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State of the Nation – India & states డిసెంబర్ 12, 2009

Posted by Telangana Utsav in 1969, agitation, Andhra, compromise, Congress, Culture, Economy, Fazal Ali Commission, Hyderabad, Identity, Kurnool, Mulki, politics, Sonia, Telangana.
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State(s) of the nation
Ronojoy Sen, TOI Crest 12 December 2009, 11:45am IST

If Vallabhbhai Patel was largely responsible for the present boundaries of India by his masterful integration of the 500-odd princely states into the newly independent nation, it was a former railway employee and Gandhian from Madras who was the catalyst for a redrawing of the country’s map. On October 19, 1952, Potti Sriramulu began a fast in the heart of Madras city demanding that a separate state be carved out of Madras province for Telugu-speaking people. In a repeat of history, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrasekhara Rao’s 11-day fast has forced the Centre to announce a separate Telangana state consisting mainly of what was earlier the Hyderabad state.

Much before Independence, the Congress had understood that the British administrative units would not be practical in free India. Many provincial Congress committees were based on linguistic zones and not the administrative divisions of British India. Shortly after Independence, Mahatma Gandhi himself wrote that the government “should hurry up with the re-organisation of linguistic provinces”.

Jawaharlal Nehru was, however, not convinced. In the aftermath of Partition, he felt that any further division of India could undermine the stability of the country. In this Patel supported him. But the Congress’s position could not prevent the movements for linguistic autonomy from gathering momentum. Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati speakers were all demanding separate states. The Vishala Andhra movement by Telugu speakers was by far the most vigorous.

Nehru, who had felt the ire of Telugu protesters during the election campaign for the 1952 elections, told Parliament on May 22: “Even though the formation of linguistic provinces may be desirable in some cases, this would obviously be the wrong time.” It was in this backdrop that Sriramulu began his fast. When Nehru heard of Sriramulu’s fast, he decided to ignore it. After keeping off food for 56 days, Sriramulu died.

All hell broke loose. Large numbers took to the streets and many were killed or injured in police firing. Several legislators resigned their seats in protest. In December 1952, Nehru was forced to concede the protesters’ demands and announced the formation of a separate Andhra sate. This would lead to the setting up of the States Reorganisation Commission in 1953. On the basis of its report and under the States Reorganisation Act, 14 states – including Andhra Pradesh, which was a merger of the Andhra and Hyderabad states – and six union territories were created in 1956.

Language would continue to be the basis for formation of new states since 1956. In 1960, Bombay was split into Maharashtra and Gujarat. In this period, ethnicity, a close cousin of language, became a criterion with Nagaland being carved out of Assam. Soon administrative concerns crept in with a three-way split of Punjab into Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in 1966. There were additions to the map and changes in borders in subsequent years with statehood for Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura in 1972 and former UTs, Mizoram, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh, being elevated to states in 1987.

The next real watershed was 2000 when three states came into being – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal . The first two were the culmination of long-standing demands by tribals for a separate state while Uttaranchal was dictated more by geography with the hilly areas of Uttar Pradesh being carved out to form a separate entity.

The process is not yet complete. The promise of Telangana has been a red rag for those agitating for Gorkhaland , which represents a potent combination of ethnicity and geography. There are other smaller agitations waiting to jump out of the woodwork. In many ways, Sriramulu was the man who lit the fire. Thus Ramachandra Guha points out, “If Jawaharlal Nehru was the maker of modern India, then perhaps Potti Sriramulu should be named its Mercator.”

source: Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/States-of-the-nation-/articleshow/5329710.cms

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