One of the most significant movements of recent times in the India has been the agitation for a separate state of Telengana. The movement that started out in the 1960s with a bloody uprising of students and peasants came to a conclusion some weeks ago with the cabinet decision passed for the separation of Telengana from Andhra Pradesh, forming two separate federal states.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to vigorous agitation from those who want an undivided Andhra Pradesh including the districts of Telengana. But if we only analysed the parties and groups involved in this agitation we would be using a superficial and artificial perspective on the massive movements taking place among the people, and only blind ourselves to the real dynamics beneath the surface.
The entire history of the Telengana province and of the political struggles in Andhra Pradesh reveals a continuum of failures of bourgeois political solutions for the people of both Andhra and Telengana. The present situation in Andhra is no different and only reflects this failure more glaringly. All the major parties, from the ultra-right to the Stalinist (and even the Maoist) left, have only proposed one kind of pro-capitalist solution or another. None have proposed a socialist solution calling for a government of workers and poor peasants and tribals running the region themselves in their own best interests and for their own and incidentally everyone’s benefit.
The root cause of the struggle
The 1930s and the 1940s saw a mass awakening in the Indian sub-continent. The working class emerged as a serious political force in the affairs of India. The peninsular South was not immune from this, and the emergent bourgeoisie around Seema Andhra was drawn into the national anti-colonial movement. The workers and peasants eventually entered the stage under the communist party and the movement grew to be irresistible.
The peasants overwhelmingly supported the bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra, but this was only because they welcomed and were ready to fight for the anti-colonial and anti-feudal agenda of the pro-independence bourgeoisie (at that time led by the Congress party). The roots of the agitation were deep in this anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggle, whose highest point was probably the Telengana rebellion of 1946. The peasant rebellion was in essence anti-feudal in nature and had an agrarian agenda. The core questions of land reform and rural welfare were topmost on the agenda upon the abolition of the feudal Hyderabad Nizamat. But the defeat of the Telengana uprising by the Indian army that forced Hyderabad into the Indian union under the Congress government destroyed any hope of the people themselves being able to resolve these burning questions of the democratic revolution. The Stalinists gave up the revolutionary struggle the moment they shunned the armed uprising in favor of a parliamentary approach within the bourgeois Indian state. Ultimately the caricature of the democratic revolution that was bourgeois Independence was replayed with equal brutality and neglect of popular needs in the provinces of Telengana and Andhra.
The merger of Telengana and Andhra arose from the demand of a united province for Telegu speaking people, in which the regions of Rayalseema and Telengana would be included, both of them vastly poorer than the Seema Andhra region. The natural reaction of the people of these provinces was fear and suspicion on the domination of the bourgeoisie, and subsequent experience did not improve relations between the people of any of the provinces concerned. The capitalist model of development not only preserved the inequalities between the two provinces but exacerbated it. A nouveau-riche bourgeoisie based in Telengana soon took advantage of these sentiments and channelized them into self-interested regionalism. The Stalinists had long since become irrelevant as a relevant political force in Telengana and Andhra having failed the agrarian revolution in 1946. The bourgeoisie led by the Congress was now indisputably the chief political force and devoted itself to exploiting, misdirecting and repressing the struggles of the peasants and youth who constitute the most potent social force behind the agitation.
There is no lack of revolutionary energy among the masses of unemployed and pauperized youth and peasantry, they are ready and willing to fight and sacrifice everything for their cause. But in the absence of revolutionary leadership, their entire potential has been drawn off into a narrow regionalist agenda that is permanently and completely detached from the real interests of the people.
The political forces and their role
The main political force in Telengana is the bourgeoisie organized around the Congress party, and their role is truly national in scale. A perspective that views the Telengana movement from the perspective of Andhra and Telengana alone cannot understand the reality of the situation in the region. The Congress party became the undisputed leading political force after militarily crushing the Communist party and remains so till today.
The decisive victory of the bourgeoisie in crushing the first Telengana rebellion and its unbroken control over the united Andhra movement ensured lasting domination. Through this time, the bourgeoisie’s power rested on its ability to secure the support of the mass of peasants and petty-bourgeois forces around a regionalist agenda where an end to backwardness and regional development were popular catch calls. Students too formed an ideological as well as material backbone of the Telengana movement, providing a strong urban force. But none of the leading bourgeois parties had an agenda that would bring about the betterment of the people they led into battle. It was never long before the mobilizations degenerated into a political game of grabbing the best spoils.
With the fall from power of the Congress party at the central level in the 1990s, the party underwent a series of splits. Bengal and Maharashtra ended up with their own regional Congress parties. Andhra was not immune to this. The internal dissidence of the Congress party leaders over the backwardness of Telengana and the need to keep a united Andhra led to splits from the Congress to create specific regional parties. In this period the Telegu Desam Party emerged as a challenger to the Congress, with the facade of championing the interests of Telegu culture. More recently the Y.S.R Congress emerged from a split within the Congress party. Likewise, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti emerged from the support given by the Indian National Congress to counter the influence of the Telegu Desam Party adding to the chaos of squabbling bourgeois opportunists and fortune-hunters.
The Congress party is ruthlessly determined to rule over both Telengana and Andhra, and the cunning way it plays off various regional interests against each other shows very clearly how little it cares for any of them. Holding aloof and vacillating between keeping the peace between its dissidents and inciting a fight between them has been a cornerstone of Congress Party policy towards Telengana. If they support statehood for Telengana today, it is not with any concern for the people, but as a strategic gambit to grab more seats in the state legislature and the national parliament. The Maoists know only too well the cunning strategy behind the vacillations, a kind of maneouvre which the centrally established bourgeois democrats have perfected in India, as they’ve been severely damaged by it. The Telengana region was a core stronghold of the Naxalite movement in India till the Congress government retook power (with the tacit help of the Maoists, intent on committing political and too often literal suicide by refusing to organize and fight on a principled class-based revolutionary set of demands). Once it was back in power, the Congress unleashed the full force of paramilitaries upon them. Presently, the left is all but exterminated from the political landscape in Andhra and Telengana. Whatever lame-duck presence the Stalinists can muster is only a token blip. This is a lethal and permanent punishment for their betrayal of the Telengana movement and the foolishness of trying to make alliances with bourgeois factions.
The chaotic situation has only gotten worse with the recent emergence of reactionary and obscurantist communal forces offering their support to the Telengana separatist movement. The BJP under Modi seems to be in an unofficial competition with the Congress to support Telengana statehood. Needless to say, this provides yet another destabilizing dynamic to the barrel of nitroglycerine that is Telengana (especially considering the substantial and cruelly victimized Muslim population of Hyderabad) and will only add more blood and agony to the already horrific record of Indian capitalism in Telengana.
The first task of any revolutionary organization in such a situation is to dispel confusion and silence the braying of the bourgeois asses, and to speak clearly on what must be done and why. In supporting the Telengana agitation and backing the creation of a separate state, we do not for a second support any of the bourgeois factions trying to round up the support of the pauperized peasantry for their own selfish ends, but we advance our own programme of demands, based on the immediate material and social needs of the working class and the poor peasantry. We put forward a socialist alternative aimed at breaking the monopoly power of the bourgeoisie (in all its forms) over social production and development.
The proletarian alternative
The policy of the Indian bourgeoisie over the Telengana issue follows the same pattern as everywhere. Hijacking powerful class-based movements, watering down or ignoring the class-based demands that drive the mobilizations, and using the social energy generated by the masses to secure their own selfish, limited interests, often diametrically opposed to those of the masses who bring them to power, and never of any benefit to them at the very least. To this effect, almost all bourgeois parties try their best to suppress the core questions of economic disparity and general impoverishment of the populace and replace them with some vaguely defined concept of ‘identity’. The identity itself is pure opportunism as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. It can be religious, for communalist hooligans, nationalist, for Great India chauvinists, regional, for local discontents, ethnic, gender-based. It doesn’t matter. The aim is too obvious to ignore. In Telengana, they want to give the entire movement a direction which suits the interests of each regional bourgeois leadership. Each wants to get or keep a position of power. The mass power of the people is either corralled to this end, or defused, or derailed. To this sorry state of chaos, revolutionary Bolsheviks present their own alternative based on the core interests of the people.
1) The agrarian question
The social rage generated by the Telengana question is rooted in a more general agrarian question. The question of the land has been central, from the anti-feudal rebellions in Telengana and Andhra to the present situation, where Naxalism had till recently strong and widespread support among the most pauperized sections of the peasantry. The Indian bourgeoisie has sought to resolve this burning democratic question of land reform in an absurdly inadequate fashion. In Piecemeal! The bourgeoisie was never consistent in its fight against the kings and princes of old, and is even less interested in the general material, social and cultural prosperity of the rural populace. We have not the slightest reason to rely on their leadership. They have patently failed us for 60 years and are still blatantly failing us today!
The most immediate and important question is the question of Land. This is a reflection of the needs of the peasantry and the countryside nationwide. It is at the heart of any real solution to India’s problems of modernization and achieving a decent life for all who live and work in India. To resolve the waste and destruction of the countryside by capitalism, we present our agrarian programme which is founded on the Nationalization of Land! Under this scheme, power would flow to the most basic unit of authority in the villages, the gram sabhas which would collectively and cooperatively take responsibility for the land and ensure the fair and equal distribution of land to all. This goes hand in hand with a programme for Abolition of rural debt. Indebtedness is the main driver of rural poverty in the region reflected by the endemic farmer suicides. This needs an urgent answer which only a revolutionary Bolshevik force can provide.
Such a solution not only eliminates disparity in the countryside, but also eradicates indebtedness and low productivity, core causes of impoverishment of the peasantry in general. Equally importantly, it seeks to eliminate the power of the land owning bourgeoisie in the major cities, primarily in Hyderabad which has been fought over like a marrow bone in a dogfight between the bourgeoisies of Andhra and Telengana, much to the detriment of its citizens.
2) The question of uneven development
While all leading political parties have made the question of the disparity between Telengana and Andhra the main focus of the struggle, none have any viable solution for this. Indeed, no bourgeois force can resolve such a question, where their interests are inextricably linked with the preservation of capitalism and furthering their interests on the backs of the workers and peasants. Only the people of both states can settle this question, in an atmosphere of equality and cooperation.
In 1972, the Congress played the lofty arbitrator and mediated an agreement between the leaderships of Telengana and Seema Andhra resulting in the Mulki rules, which gave preference in jobs to locals from the Telengana region. This shows the general ineptitude of the bourgeoisie in resolving any of the burning questions facing the people of the state; as such a solution can only be implemented on condition of permanent acceptance of unemployment, and deprivation. To such a crippled solution revolutionary Bolsheviks counterpose a programme for full employment and equal opportunities! Guaranteed, as such a programme must be, by a plan for nationalized corporations leading the effort at generating full employment and providing opportunities for all. Something which is impossible if the biggest corporations and enterprises remain in the hands of the greedy and parasitical capitalists or their henchmen, allowing them to exploit these assets for their own greedy ends.
But this solution won’t work if it simply targets Telengana and Andhra alone. It has to be part of a national program and we consequently need a total national solution to the regional nightmares bedeviling the whole of India.
Within the regional context, we propose a programme worked out by the people in committees at all levels of the community in full democratic consultation, settled and ratified by public plebiscite to ensure the fair management of water of rivers flowing from Telengana to Andhra as well as the democratic management of electricity supply and needs of Telengana with direct people’s participation. What we propose is not a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which would have no value (we have seen how little such things mean to the bourgeoisie when it smells profits), or any kind of skewed laws like the Mulki rules which only end up compounding the problems they seek to solve, but a concrete solution which seeks to eradicate once and for all the problems facing the people of Telengana and Seema Andhra and set them on the road to making a dignified and prosperous life for themselves.
This however, requires clarity on the overarching immediate demand of the people of Telengana as well as the interests of the oppressed classes in Seema Andhra and Rayalaseema. The merger of Andhra and Telengana in 1956 was not founded upon a popular mandate in Telengana, and was bound to result in gross inequalities between the two states. This could only result in the continuing domination of more enriched Seema Andhra based bourgeoisie. If the same be allowed to continue, the seething discontent *( which has already resulted in 300 self-immolations of youth activists and countless revolts by the people of Telengana, each met with police brutality ending in much bloodshed) would go on without any solution in sight. Not one bourgeois leader in Telengana nor Andhra has any concrete solution to offer beyond vague assurances and promises all in the nature of ‘gentleman’s agreements’.
For a revolutionary party, the choice is stark and must be made without hesitation. The interests of the people of both Telengana and Andhra are inextricably bound with the question of statehood for Telengana and we are duty bound to give it our support. But in doing so, we do not ignore our task of providing a concrete socialist solution to the core needs of the people. The nature of the Telengana movement is fundamentally one which aims at self-determination. Any support to a movement of self-determination can only be given on the logic of bridging the divided between the oppressed classes of the dominating and dominated states. For this it is necessary to both support the immediate demand of statehood as well as present our own independent programme against both the ambitious wannabe bourgeoisie of Telengana as well as the greedy dominating bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra. To the chaos these bourgeoisies have to offer, we provide our own programme for the betterment of the workers, peasants and youth. The programme of Permanent Revolution!
Abolish all rural debt!
Nationalize the land! Land for the people!
Full employment and equal opportunities!