India coalition approves new state of Telangana

Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC) activists demonstrate as riot police stand behind a barrier during a pro-Telangana protest in Hyderabad on June 14, 2013 Violent protests have taken place in Andhra Pradesh over the Telangana issue

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India's ruling Congress-led coalition has unanimously agreed to the formation of a new state in the Telangana region of southern Andhra Pradesh state, officials say.

With a population of 40 million, the proposed state comprises 10 of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts including Hyderabad, India's sixth biggest city.

The state has seen protests for and against the proposal in recent years.

Backers of the new state say the area has been neglected by the government.

"It wasn't an easy decision but now everyone has been heard and a decision has been taken," senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh told Indian media.

Opponents of the move are unhappy that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, could become Telangana's new capital.

Telangana

Map
  • Population of 40 million
  • Comprises 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh, including city of Hyderabad
  • Landlocked, predominantly agricultural area
  • One of the most under-developed regions in India
  • 50-year campaign for separate status
  • More than 400 people died in 1969 crackdown

Congress party spokesman Ajay Maken said that Hyderabad would remain the common capital for the two states for a period of at least 10 years until Andhra Pradesh develops its own capital.

"A resolution was passed in the meeting where it was resolved to request the central government to take steps to form a separate state of Telangana," Mr Maken told a news conference in Delhi.

He said that the resolution was cleared "after taking into account the chequered history of the demand for a separate state of Telangana since 1956".

The final decision on a new state lies with the Indian parliament. The state assembly must also pass a resolution approving the creation of what will be India's 29th state.

Hundreds of paramilitary soldiers have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh to prevent any violent protests arising out of Tuesday's announcement.

Some local Congress party members have opposed the split.

"We're swallowing the poison for our party. The decision is very unfortunate but since our leader has taken the decision we'll abide by it. We know the consequences, the problems that will follow," said Rudraraju Padma Raju, the Congress chief whip in Andhra Pradesh.

Correspondents say the timing of the ruling party's support for the announcement of a new state is linked to general elections early next year. Recent opinion polls have shown that the Congress party is struggling in the state, which has 42 parliamentary seats.

Deep divisions have emerged over the Telangana issue in the past four years.

In December 2009, India's Congress party-led government promised that the new state would be formed, but later said more talks were needed.

The Telangana campaign grew in strength that year when veteran politician K Chandrasekhara Rao went on a hunger strike for 11 days in an effort to press the government to agree to its creation.

The last three new states in India were formed in 2000: Chhattisgarh was created out of eastern Madhya Pradesh; Uttarakhand was created out of the hilly areas of northern Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand was carved from Bihar's southern districts.

Several parts of India - including the Bundelkhand region in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha in western Maharashtra state and Gorkhaland in the eastern West Bengal state - face similar statehood movements, but the government has not made any moves to create them.

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