The Chandigarh Tribune recently (January 23) carried a story that makes one cry. It would seem that Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi commenting on the demand for a separate Telangana said that ?it is a sin to cut up the country or states into pieces (because) it is not good for the country or for the people?.
The comment obviously was made in all good faith. Sai Baba had donated Rs 200 crore from a trust under his name to complete a project to bring the waters of the Krishna River from Andhra to Chennai which was a major contribution. A function had been organised in Chennai to felicitate him and his remarks were not intended to hurt anybody. But obviously those who want a separate Telangana state could not stomach Sai Baba'scomments and are reported to have made some extremely insulting remarks.
A Congress MP and active protagonist of Telangana Madhu Yashki Goud reportedly wanted to know whether Sai Baba knew anything about the problems of the Telangana people and of the ?flouride issue in the Nalgonda area?. May be he does, may be he doesn?t. The issue is much simpler. Is there a genuine need for further division of existing states? Uttar Pradesh was considered too large and it presented a genuine problem. It was resolved amicably. Bihar presented a similar problem. That too, hopefully has been resolved to everyone'ssatisfaction.
The first thing that we must realise and accept is that India is a composite nation. The British, following their conquest, set up their ?Presidencies? without giving any thought to linguistic or ethnic issues. After Independence, and after much discussion and argument the concept of linguistic states came to be accepted. In Kerala, Malayalam speaking Muslims wanted a district with their own majority. It was a wrong demand but a communist-run government conceded it. At the rate in which dalits are being beaten-up, a time may come when they may demand dalit-majority districts of their own. When will all this stop? We all know what happened at Khairlanjis where a dalit woman was stripped and assaulted.
According to a survey made some time ago by the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), in India, on an average two dalits are assaulted every hour, three dalit women are raped every day, two dalits are murdered and two dalit houses burnt down everyday. And this is happening to a community that forms 19.8 per cent India'spopulation. One out of every five Indians is a dalit. If we accept the Telanganist logic, we will soon have to set-up separate districts for dalits. Where will all this end? This is a country with over 22 major languages and a hundred times more dialects but which has survived for over ten thousand years and no doubt will survive till eternity come. But we can'tleave it at that. This is where we need the right kind of leadership that goes beyond party lines.
There is more anxiety among our leaders for power than for working for social integrity. Politics in India is no longer ideology-based. Stated in simple terms, it is caste-based and we should be ashamed of ourselves. This is a fact known to everybody and one has only to study the situation in states like Uttar Pradesh or even Karnataka to realise how we have divided and sub-divided ourselves without the slightest hesitation.
Actually we are revelling in our caste distinctions. During the old Congress regime in Gujarat, the party was openly spelling out its political strategy of appealing to KHAM?Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims. When will this kind of political criminality ever stop? Time was when in Mumbai the Shiv Sena was opposed to the presence of so-called madrassis. In Assam, ULFA wants no Hindi-speaking labour.
If ULFA has gone into organisational murder, one has to hark back to 1979-80 when Parliamentary elections were held on the basis of 1979 electoral rolls which had been highly inflated by the inclusion of Bangladeshi infiltrators. Such was the resentment amongst Assamese that a mass movement erupted. If Assam has to have peace all the Bangladeshi migrants who are detected and declared illegal foreigners must be deported.
Now we hear that Kashmir is for Kashmiris. When are we going to bring this childish behaviour to an end? When is India going to be for Indians? But to go back to Telangana for a while. The charges are that it is a neglected area. Surprisingly enough, when linguistic states were in the offing, the central leadership?then it was Congress?was not in favour of Vishal Andhra. In October 1953 no less than Nehru himself criticised the concept as ?bearing the tint of ?expansionist imperialism???whatever that meant. But subsequently he was to change his views due to pressures from the leaders of the Andhra region.
It may be remembered that in the early fifties, seven out of ten Congress committees and 73 out of 105 Congress delegates were in favour of the formation of a Telangana state. The State Executive of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and ten members of Parliament also lent their support to the demand for the formation of Telangana. In the end the voice of the leaders from coastal Andhra Pradesh prevailed.
It was stated that they wanted easier access to the coal available at Singerni in the Telangana area. The proponents of Telangana felt that their homeland was being exploited, even as many in Assam think that the rest of India is exploiting Assamese oil reserves without adequately compensating the Assamese people. This is a matter for deep study and sympathetic understanding.
What we need is a committee to study the availability of various resources in different states, the manner in which they are utilised and the ways in which the reservoir states are made to feel that they are properly compensated and not just robbed. As for Telangana the feeling is that it has been converted ?into an internal colony as a result of the economic development process pursued by successive governments?. As has been noted in Economic and Political Weekly ?the movement for separate statehood seeks to articulate the demand for a fair share of the resources?. Fair enough. And that applies not just to Telangana but to Assam and other areas as well. We don'tneed a Sachar Committee but a committee of scholars who can look at all issues fairly, keeping in mind the essential unity of India. All problems have solutions; What is needed is objectivity, not running down people or sending armed forces to put down dissension. Down the centuries we have been one nation. And so we will continue to be.