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Linguistic Reorganisation of the State
Even before independence, the linguistic vibrancy of the land had a significant impact on mobilising movements and protests during the freedom struggle. Hence, the restructuring of the States based on vernacular languages was of strategic importance in integrating the States as one nation. In fact, when Annie Besant initiated the ‘Home Rule Movement’, there were more participants from the Southern region.
The plan for linguistic re-organisation began in 1917 by the Congress party; plans to redistribute the provinces on linguistic basis came to the fore and by the 1920s, there were expressions on the need to acknowledge vernacular languages for administration and formal education. In fact, many regional Congress members also insisted on linguistic provincials, especially the Andhra Provincial Congress Committee consolidated the Telugu speaking districts from the Madras Presidency in 1917. Noticing the rising demand for a linguistic assertion, the process of re- distribution of provinces began in 1927. After a long struggle that began in 1895, to separate from Bihar from the Odisha Province, Odisha became the first Indian State to be linguistically independent State in 1936. Prominent leaders such as Lokmanya Tilak, Annie Besant, and Mahatma Gandhi were all in favour of States reorganised on linguistic basis.
Once, India became independent, Congress was apprehensive about separating the States based on vernacular languages fearing more unrest, similar to the religious conflicts that lead to the partition. Eventually, in 1948, the Constituent Assembly set up the first Linguistic Province Commission (LPC), to review the practicality of linguistic provinces under the headship of Justice SK Dhar. This commission called, ‘The Dhar Commission’ did not favour the linguistic redistribution fearing threat to national unity and difficulty in the administrative process.
Such a decision did not go well with the citizens of the country, especially those in States with independent linguistic identity. Therefore, in 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, and Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who was then the President of the Congress, set up the JVP Committee, to reconsider the demand of linguistic reorganisation.
Initially, the committee adamantly continued to oppose the reorganisation of linguistic States, insisting on higher ideals like unity and development. With the growing demand for linguistic autonomy, a report was generated enabling the creation of linguistic States. Agitation and movements across the country continued until the 1960s.
The first linguistic State was Andhra Pradesh comprising of Telugu speaking people established under pressure. Massive protests prevailed for a prolonged period, costing the life of Potti Sriramulu, who died on the 56th day of his hunger strike. Violent agitation followed all over Andhra Pradesh even after his death. Nehru was forced to declare the State of Andhra Pradesh, after merging Telugu speaking Hyderabad State and Andhra State in 1956.
Heeding to the growing violent insistence for the creation of States based on linguistic factors from across the country, Jawaharlal Nehru appointed three members with Shri Saiyid Fazl Ali as the Chairman, Hridayanath Kunzru, and K.M. Panikkar as the members to set up the Fazl Commission, to review the demand for separate States. Finally, on 22nd December 1953, the Fazl Commission was in place. The Commission acknowledges four major criteria to consider for the reorganisation of the States based on languages, and the report was submitted in September 1955. The following were the recommendations in brief:
TO reject the ideology of a State speaking only one language because there are States where people speak multiple languages, whereas there are independent multiple States where communities speak the same language. For example, Hindi is spoken across the North Indian States.
TO ensure that the economic, political, and administrative functioning treats all sections of the society in a balanced manner because the Indian constitutions stand for equal rights and opportunities for all her citizens. TO acknowledge that linguistic homogeneity aids in administration. However, it cannot be considered as a unifying principle, ignoring other aspects such as administrative, financial, and political.
TO promote deeper nationalism, unilingual States must realise that a singular language will instill particularistic empathy, which should be countered with more positive and pluralistic measures to ensure deeper content to national feeling.
4. Planning and promotion of the welfare of the people in each state as well as of the Nation as a whole to meet the communicational, educational, and cultural needs of various linguistic communities, who either live in unilingual or multilingual communities of a particular administrative unit.
Eventually, the Commission suggested the reorganisation of the county into sixteen States and three Union Territories. The Indian government accepted the report, though it made few modifications and constituted the State Reorganisation Act in 1956. After the Act was passed by the Parliament, and the Indian government implemented it leading to the creation of 14 States and 6 Union Territories came into existence in 1st November 1956.
The States were Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Mysore, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The six union territories were Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, Manipur and Tripura.
The reorganisation of States continued even after 1956, and not particularly based on vernacular language, after careful consideration by the Parliament. Some of the States that emerged after 1956 include:
v Bombay Reorganisation Act, 1960: Formation of Gujarat
v State of Nagaland Act, 1962: State of Nagaland, separate from Assam
v Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966: Formation of Haryana
v New State of Himachal Pradesh Act, 1970
v North Eastern Reorganisation act, 1971: Formation of Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Union territories of Arunachal Pradesh & Mizoram
v New State of Sikkim Act in 1975
v State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, State of Mizoram act 1986: Formation of the States of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh
v State of Goa Act in 1987
v Reorganisation Act, 2000: Formation of Chhattisgarh
v Reorganisation Act, 2000: Formation of Uttarakhand
v Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000: Formation of Jharkhand
v Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014: Formation of Telangana
The formation of States remains a complex issue owing to various forms of diversity, such as culture, caste, religion, language, ethnicity, and even how a particular territory is geographically placed. Therefore, the undercurrent of the constant strife for a separate State lies in access to resources and more importantly asserting identity.
Draft a Commission to explore suggestions other than linguistic diversity to be a reason to create States. How can it contribute to the progress of the country?
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