Celebrations in southern India greeted the creation of the new state of Telangana. DW takes a look at the history of an event which marks the culmination of a separatist campaign going back nearly six decades.
"India gets a new state! We welcome Telangana as our 29th state. Telangana will add strength to our development journey in the coming years," India's newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday, June 2.
Celebrations across Telangana - which comprises 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh and has a population of 35 million - erupted at the stroke of midnight, with a fireworks display lighting up the skies over Hyderabad. The city will remain the capital of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for the next 10 years.
Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, who at one stage went on hunger strike as part of the push to create what is India's 29th state, was sworn in as chief minister during a morning ceremony in Hyderabad on Monday, June 2. But the campaign leading to the birth of the new state in one of India's most economically deprived regions has been overshadowed by a decades-long political struggle.
Even on the day the creation of the state was to be decided by the Indian parliament, lawmakers used pepper-spray inside the building, uprooted microphones and entered into brawls in order to prevent a single bill from passing. Yet despite the chaos, both houses of the parliament approved legislation which carved out Telangana from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which until June 2 used to be the country's fifth-most populous state with around 84 million people.
The Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 when the government decided to merge the land-locked Telangana and Seemandhra regions. This marked the beginning of the reorganization of Indian states on the grounds of shared language. However, the move was met with growing resistance over the years.
Campaigners for a separate Telangana state had claimed that their region was marginalized and neglected by the government of the unified state. Moreover, disagreements over power sharing and economic opportunities in the state had led to a rift between the people.
According to P. Muthaiah, a political science professor at the Hyderabad-based Osmania University, young people in the Telangana region felt they were being deprived of employment opportunities. "They had the feeling they got neither their share of government jobs nor their due share of water," Muthaiah told DW.
The existing tensions were only exacerbated by intrastate migration, according to a report commissioned by the Indian government. The study states that residents of Telangana had grown frustrated over the large number of people from the coastal Andhra region who took up government jobs originally assigned to them.
This development added fuel to the claims of Telangana campaigners that only statehood would lead to increased employment opportunities for local people.
After years of protests, hunger strikes and a string of suicides in the region, the federal government in New Delhi declared separate statehood in 2009, but retracted shortly after in the face of massive protests in other parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Future of Hyderabad
The issue had polarized public opinion, with people from Seemandhra opposing the state's division with equal fervor, fearing that a separation would result in water shortages and fewer jobs for the people from the coastal region.
The creation of the new state has made them particularly worried about losing the capital Hyderabad, a thriving metropolis with a booming IT sector hosting global tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Dell as well as a bio-tech industry. The city, which is the prime contributor to the state's revenue, is located in Telangana.
Although the two states are to share Hyderabad as their capital for at least the next 10 years, the metropolis is to remain part of Telangana thereafter, while the Seemandhra region is expected to develop its own capital.
To ease those worries, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a host of measures for Seemandhra, including a development package and tax incentives."I hope these additional announcements will demonstrate our steadfast commitment to not just the creation of Telangana, but also to the continued prosperity and welfare of Seemandhra," Singh said, according to the Indian news agency PTI.
More states ahead?
Telangana is not an isolated case in the South Asian nation where the list of political movements fighting to forge their own state along ethnic, linguistic or economic lines is quite long.
Analysts therefore believe that the decision to grant separate statehood could re-energize other secessionist agitations, ranging from Vidharba in the western state of Maharashtra to Gorkhaland in the eastern state of West Bengal.
"There needs to be a rational, thoughtful roadmap for revisiting the logic of the current division of states rather than ad hoc decisions based on political interests, Milan Vaishnav, a South Asia expert at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW.