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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.

Then, Ramalinga Raju, the high-profile founder-chairman of the city’s iconic outsourcing firm called Satyam Computer was jailed and is being tried for a fraud running into billions of dollars.

To make matters worse, the recent violence has only diminished Hyderabad’s brand value. “There are apprehensions that investors will flee the city but this will be only a short-term concern,” says Amarnath Menon, a veteran Hyderabad-based journalist.

Lawmakers and citizens in Andhra Pradesh are very much divided over the formation of Telangana. Two-thirds of the assembly is required to vote to pass the resolution for creating a new Telangana. But half of the these threatened to resign.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party, which rules in Delhi, also runs the Andhra Pradesh government with a majority in the state assembly. Even the Congress Party’s own lawmakers are now opposing the carving out of Telangana.

At the root of the problem is the contrast between the flourishing Hyderabad, and the underdeveloped and drought-prone Telangana. The demand for a separate state and fair treatment dates back several decades.

Meanwhile, separatist movements demanding the breakup of existing regions into at least half-dozen more states are rearing up in different corners of India. In India’s tea-producing hills of Darjeeling, a movement for a separate state called Gorkhaland has suddenly received a fresh lease of life.

Other movements such as the Bodoland movement in the northeastern Assam state and the Vidharba movement in central Maharashtra state have also been revived. In the desert state of Rajasthan in the west, some of its residents are demanding a new state of Maru Pradesh.

But India’s original federalization process, by which the country was sliced into states along linguistic lines for better administration, has served it well. In fact, as recently as the year 2000, three new states were formed in northern India to take the total states up to 28.

Yet, there is the increasing feeling in parts of India that more slicing and dicing is necessary to make up for years of neglect. These regions trail in development indices when compared to the neighboring districts or even the national average.

Experts feel that smaller states are easier to administer. Political representation is ensured. Capital and resources can be spread more evenly to ensure development.

Regional movements are on the rise but there is no danger that India will disintegrate as a country, says Roy Chowdhury.

The process is obviously fraught with dangers. As in the case of Hyderabad, sharing large assets such as a well-developed city or river water could be a source of violence and conflict.