On July 31st, the decades-long dream of a separate state within India for the Telugu nationality came close to reality, as a committee of the country’s ruling Congress Party made a unanimous recommendation to the central government that the state of Andhra Pradesh be partitioned, so as to create a new ethnically defined state called Telangana.
But now some fear that this concession has opened a Pandora’s Box. The Telengana-statehood movement is only one of many throughout India, including a dense thicket of tribal groups pining for the creation of new federal subdivisions in the far-northeastern “Seven Sisters” region by the border with Burma.
|Over 1,000 Telugus since 2009 have preferred to die consumed in flames|
than consent to being part of Andhra Pradesh.
|The districts in Maharashtra which wish to split away|
as the state of Vidarbha are shown shaded in this map.
|Bodo protesters have shut down rail service in Assam state.|
Meanwhile, a long violent insurgency by members of the related Kuki and Mizo ethnic groups envisions a Kukiland state carved out of their homeland, which spreads across six of India’s northeastern states. The Kuki and Mizo, who are related to the Chin people just over the border in Burma (Myanmar), regard themselves as descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, the Tribe of Menasseh. Anthropologists, folklorists, and geneticists have found their claims credible, though by appearance they resemble fellow speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages. Many expect that Kuki nationalists, some of whom demand a fully independent state, may be the next to follow the Telugu example and throw their hats in the ring.
However, it is the Telangana movement that has some of the fiercest nationalist emotions behind it. Hyderabad, including much of the Telugu homeland, was the largest of the literally scores of autonomous “princely states” that co-existed under the period of British suzerainty over the subcontinent. When British India was divided into predominantly-Hindu India and predominantly-Muslim Pakistan at independence in 1947, Hyderabad’s Muslim monarch, Osman Ali Khan, who ruled over millions of Hindus, declared independence from both the United Kingdom and the new Indian nation of which he did not want to be a part. But Hyderabad was forcibly absorbed into the new country. In 1956, when the Indian government reorganized its internal borders, pains were taken to make sure that Hyderabadi nationalist feeling was not strengthened. Hyderabad state was abolished, with some of its territories going to Karnataka state and some going to Bombay state (which later subdivided into Gujarat and Maharashtra), while Telugu areas were attached to Andhra Pradesh. For Telugus, this is not a minor issue: more than 1,000 Telugu protesters have died from self-immolation since 2009 in protests over the statehood question.
|Osman Ali Khan, Hyderabad’s last monarch,|
wanted Telangana and other parts of his dominions out of India entirely.
|This is how many people in Andhra Pradesh feel about the idea of Telangana state.|
|Areas where Dravidian languages are spoken|
|Proposed new states within India: how much subdivision is too much?|