By: B. Vinod Kumar
In 1956, the state of Andhra Pradesh was forged out of two culturally and historically disparate regions under the premise of creating a single state for the Telugu-speaking people. Even before the formation of this state, it was articulated by the Fazal Ali Commission, and voiced explicitly through the fears of Telangana people, that a common language was not the only criterion for creating states. There was a sane recognition, though in minority, that there existed other differences which warranted a region like Telangana to exist as a separate state overriding the emotive binding factor like language.
To protect the interests of Telangana people against possible onslaught of more politically empowered, economically emancipated and Telugu-English-educated people from Coastal Andhra, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 was created to facilitate the conditional merger of Telangana region with Andhra state. Article 371 constituted Telangana Regional Committee along with protective Mulki Rules. However, the experiences of the first 15 years clearly established that the experiment called Andhra Pradesh was a dismal failure. Driving the last nail into the coffin that buried the safeguards given to people of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh sought to remove Mulki Rules leading to a Telangana uprising in 1969, which was ruthlessly crushed.
When the people of Telangana sought justice from Supreme Court in 1972 that upheld Mulki Rules, Andhra leadership launched a farcical movement for separate Andhra state. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, succumbing to the blackmail tactics of Andhra groups, passed the Mulki Rules (Repeal) Act of 1973 to overrule the Supreme Court decision removing the protective mechanisms for the people of Telangana.
Thereafter, as a conciliatory step towards protecting the interests of Telangana people, a diluted provision of Article 371D was introduced through 32nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1974 to empower the President of India to provide reservations in education and employment to people of specific regions within the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Using Article 371 of the Indian Constitution, the Union government created special provisions to protect the interests of people and resources of certain regions within a state. This has been applicable to many states, including Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay state, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland et al. But upon reorganisation of states, some of these protections have become irrelevant or redundant like in the case of Punjab that was bifurcated into Punjab Suba and Haryana Prant in 1966.
These two new states — which did not need protection anymore after the separation — were omitted from Article 371 through simple alteration of text as prescribed in Clause 26 of the Punjab State Reorganisation Act. The same procedure towards Article 371 was applied in the case of bifurcation of Bombay state and formation of Meghalaya out of Assam.
Article 371 is a “temporary, transitional and special” provision of Part XXI of the Indian Constitution that does not interfere with nor override the powers of Parliament conferred by Article 3 to alter the boundaries of states in India. The Parliament of India, while creating Telangana, is empowered to continue the protections provided by Article 371D in the successor states. It could be achieved through a simple clause in the upcoming Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act by introducing “State of Telangana” into Article 371D. Or Parliament could remove these provisions completely for both the new successor states through the omission of “Andhra Pradesh” from the same article as was done in case of Punjab in 1966.
While altering boundaries and creating states, Article 4 of the Indian Constitution allows Parliament to make “supplemental, incidental and consequential” provisions as necessary, as long as these provisions do not subvert the basic constitutional structure.
The current contention that Article 371D would be a stumbling block in creation of Telangana is nothing but a red herring. It is the last straw in the fight by Seemandhra leaders who are opposing the formation of Telangana.
In the case of Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum vs Union of India in 2006, which challenged the State Reorganisation Act of 1956 on the grounds that it encroached upon legislative domain of a state legislature under entries of Seventh Schedule of Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court upheld the powers of Parliament to create new states observing that “the law-making power under Articles 3 and 4 is paramount and is not subjected to nor fettered” by the lists of the Seventh Schedule.
In addition to introducing Article 371D in the Indian Constitution, the 32nd Amendment also introduced Article 371E with the explicit purpose to establish Central University in Andhra Pradesh, and an amendment was made to include this university in the entry 63 of List I in the Seventh Schedule. Therefore, the requirement of a constitutional amendment as raised by Seemandhra leaders in the current debate does not apply to Article 371D. The bogey that Article 371D would obstruct the formation of Telangana has been deliberately created and propagated by Seemandhra leaders only to give a false hope to the activists of Samaikyandhra agitations that there is still some chance to keep the state united, but it has no legal merit whatsoever.
The writer, a former MP, is Politburo member of the TRS
Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle