Connect to share and comment

Analysis: Separatist movement in India grows bloodier

Ever heard of Telangana? You will soon if things get much worse in the booming tech center of Hyderabad.

Students carry the body of their colleague, who committed suicide over the delay in carving a new state of "Telangana" out of Andhra Pradesh state, during a protest rally in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Jan. 20, 2010. At least a dozen students were injured as they clashed with police in southern India during a shutdown of the IT hub Hyderabad last month, in a fresh burst of protests over the creation of a new state. (Krishnendu Halder/Reuters)

BANGALORE, India — In recent months Hyderabad, a booming technology center in southeastern India, has turned into a violent battle zone and the chief bone of dispute over the creation of a separate Indian state called Telangana.

Those fighting for Telangana have proposed a boundary that includes Hyderabad, a modern, thriving Indian city. The city is home to large facilities of multinationals such as Google, Oracle, Dell and Microsoft.

Hyderabad, an example of the country’s recent economic success, is currently the capital of the existing Andhra Pradesh state. Some 6 million of its residents are now caught in the crossfire, as mobs have burned buses, and attacked offices and malls in the city.

Regionalism has long been the bane of a vast and populous India where development has been in spells and bursts and progress, therefore, largely uneven. “Economic reasons dominate in the demand for creating new states,” says Supriya Roy Chowdhury, a professor at Bangalore’s Institute for Social and Economic Change.

The Manmohan Singh government in New Delhi is facing deep censure for its sudden decision to cave in to pressure tactics by giving in to demands for the creation of a new state. The leader of the separatist Telangana movement had gone on a Mahatma Gandhi-like fast-unto-death. After 11 days the New Delhi government feared for his life.

But the government’s appeasement tactic may backfire and open the proverbial Pandora’s Box. At least six separatist groups across India are now demanding the creation of new states.

In the last few years, Hyderabad has been trying hard to play catch-up with its neighbor Bangalore, India’s technology hub. Hyderabad’s gleaming modern airport and new flyovers and expressways have changed the face of the city.

But the city has faced a series of setbacks recently. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, in whose time the city was christened “Cyberabad” because of its hi-tech progress and aggressive investment-seeking tactics abroad, was defeated soundly in an election.