Editor's Note: A fierce campaign is underway to split the Telugu speaking Indian state of Andhra Pradesh into two states in India. While the agitation has predictably raised the political temperature in India, both at the state and federal level, Indians in the US (who include a sizable number from Andhra Pradesh) are also weighing in on the contentious issue.
The Indian American Telugu community appears to be divided over the proposed split of Andhra Pradesh into the new state of Telangana.
The Government of India announced Dec. 9 that it plans to carve out a new state from the southern entity, triggering a series of agitations throughout Andhra Pradesh and in Delhi.
In interviews with India-West, Indian American supporters of the proposed new state argue that the region’s 10 districts have long been ignored and that its population is suffering at the hands of its more politically-connected neighbors.
Furthermore, the affluence of tech-city Hyderabad has been siphoned off to other areas, along with water resources from the region’s two rivers, say supporters, adding that the new state must include that prosperous city.
But others say the state should not be divided, as its regions all share both a cultural and linguistic unity.
More than 500 Indian Americans gathered in Piscataway, New Jersey, Dec. 20 to show support for a united Andhra Pradesh. The organization, which dubs itself Samaikhya Andhra, adopted a resolution urging the Government of India to withdraw its support for the bifurcation of the southern state.
The resolution also urged the governments of India and Andhra Pradesh to restore normalcy to the state, which has been rocked by the news that the central government was considering carving up the area. The decree called for the government to establish a platform for discussion and an amicable solution of the issue.
“A handful of people are attempting to divide this beautiful state,” Vijaya Asuri, a resident of Fremont, Calif., told India-West.
Asuri, a banker with Wells Fargo, hails from Vijayawada and lived in several parts of Andhra Pradesh for more than 25 years before immigrating to the U.S. in 1980.
“I never felt any difference between the people of the state,” she added.
“Andhra Pradesh has emerged as the number one state in the country in the past few years,” said Asuri. “Dividing the state would bring down its name and the prosperity of the state,” she said.
Prasad Mangina, president of the Bay Area Telugu Association, echoed Asuri’s statements. The organization has not taken a stand on the issue, said Mangina, because “BATA feels that all sentiments should be honored and our membership is from all parts of the state.” BATA represents the more than 20,000 natives of Andhra Pradesh who reside in the Bay Area, possibly the largest concentration in the U.S.
Personally, however, Mangina felt it was the wrong time to think about carving up the prosperous state.
“Andhra Pradesh is a very strong state right now,” he said. “Everyone is very involved in developing Hyderabad. But once you start dividing up the region, sentiments will be hurt, which could result in a short-term backlash against investment in that city,” said Mangina.
“Unity is best for the state,” he asserted.
But supporters of the bifurcation say that residents of the proposed new state have long been denied the resources of their region.
“This area has been neglected by governments for nearly five decades,” Vijay Chawa, chairman of the Telangana Cultural Association, told India-West.
The TCA is a cultural association and has not taken a formal stance on the issue, said Chawa, adding that he, however, personally supported the creation of a new state.
One of the main issues is water, said Chawa. The Godavari and Krishna rivers both run through Telangana, which also houses the dams for those tributaries. But 70 percent of the water is siphoned off to the Andhra area, leaving the farmers of Telangana without irrigation for their farms and the people of the area without potable drinking water.
Residents of Telangana also lack representation in national politics, claimed Chawa, noting that the state’s politicians have largely come from the Andhra area. A separate state would create a closer administrative body that can tackle the issues of the 10 districts of Telangana, he said.
Chawa also wants special reservations for residents of Telangana to secure the area’s jobs and university seats.
The Telangana Development Forum, based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has been actively lobbying members of India’s Parliament and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself for the creation of a new state, Ramesh Chilla, secretary of the Telangana Development Forum, told India-West.
“Whatever resources are created in Telangana should be used to develop Telangana,” he said, noting that coal, water and economic resources have all been diverted away from the region.