Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)
States Reorganization Commission, 1953
- The formation of Andhra spurred the struggle for making of other states on linguistic lines in other parts of the country.
- These struggles forced the Central Government into appointing a States Reorganization Commission in 1953 to look into the question of redrawing of the boundaries of states.
- The Commission in its report accepted that the boundaries of the state should reflect the boundaries of different languages. On the basis of its report the States Reorganization Act was passed in 1956. This led to the creation of 14 states and six union territories.
- One of the most important concerns in the early years was that demands for separate states would endanger the unity of the country. It was felt that linguistic states may foster separatism and create pressures on the newly founded nation.
- But the leadership, under popular pressure, finally made a choice in favour of linguistic states. It was hoped that if we accept the regional and linguistic claims of all regions, the threat of division and separatism would be reduced. Besides, the accommodation of regional demands and the formation of linguistic states were also seen as more democratic.
- Now it is more than fifty years since the formation of linguistic states. We can say that linguistic states and the movements for the formation of these states changed the nature of democratic politics and leadership in some basic ways. The path to politics and power was now open to people other than the small English speaking elite.
- Linguistic reorganization also gave some uniform basis to the drawing of state boundaries. It did not lead to disintegration of the country as many had feared earlier. On the contrary it strengthened national unity.
- Above all, the linguistic states underlined the acceptance of the principle of diversity.
- The acceptance of the principle of linguistic states did not mean, however, that all states immediately became linguistic states.
- There was an experiment of ‘bilingual’ Bombay state, consisting of Gujarati- and Marathi-speaking people. After a popular agitation, the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created in 1960.
- In Punjab also, there were two linguistic groups: Hindi-speaking and Punjabi-speaking. The Punjabi-speaking people demanded a separate state. But it was not granted with other states in 1956. Statehood for Punjab came ten years later, in 1966, when the territories of today’s Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were separated from the larger Punjab state.
- Another major reorganisation of states took place in the north-east in 1972. Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972. Manipur and Tripura too emerged as separate states in the same year. The states of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh came into being in 1987. Nagaland had become a state much earlier in 1963.
- Language did not, however, remain the sole basis of organisation of states. In later years sub-regions raised demands for separate states on the basis of a separate regional culture or complaints of regional imbalance in development. Three such states, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, were created in 2000.
- The story of reorganisation has not come to an end. There are many regions in the country where there are movements demanding separate and smaller states. These include Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Harit Pradesh in the western region of Uttar Pradesh and the northern region of West Bengal.