Sri Bala Subrahmanyam’s ‘Euphoria over Small States and the Other Side of the Coin’ is well written, and makes a good attempt at countering the demands for a separate state. But it remains at that. The article makes selective use of history, employs twisted logic and fails to understand the dynamics of various movements for statehood in this country.
Coming at this juncture, I am sure this article aims the separate Telangana agitation. So I would take that example to counter this article.
First and foremost is the author’s deliberate attempt to confuse (or is the author himself is confused?) the reader by equating separate statehood movements with the so called separatism and secession.
He tells us that these demands for a seprate state might eventually ‘mature’ into demands for a separate country.
No, Bala Subrahmanyam gaaru, the demand for a separate statehood will never lead to a demand for a separate country. On the contrary, stretching the one language-one nationality theory too far will definitely jeopardise the unity of a multilingual country like India. If you can recall, Tamilians have already started demanding something similiar in 1950s itself. We all know about a Telugu blogger who is actively campaigning for a separate Telugu Nation.
Is language the only basis for statehood? Should’nt we also take other factors such as the history, culture, traditions before creating states?
The 1961 census found that there are 1652 ‘mother tongues’ in India. There are 216 languages spoken by atleast 10000 people in our country. Why is that we have only 35 states and union territories in all? If we follow the writer’s logic of linguistic states we should be having 216 states right?
Almost 13 states and UTs in our country have more than one recognised official languages. Are these states not stable?
And when the writer asks “Why this sudden separatism?’, we cannot but sympathise with Mr Bala’s short term memory. The separate statehood demand of Telangana, for example, is older than the state of Andhra Pradesh itself. It has withstood 50 long years of betrayal by politicians of all hues. And to call this long fight as a sudden happening is either a deliberate attempt to discredit the movement or a show of ignorance.
On page 2, the writer presents us with a lofty theory, that ‘political entities, confronted with intellectual bankruptcy (!) in the wake of globally sweeping market economy (sic), are in search of ‘fresh issues’ to make ‘headlines in the media’. The logic was good. But it doesnt belong to this topic. An issue like ‘Ram Mandir’ might fit the bill, but not a movement for separate Telangana.
Separate Telangaana movement is not the result of the ‘quest for headlines’ of a bunch of ‘intellectually bankrupt politicians’. It is the just demand of crores of Telanganites. It is a different matter that greedy politicians did try to gain mileage out of the movement. But thats the way politicians are. We all know that isn’t it?
When the writer says that a proliferation of small states helps political parties to cling to power somewhere in the country either independently or in a coalation’, he forgets the logic that any big political party hates the idea of dealing with too many small parties and coalations. They would like bigger states. They always like centralized power centres. That makes their bargaining and ruling easy. For a ‘ruling party’, dealing with one Naidu or Reddy is easier than dealing with a bunch of them.
When the writer feels bad that ‘the Centre views States as mere administrative units, and not as ‘manifestations of cultural aspirations of various sub-nations in the country’, I am realy surprised. He could understand the ‘cultural aspirations of sub-nations (states), but has no regard what so ever for similar aspirations of a region? Why is he selective in his reasoning and understanding?
Bala argues that a ‘linguistic state is sacro-sanct and cannot be touched’. But he seems to have no regard for this country and the central government. He calls the nation a ‘dignified municipality’, and concludes that it cannot be compared with ‘an independent republic of soveriegn powers’. Then why is it that the proponents of linguistic states always ask us to look at various European nations that have been formed on linguistic basis?
If our country cannot be compared with other nations because it is a ‘dignified municipality’ (whatever that means), then how can we compare a state which is also a part of that dignified municipality?
The argument that ‘small states’ like Telangana will not progress has been answered time and again. But people like Bala Subrahmanyam continue to rely on half-truths and naked lies. I would like to reiterate once again that Telangana is not a ‘small state’. 18 states in our country are smaller than Telangana region.
And while there are dozens of ‘small’ countries that are developing, the writer shows us Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and tries to prove that ‘small’ countries will stay poor!
After telling us the whole story, Bala himself commits that ‘the parameters to determine the optimum smallness are vague’. Then why argue on that plank of small and large states at all?
And to say that small states like Telangana are not economically vialble is another big fat lie. People might remember that the erstwhile Hyderabad State had a revenue surplus when it was merged with Andhra State. Ironically, it was the Andhra state which had a deficit budget. So, no worries here Mr. Bala!
The article’s conclusion is rather ironic. The writer talks of ‘nations’ fiddling with boundaries’. Re-organization of states cannot be termed as ‘fiddling with boundaries’ in any way. The writer states that ‘long term unity and integration should not be sacrificed at the altar of petty development issues’.
Ah!…no wonder that these issues look ‘petty’ to people like Bala. When a whole region was neglected for five decades, and there are umpteen number of examples to prove that neglect, its sad that all this looks petty to the author.
(Minor edits to the original post were made on 16th May 2008)