By: Sujai Karampuri
In the history of mankind, many kings and government officials have made some mega blunders while carving out nations and states. They resorted to ‘creative’ experiments, guided sometimes by greed, sometimes by pride, sometimes by ignorance, and sometimes by a naïve desire to satisfy all stakeholders. While creativity in experimentation is usually considered an essential attribute in science or arts, it has never yielded good results when it came to the serious and grave matters of geopolitical solutions. Invariably most such ‘creative’ experiments resulted in huge upheavals for the people, and led to conflicts, violent revolutions, mass movements, assassinations, coups, instability and warfare. The issues that originated during redrawing of boundaries festered on for decades and some for centuries. Almost always, the key decision makers who carved out nations and states were obsessed with some unrealistic idea which they refused to let go even when prevailing wisdom suggested otherwise.
Going against all conventional wisdom, the British tried to manage two nations for Palestine and Jews in the same land in 1948 and thereby ended up creating one of the most troubled places on the planet. In another episode, Pakistan was created out of two disjoint regions, with different languages and cultures, separated by thousands kilometers of India in between. The experiment never stood a chance. Eventually, the eastern region of Bengali-speaking Bangladesh got separated, but only after genocide of half a million people and exodus of nearly ten million people, followed by full-blown war of 1971 between West Pakistan and India.
Often we fail to learn from history. But if there is one lesson to learn, that is – in matters of carving of nations or states, the best formula has been to keep it simple and clean. Leaving something unattended, or trying to create a hodgepodge solution, or trying to make some interim arrangements, has most often led to serious conflicts and only exacerbated the problem. Those small wounds left unattended eventually consumed the whole body.
Shared Capital Experiment – Berlin
At the end of World War II, Russian and Allied forces captured Germany, but soon an iron curtain came up between the Eastern Bloc and the West beginning a nervous fifty-year period called Cold War. The region occupied by Allies became West Germany while the region under Soviet Russia became East Germany. The capital city Berlin, though it was deeply embedded in East Germany was shared by both the countries, going against all common sense.
The pride of the West did not allow it to let go of Berlin though it was cut off from West Germany by few hundred miles. The infamous Berlin Wall came up between the two parts of the city. In 1948, an international crisis was created when Soviet Union blocked all the railways, road and canal access to West Berlin. In response, the Allies started airlifting supplies to the city. They flew over 200,000 sorties in one year supplying everything including the daily necessities like food and fuel. Holding onto West Berlin surrounded by East Germany became one of the costliest affairs. Nearly hundred people got killed while trying to cross the border. Shared capital of Berlin is considered one of the worst experiments every conceived in the modern history. From all logical standpoints it did not make any sense, and yet it was carried out for nearly fifty years.
Shared Capital Experiment – Chandigarh
Sikhs of Punjab started demanding for separate state in 1940s, even before Indian Independence. And when Indira Gandhi separated Punjab from Haryana in 1966, she created new issues that would soon engulf the region and the country into an internecine struggle over the next twenty five years.
Much to dismay and dissatisfaction of Punjab, the newly constructed capital city of Chandigarh was converted into a Union Territory under central government to be shared between Haryana and Punjab. Shiromani Akali Dal led many agitations demanding Chandigarh be handed over to Punjab. Thousands of Sikhs were arrested and jailed. And on 15th August 1969, Darshan Singh Pheruman took up fast unto death to secure the inclusion of Chandigarh into Punjab. After 74 days of fasting he died.
Over the next few years, disenchantment with New Delhi grew further and Akali Dal included other demands like no sharing of water resources and decentralization of power, which were listed in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973. Akali Dal joined hands with Bhrindanwale in 1982 to launch Dharam Yudh Morcha movement to demand the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.
When Bhrindanwale refused to cooperate with Indira Gandhi, the Indian Army launched Operation Blue Star to attack and invade Golden Temple. That action enraged Sikhs the world over. The anger led to assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, which in turn resulted in carnage of Sikhs in various parts of India, but most savagely in New Delhi. To placate Sikhs in Punjab, Rajiv Gandhi signed an accord promising that ‘Capital Project Area of Chandigarh will go to Punjab’ on 26th January 1986.
And when whole of Punjab was waiting on the night before the anointed day for the transfer to take place, with all administrative requirements complete, and with both Governor of Punjab and Chief Commissioner of Chandigarh standing by not knowing who would take the salute next day on the Republic Day, the message arrived few minutes before the midnight that Chandigarh would not be handed over to Punjab.
The next day, the members of All India Sikh Students Federation who had earlier occupied Golden Temple passed a resolution for creation of Khalistan – a call for secession. The rest, as they say, is history. India witnessed the most violent and militant movement in India resulting in large scale bloodshed, the scars of which remain in the hearts and minds of many Indians.
Punjab did not get Chandigarh till today and the resentment continues to linger on. On 26th March 2013, Shiromani Akali Dal leader DS Cheema said, ‘Chandigarh was taken away from Punjab, which was a demographic and statistical error. Nowhere has it happened that after division of a state, it has not been given a capital. It was only in the case of Punjab that this was done’.
Shared Capital Experiment – Bombay
Back in 1950s, Nehru attempted to experiment with Bombay city, keeping it under central administration, but took the decision back when there was widespread resistance from Maharashtrians. Within four years, after nearly hundred people lost their lives, a clean solution was created. Maharashtra and Gujarat were created as two new states in 1960. Bombay was neither a joint capital nor union territory as demanded by Gujarathis. Bombay became part of Maharashtra – and peace ensued. Today Mumbai is a thriving city and home to lakhs of Gujarathis.
Experiment of Andhra Pradesh
Going against the recommendations of Fazal Ali Commission, and succumbing to the lobbying by Vishalandhra imperialists, Nehru created an experiment called Andhra Pradesh by forging the ‘feudal relic’ Telangana with politically-and-economically-advanced Andhra State. From the time they were merged, people of Telangana have been struggling to extricate themselves out of this experiment. Many ‘creative’ formulae were imposed onto Telangana people to keep the experiment going against their wishes. All those attempts, like Telangana Regional Council, 8-point plan, 6-point formula, presidential orders, have failed. After thousands of agitations by Telangana people the stoical Indian Government finally conceded to create separate state. Today, the experiment called Andhra Pradesh stands discredited and discarded.
Experiment of ‘shared capital’ for Telangana and Seemandhra
Now that people of Telangana are on the verge of getting out of this farcical experiment called Andhra Pradesh after sixty years of struggle, Indian Government is getting ‘creative’ once again. Instead of creating a clean solution, they are contemplating a complicated formula called ‘shared capital’ out of Hyderabad. Looks like Telangana has become the perpetual guinea pig of this nation. Succumbing to the demands from Seemandhra plutocrats and to the imaginary fears raised by unreasonable Samaikyandhra agitations, New Delhi is about to punish Telangana with another nonsensical experiment.
The experience says that this experiment will spell doom for Telangana. Seemandhras will flood the city over the next ten years to claim Hyderabad for themselves. These intentions have already been made clear. Many Seemandhra leaders express their desire for Hyderabad. Their wives went to New Delhi and asked Digvijay Singh to give Hyderabad to them. APNGO leader Ashok Babu asked people of Telangana to quit Hyderabad so that the city can be handed over to Seemandhras.
Best solution is the simple solution
There are valid and rational reasons to why Madras and Bombay were not shared. Sharing of Chandigarh led to violent movements. Keeping it simple in case of Hyderabad is the best solution. Like with formation of nearly fourteen states that did not share a capital city, Telangana and Seemandhra should be cleanly bifurcated without sharing capitals. Hyderabad should be given to Telangana without conditions. Seemandhras should operate out of a new capital city in their own region from day one after separation.