes national identity. If things get out of hand, a civil war may ensue. European and American history is full of examples where developing nations were torn apart due to civil war making them an easy prey for the mightier nations.
The need of the hour is for some constructive solutions to the problem. For example, given the growing size of the movement and consequent lack of law and order and loss of lives, the government took an initiative in 2009 to tackle the Naxal operations through community policing and trying to absorb the rebels into the mainstream society through better job opportunities and education. Way better a solution, rather than coercing the separatists into falling in line.
More importantly, though things are bad right now, but we as citizens have to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to these problems. It’s a democracy and the power to choose lies with the people of India. The stress should be on staying united and thinking of oneself as the citizen of a country and not any one region. After all, if the citizens say no to prejudices, half the battle is already won.