Linguistic Reorganization of States in India
The redistribution of provinces on a linguistic basis was necessary if provincial languages were to group to their full height
– Mahatma Gandhi
- Reorganization Provinces of Indian
The subject of ‘reorganization of Indian Provinces’ had come up for consideration before the Congress Party on several occasions. As a result of these deliberations the concept of reorganization on linguistic basis emerged as a new trend in the later years particularly in 1930’s and 40’s. However, the idea of reorganization of Indian Provinces on linguistic basis was vehemently opposed by many stalwarts like Dr. Anne Beasant notably in 1917 Congress Session.
- Indian Statutory Commission –1927
In the wake of appointment of “Indian Statutory Commission in 1927” by the British Government, the Congress Party was obliged to take a stand. And in this context it had advocated redistribution of states on linguistic basis by suggesting the formation of Andhra, Orissa, Sindh and Karnataka.
- Calcutta Session – 1937
This issue cropped up for the first time in 1937 in Calcutta session of the Congress, where formation of Andhra and Karnataka on linguistic basis was favoured.
- Wardha Session – 1938
In Wardha Session in 1938, the Congress Party reaffirmed the Calcutta Resolution besides adding “Kerala as the 3rd State” on the basis on language.
- Election Manifesto of 1945-46
In 1945-46 Election Manifesto, the Congress Party qualified its approach reflecting a perceptible change in its policy. It stated that in the formation of new states, the linguistic and cultural criteria cannot form the basis in every case but to the extent possible.
- Nehru’s Pronouncement in 1947
Similar pronouncement was made by Pandit Nehru in Constituent Assembly on 27th Nov 1947, he said that “First things must come first and the first thing is security and stability of India and linguistic reorganisation of states can destablise India”.
- Dhar Commission – 1948
In June, 1948, the Constituent Assembly had appointed the Linguistic Provinces Commission, popularly known as ‘Dhar Commission’. This commission was asked to report on the question of formation of the states shown below:
The Dhar commission recommended against the organisation of states purely on basis of language. Instead, the commission suggested the following criteria along with language-
1. Geographical contiguity
2. Financial self-reliance
3. Administrative viability
4. Potential for development
In the formation of new provinces, the committee was of the opinion that whenever such a work is taken then oneness of language may be one of the factors to be taken into consideration along with others but committee said that it should not be the decisive or even the ‘main’ factor. Committee said that “Linguistic homogeneity in the formation of new provinces is certainly attainable within certain limits, but only at the cost of creating a fresh minority problems. Nowhere will it be possible to form a linguistic province of more than 70 to 80 percent of the people speaking the same language, thus leaving in each province a minority of 20 percent of people speaking other languages”
- The J.V.P. Committee:
Following the ‘Dhar Commissions’ report, the Congress Party appointed in December, 1948 a High Power Committee popularly known as JVP Committee. It consisted of 3-Members i.e., Jawaharlal Nehru, VallaBhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramaiah. This committee was asked to go into the question of formation of linguistic provinces.
The Committee in its Report laid down ‘important conditions’ in approaching the question of linguistic division of the country as described below:
(a) When the Congress had given the seal of its approval to the general principle of linguistic provinces it was not faced with the practical application of the principle and hence it has not considered all the implications and consequences that arose from this practical application
(b) The primary consideration must be the security, unity and economic prosperity of India, and every separatist and disruptive tendency should be rigorously discouraged
(c) Language was not only a binding force, but also a separating one and
(d) The old congress policy of having linguistic provinces could only be applied after careful thought had been given to each separate case and creating which could jeopardize the political and economic stability of the country.
The JVP Committee further observed as under:
“We feel that the conditions that have emerged in India since the achievement of Independence are such as to make us view the problem of linguistic provinces in a new perspective for a few years so that we might concentrate during this period on other matters of vital importance and not allow ourselves to be distracted by this question. However, if public sentiment is insistent and overwhelming, we, as democrats, have to submit to it, but subject to certain limitations in regard to the good of India as a whole and certain conditions, which we have specified above. Public sentiment must clearly realize the consequence of any further division so that it may fully appreciate what will flow from their demand”.
- Formation of Andhra State, 1953
A long pending demand of the Telugu-speaking people of Andhra had been clamoring for a separate Andhra state for long. The Congress saw reason in their demand and recognized their aspiration as early as 1917. When Omandur Ramaswamy Reddiar became Premier of Madras State in 1947, the agitation for a separate Andhra state gained momentum. They were deeply disappointed with the Dar commission and JVP Reports, since they did not meet their long pending demand. Of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana region has the largest area (114,800sq.km), has two major rivers- Godavari and Krishna, besides 20% of India’s coal deposits, 45% forest cover and 41.6% population of Andhra are in Telangana now.
Agitation for Andhra State
Provoked by the JVP Report, the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee asked the Government of India to form Andhra Pradesh without delay. But the Government of India delayed the process as Prime Minister Nehru procrastinated. However, the Madras Government moved fast and appointed a Partition Committee with P.S.Kumaraswami Raja, the then Chief Minister as its Chairman, with members representing Andhra and non- Telugu areas. But there were deep differences among members of the committee regarding the location of the provisional capital of Andhra, its Government and the High Court. Prakasam, a popular leader representing Andhra, submitted a dissenting note and The Government of India took advantage of Prakasam’s dissenting note and postponed the issue even further.
Swami Sitaram’s Fast, 1951
The Andhra public was restless at the lackadaisical attitude of the Congress High Command and the Government of India intensified the agitation. Swami Sitaram began his fast unto-death on 15 August 1951, which created an explosive situation in Andhra. Some untoward incidents took place. On the advise of Acharya Vinoba Bhave Swami Sitaram ended his 35 day fast on 20 September 1951. Nehru condemned the fast as an extra constitutional method to force the Government.
Potti Sriramulu’s Fast and Death, 1952
The agitation for a separate Andhra state reached new heights during 1952-53. The agitated Andhras expressed their resentment through the general elections of 1952. In Andhra, the Congress could secure a bare 43 out of 140 seats. Congress stalwart like Kala Venkata Rao, Gopala Reddy and Sanjiva Reddy were defeated. The situation became worse after Rajaji became the Chief Minister n 1952. His active interest in the Krishna-Pennar project to divert the waters to Krishna river to Tamil Nadu added fuel to fire.
In such a serious situation, Potti Sriramulu, a veteran freedom fighter, commenced his fast unto death on 19 October 1952 in Madras. When his fast entered its 50th day, Nehru made a statement in the Rajya Sabha that the Government would be willing to form Andhra State without Madras City provided there was general agreement among the parties concerned. Unconvinced by Nehru’s statement, Potti Sriramulu continued his fast and attained martyrdom on 15 December 1952.
Separate Andhra State
The news of the death of Potti Sriramulu plunged Andhra in chaos. For three days there was mass fury and frenzy. Police opened fire at Anakapalle, Vijayawada and other places resulting in the death of seven persons. The Government of India gave in and conceded the Andhra demand for a separate state without of course the city of Madras. On 25 March 1953 Nehru formally announced the formation of Andhra Pradesh. Accordingly, the new state came into being with T.Prakasam as Chief Minister and Sanjiva Reddy as Deputy
Chief Minister. C.M.Trividi was appointed Governor. On I October 1953, Nehru
inaugurated Andhra Pradesh.
Prime Minister, Nehru’s intervention , created unified Andra Pradesh on Nov 1st, 1956 and he termed as “Matrimonial alliance having provisions for divorce”. The merger came into effect by specifying about financial problems and per capita income of Andhra even though the people dissented. The lobbying from Andhra Congress leaders and with pressure from the Central leadership of Congress party, an agreement was reached between Telangana leaders and Andhra leaders on 20th February 1956 to merge Telangana and Andhra with promises to safeguard Telangana’s interests. This came to be known as the Gentleman’s Agreement. The agreement allowed the formation of the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956 itself, against the SRC’s recommendations.
- State’s Reorganization Commission – 1953
Nehru appointed in August 1953 the States Reorganization Commission (SRC), with Justice Fazi Ali, K.M. Panikkar and Hridaynath Kunzru as members, to examine ‘objectively and dispassionately’ the entire question of the reorganization of the states of the union. During its two years of its work, the Commission was faced with meetings, demonstrations, agitations, and hunger strikes.
Different linguistic groups clashed with each other, verbally as well as sometimes physically. The Commission submitted its report to the government of India on September 30, 1955. Some of the important recommendations of the Commission were:
- The Indian Union was to consist of 16 States as against the existing 27 and three centrally and ministered territories.
- Special safeguards were recommended for linguistic minorities.
- In the interests of national unity and good administration, the Commission—
recommended the reconstitution of certain All India Services.
It further recommended that at least 50 per cent of the new entrants to the All India Services and at least one third of the number of Judges in a High Court should consist of persons recruited from outside that State so that, administration might inspire confidence and help in arresting parochial trends.
- The Commission put emphasis on the need for encouraging the study of Indian languages other than Hindi, but English would continue to be an prominent language in the universities and institutions of higher learning.
The Commission rejected the demand for the creation of a Punjabi Speaking State (Punjabi Suba) because the creation of such a state will solve neither the language nor the communal problem.
The States Reorganization Act was passed by parliament in November 1956. It provided for fourteen states and six centrally administered territories. The Telangana area of Hyderabad state was transferred to Andhra; merging the Malabar district of the old Madras Presidency with Travancore-Cochin created Kerala. Certain Kannada-speaking areas of the states of Bombay, Madras, Hyderabad and Coorg were added to the Mysore state. Merging the states of Kutch and Saurashtra and the Marathi-speaking areas of Hyderabad with it enlarged Bombay state.
It also recommended a composite Province of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bombay City and this was strongly opposed leading to widespread riot and eighty people were killed in Bombay city in police firings in January 1956. The opposition parties supported by a wide spectrum of public opinion—students, farmers, workers, artists, and businesspersons—organized a powerful protest movement. Under pressure, the government decided in June 1956 to divide the Bombay state into two linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat with Bombay city forming a separate, centrally administered state. This move too was strongly opposed by the Maharashtrians.
The Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and the Mahagujarat Jan Parishad spearheaded the movements for the formation of unilingual Maharashtra and Gujarat states respectively. The demand for the creation of Maharashtra with Bombay as its capital was louder and stronger. C.D. Deshmukh, Finance Minister in the Nehru Cabinet, resigned his post on this issue. The Gujaratis were against the idea of including Bombay city with Maharashtra. There was wide spread violence in Ahmedabad and 16 persons were killed and 200 injured in police firings, besides widespread arson. In November 1956, the States Reorganisation Act based mostly on the SRC Report was passed. to This Act only strengthened the Government’s decision to divide Bombay state into two separate Linguistic State of Maharashtra and Gujarat with Bombay city forming a centrally administered state. This Act failed to satisfy the proponents of the unilingual states and agitations continued. Finally in May 1960 the government of India bifurcated the composite Bombay state into Maharashtra and Gujarat. Bombay was included Maharashtra and Ahmedabad became the capital of Gujarat. Ultimately, linguistic criteria of reorganizing the state won the battle.
Demand for Punjabi Suba
The Report of the States Reorganisation Commission farmed the fire of the Sikh demand for a separate Panjabi Suba, since it suggested the formation of Greater Punjab in which Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) and Himachal Pradesh were to be merged. In other words, instead of a unilingual state, a trilingual state, consisting of Punjab, Hindi and Panjabi speaking peoples, would be formed. Master Tara Singh, who dominated Akali Dal as well as the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandak Committee opposed this proposal. Unfortunately, the Sikh communalists led by Akali Dal and the Hindu communalists led by the Jan Sangh used the linguistic issue to promote communal politics. Nehru was against the demand for a separate Sikh state on communal grounds. Nehru visited Amritsar, convinced Tarasingh and his followers, without making any concession and reduced tension and animosity for the time being. However, the demand for Punjabi Suba continued to gather momentum and it was finally solved by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1966.
Government attitude in handling the regionalism
The immediate post-partition developments convinced Nehru that the first priority of his Government ought to be to ensure security, stability and unity of India. He persuaded himself that if a strong and stable India was created, its constituent units will take care of themselves.
The balance between national and regional aspirations is delicate and thus reorganisation of states needed to take into considerations of regional aspirations without compromising the national interests. Several steps have been taken since independence to work out the chemistry of national-regional integration. The constitution, parliamentary democracy, planning process, inter-state council, National Development Council, National Integration Council, national policies and programmes, welfare measures, legislative and legal protection, socio-economic reforms, government incentives with positive intervention etc have been directed towards forging and fostering national-regional balanced development. And yet, the Union Government have to cope up will regional pulls and pressures. The rise of regional forces means that any central government in the present time has to deal with them in a effective manner.
Critical review of S.R.C. Commission report
Many incorrect decisions were taken by the then Government in the process of implementing the decision of the State Reorganisation Commission (S.R.C.). In this context some of the instances noted below deserve scrutiny as given below:
The S.R.C. recommended for its merger with Assam but not implemented.
(b) Himachal Pradesh:
S.R.C. recommended for its merger in Punjab, but it was not done. The reasons for this are very revealing as described below:
“With the inclusion of Himachal Pradesh in Punjab, the Hindi speaking population will increase vis-a-vis Sikh population. Hence there was a demand for detachment from the leaders of Sikh Community and it was conceded”
S.R.C. recommended for the formation of Vidharbha in the following terms:
“New state known as Vidharbha should be created, consisting of the following
Marathi-speaking districts of Madhya Pradesh, namely”:
But this was not implemented. On the other hand it was merged with Bombay State. In this connection, the influence of big leaders like Y.B. Chavan prevailed over the Congress High Command and Vidharbha people lost their chance of having their own state.
The S.R.C. recommended “statehood for Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital”. But this was opposed by Andhra Congress Leaders, as they wanted Vishalandhra State by uniting Telangana with Andhra state. SRC report alsostated that one of the primary causes of opposition to Vishalandhra was that Telangana was educationally backward and thus they feared that may be exploited by the more advanced people of coastal Andra.
It can be concluded that, in the process of implementation of the S.R.C. Report many deviations were allowed under the pressures of Regional leaders as seen from the examples above.
NATURE AND RATIONALITY OF REORGANISATION OF STATES
To rule means to rule people which also means (in most of history) to rule a territory. But just like rule has to be appropriate to the nature of a particular people, similarly the nature of a territory also has to be appropriate. Or, and it is the same thing to say, that the rule must fit the people and the territory. In this sense ‘right size’ and ‘right people’ become critical factors in rule. To attempt a fit of right sizing and right peopling, states have expanded and reduced, changed compositions of populations, expelled populations, invited populations, reordered rules of succession of a state, tried to achieve political and cultural homogenisation, accepted arbitration, imposed new controls, and managed territories through grant of various types of autonomous arrangements. For right peopling within the borders, the most effective instrument has been land control policy. Land acquisition, and as its ancillary strategy encouraging mass flight have been one of the most used policies of the state. Right peopling has also meant policies on minorities, immigration policy, personal laws, population policy, and here again a reordering of internal boundaries to accommodate right people or achieve a right-peopled arrangement of the national space. Right sizing often connects to right shaping in such context.
A production of ‘ethnic’ majority needs movement of boundaries within the state; such a movement can cause instability to the external borders also. Ethnic boundaries may mean redrawing of linguistic, regional, and religious borders within the country — and all these have to result in redrawing of territorial boundaries of different types. In short, from the angle of the state, there is always a ‘right’ size. There can be nothing more material in politics than achieving this right size. And, at times, this process can be violent.
Territory in this way appears as the kernel of the nation, because territory is the congealed form of the relations existing between resources, available labour mass, borders, the numerical strength of the population and its composition. If the desire to achieve fit bet- ween people and territory produces nation, making the size right becomes a matter of government. All nations slide into governmental rationalities, and territory is the clue to governmental imperative of right sizing, right peopling, and right shaping. It is only when we understand this process that we shall be able to understand why so much violence is associated with state formation, which always includes state reorganisation (of the internal space) and why partition (in various forms) and the reproduction of partition as a method (of reorganisation) appears as the mark of a nation coming into age.
In order to understand why partition as a method reproduced itself, we have to realise that achieving ‘right size’, ‘right people’ and ‘right shape’ of the state are permanent governmental obligations to find out and achieve. These compulsions form the kernel of governmental rationalities.’ The obligation of a national administration is to govern rationally — meaning achieving right-sized and right-peopled territory – which makes possible for the government to revise various ways of division and union, violent and less violent, and continuously pursue the ideal of ‘right shape’.
Built on the governmental mechanism of finding appropriate solutions to the problem of difference, the state divests itself, not always dramatically, indeed many a time gradually, of objects, beings and spaces identified with federality, dialogue and democracy. The function of finding the right size, right people and right shape becomes a form of transgression of the space that the idea of the nation had created in the first place. The idea of right size, right people and right shape therefore performs Iwo simultaneous functions
(a) it prescribes the sole manner, the governmental manner, of discovering the political sacred (the elect idea of a fit between territory and the people), the particular form of politics, which will henceforth rule and be worshipped;
(b) it removes the same time all objects and spaces that do not belong to that sacred sphere, or at least drives them underground. In such a milieu of governmental rationality, as one argues elsewhere,’ divisions of space mark politics with territorialities of various kinds and produce as the other of the national spaces the hated figure of the migrant.
If we are interested in the materiality of politics, indeed its brutal physical content, then we must then study events of divisions of space and creation of new territories from all permissible angles. Thus for instance, decolonisation was not only the end of old colonialism and emergence of independent states with given territories and given populations over which battles had to be fought but a meeting of several dimensions and several phenomena, and relational games resulting from that. It should be clear by now that I am pushing for a thoroughly relational understanding of the phenomenon of territoriality.
To chronicle how governmental rationality obliges an administration to repeatedly reshape the territory it administers in search of the ‘fit’, probably the best point would be to begin with the career of the Bengal Presidency. The establishment of the Presidency was a matter of an aftermath of conquest. But the moment the imperatives of rule appeared, the fortunes of Presidency, an administrative unit, started taking unpredictable turns — a history at the heart of which lies the event of the first Bengal Partition of 1905 that lasted till 1911.
The Presidency of Fort William through which British colonial rule had established itself primarily had quickly become in no time a huge single administrative unit — from river Sutlej in the north-west to Assam in the north- east and the Arakan Hills in the south-east. With an enormous mass of population inhabiting this area, without any effective central administration, local insurgencies and other disturbances often rearing their heads, and local cultural-political identities clamouring for recognition, the Charter Act of 1833 created a separate Presidency, the Agra Presidency, later renamed as the Northwestern Provinces. Yet the Bengal Presidency remained huge and ungovernable.
A separate secretariat was created for Bengal in 1843. In 1853, local government was taken away from the office of the Governor General and a Lieutenant Governor was appointed for Bengal. Yet, calamities like the Famine of 1866, and the peasant mutinies between 1845 and 1875 proved the inadequacy of the remedy of 1853 for toning up the administration of Bengal. Arakan was separated from Bengal in 1862, again for better administration, and was included in the newly created Chief Commissionership of Burma. And then in 1874 the districts of Cachar, Sylhet, Goalpara and the Garo Hills were separated from Bengal and put in Assam that became a Chief Commissioner’s province. A fixed frontier policy in respect of Arakan, Chittagong, Cachar and Lushai Hills was formulated. But Assam remained inconvenienced by the lack of trained administrative personnel, and the Chin-Lushai Conference of 1892 in the background of annexation of the Lushai Hills decided to lessen further the existing administrative burden on Bengal by the transfer of Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts from Bengal to Assam. The construction of the Assam–Bengal Railway was complete.
It was suggested that even Dhaka and Mymensing divisions be also transferred. All these provided the backdrop of Lord Curzon’s decision for sweeping readjustment of territorial boundaries in eastern and the north-eastern parts of British India. His original scheme proposed inclusion of Chittagong Division, Dhaka, Mymensing,Faridpur, Bakargunj, Pabna, Bogra, Rangpur,Raishahi, Jalpaiguri and Malda in Assam, which was to be now a new province. Subsequently amended, Curzon’s final proposal of partition of Bengal in 1905 was an amalgam of reasons of administrative expediency, communal considerations, of political control over the rising nationalist sentiments in Bengal, recognition of linguistic communities and a new frontier policy to the north-east. Initially both Hindus and Muslims opposed partition of Bengal, but later, organised Muslim opinion changed its mind.
Meanwhile, Assam acquired its distinct political identity within British set-up, and Bihar and Orissa became separate units. By the time when re partition was revoked, it was found by the Bengal nationalists that the most important political-administrative arrangement in British Empire in India had been substantially restructured. The capital had been transferred from Calcutta to Delhi, and one could see the first Hilts of a subsequent state reorganisation of independent India. The first partition had laid the blueprint for the second one – at least in the East.
In this context, we can recall the instance of Hyderabad. We can recall how the state of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 after the integration of the former ‘princely state of Hyderabad’ into the Indian Union (1948), and its subsequent merger with the Andhra region. The story goes that on the basis of agrarian radicalism and the establishment of the nationality principle (Telugu language), the state was established. Yet today the modalities of the integration of the sub-regions (Andhra and Telengana) into a region and the region’s Integration with the Indian Union, which were marked by specific historical circumstances since the time of the colonial rule till date, have now suddenly become a matter of controversy. As we know, the regime of the Nizam had prevented the emergence of distinct political subjects and the political articulation of cultural and other differences in the state of Hyderabad, while in the Andhra region British rule occasioned the development of national political parties based on the criteria of social, linguistic or religious representation.
In 1948, the integration of the ‘princely state’ into the Indian Union enjoyed considerable popular support; but this was not the only mark of the time. A very strong peasant movement led by the Communists against the feudal system also marked the time of de-colonisation — a struggle that was called off only in 1951.
The central government chose to implement its integration policy by resorting to force. The two sub-regions were merged; yet the complexities did not vanish. On the other hand, they raised their heads in less than 40 years calling into question the distinct territorial solution achieved by the Indian government on the issue of right size and right people. This is the point where we should find more light to make sense of the process whereby constitutional rule, and not all-out wars of all against all or aggression from an outside invader would lead to cataclysmic changes in the internal territorial shape of the country.
After all, the period of operation of the Montague-Chelmsford constitution was also the period when political interests consolidated, and ideas of autonomy, democracy, self-rule and constitutionalism crystallised and came up against any idea of high nationalism. With a new system of rule through negotiation of deputations, petitions, protests, disobediences, limited franchise, provincial elections and limited representative institutions — please note, all governmental innovations — the country was to be governed by a set of new territorial-popular units.
And though this system satisfied neither the constitutionalists, nor the nationalists, not to speak of the militant Left, yet the territorial frame of rule had been cast. We have to remember that this was the classic bind — the deadlock — in which the moment of partition was to appear.
Meanwhile, internal boundary making continued as a process. Constitutionalists recognised social and cultural boundaries and attempted to negotiate them with constitutional modes, which included territorial rationalities; the republicans however disdained such attempts, because in their mind the nation as the elect-body with differentiating lines to distinguish it from others could not brook any other differentiating line within. Thus it was not surprisingly Jinnah who put the issue of the right size and right shaping squarely in the nationalist agenda, when he while invoking the right of the Muslims to self- determination, said in his presidential address in Lahore in 1940:
Babu Rajendra Prasad … only a few days ago said, ‘Oh, what more do the Musalmans want?’ Referring to the minority question, he says: `If British would concede our right of self-determination surely all these differences should disappear.’ How will our differences disappear?
The word ‘nationalist’ has now become the play of conjurers in politics.The problem of India is not of an inter- communal but manifestly of an international character, and must be treated as such. So long as this basic and fundamental truth is not realised, any constitution that may be built will result in disaster and will prove harmful not only to the Musalmans, but also to the British and Hindus. Musalmans are not a minority … Musalmans are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory and their States.
That is the point. ‘They must have their homelands, own territory, and their own State’. Have we enough understood the significance of the word ‘homeland’ when discussing states reorganisation? The imperative to achieve the fit that I am speaking of here, and to govern various differences on the basis of this fit makes territoriality absolute.
A recent Indian political history shows, conditions of representative institutions and system reinforce the trend of right sizing and right peopling. Or, to put the question from another angle, till state is the locus of self-determination, can the ‘territory people’ combine be the site on which complex issues of autonomy, right of nationalities, the global norms of self-determination and political respect of differences be judged? Or, to put it in even another way, till governmental rationality determines the ‘size’, and law is the only way to achieve that, can we speak of a dialogic polity capable of addressing differences and injustice? In brief, this is the sort of bind, a situation of Insure, in which continuous reorganisation on the basis of partition appears as the act of destiny.
Right peopling of course did not end with the Great Partition, and as I have indicated was not the beginning also. Other identities with their ‘homelands’ and ‘claims’ to homelands emerged soon.
The States Reorganisation Act was the vindication of the linguistic principle of nationality on the one hand, and an admission that the governmental problem of right shaping the territory was perennial on the other.
It is interesting to note how this has been best admitted by the state itself. The Union Home Ministry’s own chronicle puts the matter of resizing, right peopling and the right shaping in the light of the perennial concern for governmental rationality. According to this, the revolt of the soldiers in 1857-1858 had far reaching result in the sense that administration had to be now direct, and therefore had to pass from the East India Company to the Crown. This was the precursor of the reorganisation of the British Indian Army, and the British claim of the Doctrine of Paramountcy for the Princely States.
In 1861 came the Indian Councils Act, the Indian High Courts Act and the first emergence of the Indian Penal Code soon to be formalised. The Delhi Durbar was held in 1877. By the second decade of the next century, provincial autonomy had become a real issue as borne out by the Montague-Chelmsford Report. In 1921, the Moplah revolt marked the Malabar region with distinctiveness that of course took several more decades to achieve formal recognition in forms of separate districts. And even though the Second Non-Cooperation Movement was launched, the model of rule had been surely put in place by the colonial government for independent India to follow.
By 1935, the final seal of a territorial design that would combine right size and the right people was ready. This was the Government of India Act — Provincial Autonomy. Whatever protests were later organised and whatever Missions came later to pacify the nationalist leader- ship, the consensus had been firmly laid, a nationally ruled country 1111 on the basis of states that would by the words of the Constitution would form the Union, that is India (Article 1). It was this vision that blocked any other alternative vision at that time, be it Rehmat Ali’s vision of Pakistan and other lands, or Gorkhastan, or any other land in any other form.’
By 1956, there was another turn to the story of finding the ‘fit’ and ensuring the governmental legitimacy of this fit. Article 1 (1) of the Indian constitution says, ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of States’. On 26 January 1950, India was proclaimed to be a republic, not by the President of free sovereign India, but by the last British Governor General C. Rajagopalachari. In 1956 many states became union territories, and lost the right of representation in the presidential elections, and to that extent, in the Parliament of the Republic.
When the Republic was born, it consisted of 27 states as specified in Parts A, B and C of the First Schedule and the Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands specified in Part D of the same Schedule. In general, the 9 states of Part A comprised former British provinces, the 8 states of Part B comprised the former Indian states (516 out of 522), which had acceded to the Indian Union, and the 10 states of Part C category were the former Chief Commissioner’s provinces like Delhi and some small Indian states.
Yet, only the state of Jammu and Kashmir (Part B), by virtue of Article 370 could claim a federal relation with the Union, which otherwise became fully empowered to give birth to or abolish any state in the union. Cutting and chopping had immediately begun after 1950 that would end only in 1956.
The First Schedule was amended and Coochbehar State was abolished and merged in the state of West Bengal. The death of Potti ShriRamulu, on fast to secure the state of Andhra Pradesh, hastened the establishment of the States Reorganisation Commission.
The states were reorganised under the states Reorganisation Act, 1956, whereby Part B states, except Jammu and Kashmir, and 6 of the Part C states were merged into other nearby states or reconstituted and 1 new state, Kerala was formed.
Three states were formed in the Hindi- speaking area — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the Madhya Pradesh to subsequently multiply into 3 states more — Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The Bombay state so brought about was bilingual composed of Marathi-and Gujarati- speaking people. The state was split in 1960 to form the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In 1966, the first expression of the limits to the governmental exercise of 1956 was experienced while reorganising Punjab, because Chandigarh was to go neither to Punjab nor to Haryana and was therefore made a Union Territory.
In 1971 came the reorganisation of the north-east. In 1975, Sikkim was merged in the Union. Yet, can we say that the story of reorganising and thereby giving the right shaping the Union has concluded by and large? The trouble with this line of thinking, which is dominant, is because according to this we of argument states reorganisation in India mainly proceeded on the basis of language. Yet if we examine closely, this too was a case of governmentality whereby language becoming a tool of administration, negotiation and governing, rather than wider communications and inter-cultural translation including governmental needs. Thus language per se was only half the criterion; mostly where mass movements were strong in favour of linguistic state and had a long past going back to the colonial period, linguistic statehood was granted. Rest were matters of rationalising the rule.
The constitution as we know is vague in defining the criterion of statehood, does
not say what qualifies a language to be a ‘national language’, ‘official language’ and in distinguishing either one from officially adopted regional languages. The states can adopt their own language of administration and educational Instruction from among the officially recognised languages, that is the Scheduled Languages. Now of course with reinforcement of the Official Languages Act of 1963, Hindi can be imposed on unwilling states by various means, and the rationale for changing and chopping slices of territories is over in some respects. Before independence in 1947, the Congress was committed to redrawing state boundaries to correspond with linguistics.
But then when the States Reorganisation Commission issued its report in 1955, and the government requested the public to offer comments, it produced a flood of petitions. The violence that broke out in the state of Assam in the early 1980s reflected the continuing complexities of linguistic and territorial politics in the country. As I describe in an essay on migration, nationhood and the problems of rule, Assam claimed that by the 1931 census not only she had lost a hefty portion of her land to outsiders, but the Assamese had become a disadvantaged minority in their traditional homeland.
They represented less than 33 per cent of the total population of Assam, and the Muslim immigrants accounted for roughly 25 per cent of the population. Assamese–Bengal riots started in 1950, and it is claimed that in the 1951 census many Bengalis listed Assamese as their mother tongue in an effort to placate the Assamese. Today a hundred voices are up for reshaping Assam — of Assamese Muslims, Bengali Muslims, Assamese Hindus, Bengali Hindus, Plain Tribes, Hill Tribes and the Nagas. The search goes on for right shape, right population and the right size.
Meanwhile regional languages have grown strong, and are now used throughout
their respective states for most levels of administration, business and social intercourse. Each is associated with a body of literature, more important with power.
In each state, the minority languages are at a disadvantage. Governments now commission teaching material, prose compositions, grammars and textbooks, and ensure wide dissemination of dictionaries to ensure that rule becomes effective in conditions of everyday speech.
Democratisation of rule has meant a relative end to bilinguality and diglossia, though the governmental form of linguistic democracy must not make us forget that the standard regional language may be the household tongue of only a small group of educated inhabitants of the region’s major urban centres, which exercise politico- economic hegemony in a region, and not by village women, dalits, or other low caste people.
The new hegemonies cannot suppress the fact also that only around 4 per cent of the population can speak in both English and an Indian language, that there are linguistic minorities who do not speak the state official language as their mother tongue, and that many people belonging to the indigenous communities have to be bilingual to survive.
Rural–urban migrants are frequently bilingual. Yet, it is not this linguistic plurality that has become the mark of democracy, but the new hegemonies of few languages with access to power and producing power from their own social configuration through radio, television and the print media. The more the standardisation now, for all these reasons, the more are the differences.
Initially, the rulers had thought that reorganisation was a matter of first, the southern part, then the western and the northwestern parts, and finally the frontier region in the north-east. Either management of a macro-capital centre like Mumbai, or curbing insurgency as in the north-east, provided the immediate occasion. While in all these he governmental tactic of reshaping the territory on the whole was successful, it faced three problems — first, linguistic division at times became close to religious divisions (Punjab–Haryana); second, the Hindi heartland in the north had remained relatively immune from S y reshaping; and third, the North-Eastern Areas Reorganisation Act, 1971, which reconstituted the north- east into a number of states, but could not reorganise the area satisfactorily, as the Act became the precursor to several demands for distinct tribal ‘homelands’.
By 1986, the conferment of statehood on some of these homelands had been completed. Of all these, reorganisation of the Hindi–Hindu heartland proved most difficult, because nationalist strategies of rule were partly founded on the idea that the stability of geopolitical formations in the heartland would be essential to preserve the unity of the Indian ‘Union’.
Almost four decades into the prosperity of the Green Revolution and the growth of the macro-capital regions such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, the reorganisation has taken a different route. Right size, right people and right shape do not only depend on religion, language, security, nature of borders and boundaries, and history, but very directly on growth of capital. Capital cities demand their own regions, prosperous agricultural regions like the western districts of Uttar Pradesh demand separate state, a Harit Pradesh; similarly other regions have begun dusting up the historic clothing; and growth of capital regions and cities and increase in disparities can now spark demands for Vindhyachal in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana in Andhra pradesh, Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Gorkhaland in West Bengal, and wily not once again in Assam – this time Bodoland. To take the case of Vidarbha, the origin of the movement for MahaVidarbha goes as far back as 1905.
At that time, the demand was for the separation of Marathi population from the Hindi-speaking areas. Later the area was merged into Maharashtra. But the growth of Mumbai as a capital region soon instilled the fear that Nagpur and with it the entire Vidarbha region would be overwhelmed by the Mumbai city a fear that came true. Now communalism has complicated the picture. Vidarbha requires its own land and tenancy laws, currently modelled on the lines of Maharashtra, and a unification of the Marathi-speaking districts of Madhya Pradesh. If and when Vidarbha is constituted as a separate state, it will be the biggest cotton growing area in the country, making it agriculturally prosperous and viable as an investment site. Thus we can see that the formation of linguistic states can only be a limited solution to the necessity of fitting size with people.
The problem is not even whether small or large states are good. Apart from linguistic minorities languishing everywhere, access to resources makes the shape and size question politically significant. In view of the common water disputes, say between Karnataka and arid Tamil Nadu over the share of Cauvery water, or sharing of waters by Punjab with Haryana and Rajasthan, or between UP and Delhi, or other resource wars as in the north-east, the triad of capital, resource, and democracy makes governmentality in matters of size and shape a distinct feature of post- colonial political materiality.
Probably the interaction of capital and the extra-capital spaces had always been the main factor in the colonial time in the search for the right size and shape of units. But if this were so, this is now most evident with growth of capital once again provoking the reorganisation of space. Political actors and the political class in general are at a loss as to how to approach the governmental imperatives of reorganising space at regular intervals, which at times cause loss of legitimacy, at times public anger or euphoria, but always create a sense of uncertainty and the disturbing sense of a task not finally concluded. Why should the political class accept the governmental rationality —on grounds of administrative efficiency and democratisation, or on grounds of linguistic and cultural democracy, or devolution of powers, or the need to satisfy ethnic particularities? There is no definite answer. But one thing is certain — whatever may be the requirements of democracy, the current phase of reshaping and resizing seem to respond to the demands of capital as well, and capital and democracy seem to be co-existing well. That capital is now the critical factor in the drive for reorganisation is borne out by the significance of resource in the scramble for territory and the territorial conflicts.
Let us take the case of water sharing. The instance of resource sharing shows why governmental rationality can never offer a sustainable solution. In the north and the east, the Indus, Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins have their sources in the glaciers of the Himalayas. In the central part, the Narmada basin is drained from the Vindhyas and the basins of the south, the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery Originate on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghat ranges. The growth of engineering and agricultural technology in the colonial period led to construction of dams in India mainly to irrigate drought-affected areas, situated in the upland areas of the basin. But gradually this meant that the upper riparian areas became intolerant of water demands of the lower riparian areas. The British colonial period had witnessed serious trans-boundary conflicts on the issue of water amongst provinces in British India on the one hand and between British Indian provinces and Indian states on the other. Important among these conflicts related to the basins of the rivers Indus, Cauvery and Periyar.
Today if one were to read the Constitutional Amendment Bill for the reorganisation of states, one would see three anxieties dominating the governmental rationality. First were questions of size and the minute readjustment of boundaries and exchange of territorial enclaves; second, the territorial jurisdiction of the High Courts, and the drawing of electoral constituencies. Resource was not an issue that vexed the Reorganisation Commission’s mind. Yet as we know today, these territorial units known as the states with the rich sections of population in command are pulling their strength together for the coming resource war in the context of a globalisation-induced capitalist development. Territory has become a key factor in the coming war of capital.
It is important to explain this point to at least some extent. Historically, Indian federalism was never a settled principle of organisation of the national territory. In the colonial time whereas the colonial administration was unabashedly centralist, both Congress and the Muslim League had ambivalent and fluctuating attitude towards federalism; the praja (tenant) movements in native princedoms had strong elements of autonomy, democracy and republicanism, which were initially reflected, albeit in a perverted way, in the grouping of states; and leaders were candid enough to admit that the Indian system the Constituent Assembly had given birth to was flexible enough to serve both centralist and federal needs. The history of organisation of territory in the last 60 years that I have briefly recounted earlier speaks of the way the governmental logic has developed in these years. We have to add to this the developments in the form of the Panchayati Raj (1ocal or village self-government) and the provisions of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules, and Article 371 in particular, and we shall arrive at a more contentious scenario. States reorganisation has been only a part of this broader scenario of territorial reorganisation for rule and governance. Its implications can be grasped only when put along with other techniques of reorganisation.
Yet one has to understand that these techniques and the broad technology of reorganisation of territory in a system of hierarchy and differential inclusion in order to achieve a rational and satisfactory state of rule are not pure expressions of govern-mentality, as if ‘an unfolding of governmental rationality’, but are by themselves signals of contested sites, expressions of popular demands for immediate democracy, participation in political decision-making, autonomy in public political—social life and flexible ways of making and unmaking boundaries. Thus the affinity between TamilNadu and sections of population in Sri Lanka, or the peoples on both sides of the erstwhile Punjab, or Bengal, or Jammu and Kashmir, or among the population groups living on the borders between Kerala and TamilNadu, or Coochbehar and southern Bhutan is the same expression of federal instinct as the one which we officially take to be the principle of states organisation of the country. India’s north-east shows the need for creative and dialogic federalism in order to enhance democracy’s capacity to accept claim making as its own inherent part. It seems clear by now that by the notion of innovative federalism, we shall have to look for plural ways and structures of federalising. Thus if in sports or even organisation of border security we can have alter-native arrangements of units, why can we not have plurality in other areas of our social and political life? It seems to me in this context that the debate on legal pluralism has to be deepened.