Linguistic Reorganization of States and the Changing Federal Structure of India

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  • Topic: Assam, India, Nagaland
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  • Published : April 21, 2013
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India is a federation of states and these states are separated on the basis of major languages. The Indian leaders right after independence made it clear that they wanted a federal state. A federation is the existence of dual polity. It is a group of regions or states united within a Central government. It is a dual form of government where the powers are divided between the centre and the state governments. They each enjoy considerable independence within their sphere of Governance so as to avoid any clash between the two. However the basis on which this federal structure would be implemented was not certain. Right after independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, opposed the formation of states based on linguistic lines. According to him this would lead to the emergence of sub-nationalities that would cause agitation and then to the rising of sovereign states. Thus, initially after Independence the country was divided into states belonging to 3 classes Class ‘A’ states, which were made up of the former British Provinces, such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar; Class ‘B’ states, which were made up of former large princely states and large amalgamated unions of states, such as Hyderabad, Mysore and Rajasthan; and Class ‘C’ states, which were those formed out of smaller princely states, such as Bhopal, Delhi and Vindhya Pradesh. The Dar Commission, which was set up to deal with the question of linguistic states, expressed itself against the linguistic reorganization of states. In November 1948, the JVP committee was set up to review the Dar Commission report because of the insistence from the delegates of Andhra, Kerela, Karnataka and Maharashtra. This report too was against the linguistic reorganization of states. In 1953 following the fast unto death by Potti Sriramulu in support of Telugu speaking Andhra the congress was forced to change its position and Andhra was created in October 1953. In response to the mounting flood of additional demands the State Reorganization commission was established on December 1953. The report of SRC given in 1955 created 14 new states from the existing 27. In 1956 the act was enacted. This was the first phase of linguistic reorganization, other phases followed during the period from 1960 to 1980 when these 14 states were further subdivided into new states.

As the introduction suggests setting up states on linguistic lines was not the aim of the leaders rather they were forced to. They wanted the states to be economically and administratively viable also they wanted to avoid further communalism which might be caused due to the states being reorganized on linguistic basis. Integration and democratic participation were the important aims of the leaders then. There was an attempt for inclusive agglomeration of diverse identities and groups through inter-segmental and inter fractional adjustments and changes. After Independence “the task of putting the new nation in to working order, dealing with the lions of refugees, of coping with the conflict in Kashmir, of integrating and consolidating into governable units the myriad of princely states and framing constitutions became the most urgent items on the Government’s agenda. “Unity” and “security” were the slogans of the day.” (J.E. Schwartzberg) However this policy “proved inadequate when it encountered the large currents of era of mass politics.....The issue of Linguistic states in particular became the focus of popular agitation” (A.S. Narang). Also minorities complained of discrimination by the local government. It was also stated that the political parties repeatedly exploited ethnic minorities anxieties and desires. The Dar Commission discarded the linguistic reorganization on the basis that a state cannot be created having only 70-80% of the population speaking the same language. The commission said that it could not be called a “linguistic group” but rather a “big majority”. It was however along this big majority lines that the...
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