Fallout of Telangana ఆగస్ట్ 4, 2013Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in regionalism, Telangana.
Tags: 29th state, Bodoland, Gorkhaland, Karbianglong
The Fallout of Telangana
Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Governance, 2 August 2013
Hours after the Centre announced the creation of Telangana, reams and reams of analytical copy have been printed on the necessity of another state, the implication of the split and the political convenience of such decisions. As an afterthought, some have mentioned Gorkhaland and later Bodoland but I am yet to find even a passing reference to Karbianglong. The first “land” is a contested space in West Bengal and the latter two are disturbed areas of Assam and all three have been demanding separate states.
Gorkhaland is tense with the renewed statehood demand which will intensify over the next few weeks. The strategic location of both Gorkhaland and Bodoland ensures that the rest of India’s northeast gets paralysed by the strikes and agitation programmes. There is an indefinite strike in Gorkhaland which essentially means Sikkim and North Bengal is hit. From Friday evening, the Bodoland strike comes into effect with a “rail rook”. A statewide bandh has been planned along with a 1000-hour economic blockade – a perfect throwback to the Eighties and Nineties. In Karbinaglong which happens to be one of the largest districts in the country, the army had to be called in to calm the protests for statehood in which 23-year-old Rajiv Senar was shot dead in police firing. Twelve others were injured. This would be the first death in this round of statehood demands which unfortunately failed to qualify for news tickers on well-informed television channels or newspapers.
Why are these three stories important? Simply because too many lives have been lost. Books and reports on these movements have utterly failed to document the number of people who were killed, lives snubbed out without a trace, assets and property destroyed and the exodus of “non-indigenous” people following intimidation and quit notices. Nobody has ever questioned the human rights abuses that took place in these places under the banner of sub-national assertion.
“Dorjeeling” once belonged to the Raja of Sikkim. The British wanted to occupy the region and make it their company outpost. The Raja gifted them the tract of land – which was apparently of little use to him. The movement for Gorkhaland started turning extremely violent by 1987. In 1988, the agitators signed an agreement with the government of India and the state government for a semi-autonomous territory. The tryst with autonomy continued with intermittent violence till an arrangement was agreed upon with a rider – if Telangana was granted, they would revive their agitation which invariably results in violence. Without wasting any time, the violence in the region has already started.
The demand for a separate Bodo state started way back in 1967 when they wanted to name it Udayachal. In 1987, the campaign for “Divide Assam 50/50” started. Since then two major armed groups were formed and hundreds of people were killed, maimed or forced to disappear. Lakhs were hounded out. Passenger trains were bombed. Two of independent India’s worst ethnic riots took place here. One was as recently as 2012. All for a separate Bodoland.
The contested subnational narrative echoes itself in every corner of the country. In Assam, Karbianglong is another stretch of forested underdeveloped autonomous territory. It wants a state and given its record of violence and presence of arms the situation can slip out of control instantly.
The Central government is obviously aware of the fallout that the creation of Telangana will have and they are ready to witness the sacrifice of sub-nationalists but will refuse to claim responsibility for any “disruption to normal life”. But it is important for the media to emphasise the history of such movements and the risk of sparking yet another phase of mindless killing.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org