Divided it stands
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The Congress must negotiate a solution to Telangana, instead of trying to put a lid on it
Telangana tensions returned to Hyderabad, as thousands of protestors marched to the state capital on Sunday, clashing with the police. The Kiran Kumar Reddy government looked riven, and ministers from the region planned their strategy, visibly conflicted as they chose which side of the barricades they would be on.
The agitation for a separate Telangana is not a simple assertion of difference and independence. As a region that sees itself as historically held back, economically disadvantaged and culturally denigrated, it is also a demand for a better future. Instead of responding to the range of grievances that the movement represented, the Congress saw it as a problem to be sorted out with maximum political advantage to itself. It has not only taken a purely instrumental approach to Telangana, it has done so with remarkable clumsiness. In 2009, it rashly promised a separate state, because it could not find another way to respond to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi's hunger strike. Then, daunted by the conflicting surges of hope and resistance it has set off in Andhra Pradesh, the Centre sat back for a couple of years, waiting for the Srikrishna committee to analyse the matter with greater rigour. The committee recommended keeping the state intact, but focusing on special developmental redress for Telangana. With its protracted wavering over the last few years, the Congress has aggravated schisms that have existed almost as long as the current state of Andhra Pradesh — if Telangana can have its own address, what is to stop Rayalaseema from wanting the same, and coastal Andhra? What happens to Hyderabad, physically attached to the Telangana hinterland but also a magnet for more diverse aspirations?
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