India's backing for new state ups the stakes in the battle for Hyderabad

Campaign for a new Indian state want the IT hub as their capital

Hyderabad

It has served as both a home to ancient kings and a base to a dynamic, modern IT industry. Now, the city of Hyderabad is in the grip of a fierce political battle, the effects of which have reverberated across India.

This week, protesters in the east of Andhra Pradesh (AP), the state of which Hyderabad is the capital, have been burning effigies of politicians and closing down towns after the ruling Congress party announced its wish to divide AP to create a new state called Telangana. 

The protesters in the east argue that they share the same local language as their cousins in the west – Telugu – and that there is no real need to split AP. But their most pressing concern is the future of Hyderabad, the booming urban jewel that generates more than half the revenues collected by the local government and which would be lost to them under the new proposals.

“This is why they are protesting,” said Srinivas Ayyadevara, president of the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “The issue is not about parting the waves or geography, it’s a question about what happens in Hyderabad.”

The struggle for a separate state of Telangana dates back to even before the creation of AP, which was established in two stages in the 1950s out of territory previously governed by the large, unwieldy Madras state and Hyderabad. From 1724 to 1948 Hyderabad was ruled by the Muslim Nizam, or king, who was once one of the richest men in the world. It was one of more than 500 “princely states” eventually incorporated into the new India.

But in recent years the people of Telangana have complained of discrimination at the hands of politicians from the east of AP and say they have lost out when it comes to jobs, government services and education. They argue they have also suffered because under the rule of the Nizam the official language was Urdu, whereas in the east of AP, which was then under British rule, official business was conducted in English.

As Hyderabad has grown and its economy blossomed – with a population of seven million it is now India’s fourth largest city – so the campaign for a separate Telangana, in which it is located, has gathered pace. Since 1969, hundreds of people have died in clashes, protests and even hunger strikes.

“There are many practical benefits to a new state,” said KT Rama Rao, an elected politician with pro-split Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party, who is also the son of its president. “The revenue collected within Telangana will be spent in Telangana. Now, we do not have roads, we do not have clean water.”

Mr Rao, whose party offices were on Friday still filled with bouquets of flowers and pink celebratory balloons, said data from other recently-created Indian states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, suggested their economics had benefitted from breaking away from their “parents”.

He acknowledged too, that this week’s announcement over Telangana would encourage other “new state” movements within India. Indeed, following the announcement there have been fresh demands for statehood from the Gorkha area of West Bengal, various communities in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Bodo tribespeople of Assam. Protests in Assam have led to the closing down of towns and transport links and extra security personnel have been rushed to the area.

The announcement by the Congress party and its national leader, Sonia Gandhi, to support a new Telangana, appears to have been made for purely political reasons ahead of general elections scheduled to take place next year.

Already facing an uphill struggle to secure a third term, the party has been concerned about losing support in AP to a local, break-away faction and was worried that the main national opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its charismatic but controversial leader, Narendra Modi, had made clear their plan to support a new Telangana state.

As it is, many of the local politicians who have resigned this week in protest over the announcement from Delhi have been members of the Congress party itself. Other parties which risk losing support from voters in different parts of the state are simply putting off making an announcement on whether or not they support the move.

Activists say those politicians opposed to the creation of Telangana are acting out of self-interest because they have invested heavily in property and business in Hyderabad. But the politicians dismiss this claim.

“I have no property in Hyderabad. I live in the politicians’ official quarters,” said Payyavula Keshav, a member of the Telugu Desam Party who resigned this week from his seat in the local assembly.

"If they split the state, we will be left with no money. All the development that has taken place has been centred in Hyderabad.”

Ordinary people appear divided along geographical lines, and perhaps on economic status A 50-year-old mason called Narsimha, waiting for a bus on Friday evening, said he supported Telangana because it would enable his son to get a job.

Meanwhile, Sirusha Amarnath, a businesswoman originally from the east but who had been based in Hyderabad for 25 years, said she saw little benefit from the split. “We have just got the city decent,” she said. “Why spend more on a new capital?”

The Congress party has suggested that Hyderabad could be a common capital for the two states for the next ten years, by which time a new capital will have been found for the east. As it is, nothing can happen until a formal bill is passed by India’s two houses of parliament, something that is by no means certain.

Activists in Telangana say they will not celebrate until the bill is passed; in 2009 the Congress previously announced its support for a new state, only for the move to go nowhere.

This time, however, the Congress says things are different. Digvijaya Singh, the senior Congress leader who announced the proposal, said this week on social media: “[The] division of a state, like a division of a family, is an unpleasant decision but a time comes when it has to be done in the interests of both.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there