India now has a 29th state. Telangana.
It was six decades in the making, the fruit of a strong separatist movement that argued neglect by successive governments and finally succeeded in breaking off a chunk of land from Andhra Pradesh. The man who once went on a hunger strike in defense of Telangana, K. Chandrashekar Rao, became its first chief minister Monday.
The celebrations began Sunday night. Hyderabad, which will now serve as capital for both states, was awash in pink, the color of Rao’s party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed the newest state in the republic.
Amid the joy, however, there was reason for pause, especially among the citizens of Andhra who were against the carving up of their state. For economic reasons. For political reasons.
Proponents of Telangana argued that holding together different peoples under linguistic lines was silly; that it was better to have a more culturally cohesive state. Others pulled out proof that small states can prosper in India. The cited Uttarakhand and Chhatisgarh as examples.
It’s a good thing the two states will share Hyderabad, a city that was at the forefront of India’s high-tech boom and houses corporate giants like Infosys. I visited there in 2000 and remember being so impressed with the efficiency and cleanliness there compared to my hometown, Kolkata. Without Hyderabad, I worry Telangana might flounder.
I am always wary when states are split because I fear that it might lead to a deeper division of people. We certainly don’t need to add to that problem in India.
But now the deed is done. I hope for Andhra and its sister Telangana to both prosper. Only time will reveal if this was the right decision.