Formation of Linguistic States:–
India is a land of many languages, each with its distinct script, grammar, vocabulary and literary tradition. In 1917, the Congress Party had committed itself to the creation of linguistic provinces in a Free India. After Congress’s Nagpur Session in 1920, the principle was extended and formalized with the creation of provincial Congress Committee by linguistic zones.
The linguistic reorganization of the Congress was encouraged and supported by Mahatma Gandhi. After the bitter partition on the basis of religion the then PM Nehru was apprehensive of dividing country further on the basis of language.
During that time some Marathi speaking Congress members raised the pitches for separate Maharashtra State. Following this demand, other language speaking people too demands a separate state for them. Hence, Constituent Assembly in 1948 appointed the Linguistic Provinces Commission, headed by Justice S.K. Dhar, to enquire into the desirability of linguistic provinces.
The Dhar Commission advised against this at that time reason being it might threaten national unity and also be administratively inconvenient.
After some time the clamor for linguistic states again got momentum. To appease the vocal votaries of linguistic states, the congress appoints a committee (JVP) in December 1948 consisting of Nehru, Sardar Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya to examine the question afresh. This JVP Committee revoked the seal of approval that the congress has once put on the principle of linguistic provinces.
The demands for separate state on the linguistic basis didn’t subside. There were renewed movements aimed at linguistic autonomy in 1948, 1949. There was the campaign for Samyukta Karnataka, uniting Kannada speaking spread across the states of Madras, Mysore, Bombay, Hyderabad, Samyukta Maharashtra, Maha Gujarat movement. In case of Punjab, struggle brought together both the factors language and religion (Sikh).
After Independence, the speakers of Telugu asked the congress to implement its old resolution in favour of linguistic states.
On 19 October 1952, a popular freedom fighter, Potti Sriramulu undertook a fast unto death over the demand for a separate Andhra and expired after fifty-eight days. After his death people were agitated and it was followed by rioting, demonstrations, hartals and violence all over Andhra. The Vishalandhra movement (as the movement for a separate Andhra was called) turned violent. Finally, the then PM, Nehru announced the formation of a separate Andhra State in December 1952.
State Reorganization Commission
The formation of Andhra Pradesh spurred the struggle for making of other states on linguistic lines in other parts of the country.
Hence Nehru appointed in August 1953 the states Reorganisation Commission (SRC) with justice Fazl 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. The SRC submitted its report in October 1955. It recognized for the most part on the linguistic principle and recommended redrawing of state boundaries on that basis.
The then government accepted the SRC’s recommendations. Finally, the states Reorganization Act was passed by parliament in November 1956. It provided for fourteen states and six centrally administered territories. SRC opposed the splitting of Bombay & Punjab.
Case of Bombay
Therefore, the strongest reaction against SRC’s report came from Maharashtra, where widespread rioting took place. To fulfill their demand of separate Marathi speaking people’s state, there was the broad based Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and on the other hand in Bombay state, there was Maha Gujarat Janata Parishad led the movement for Gujarati people.
After on years of the reorganization of states Act, the government finally agreed in May 1960, the bifurcate the state of Bombay into Maharashtra, Gujarat with Bombay city being included in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad being made the capital of Gujarat.
Case of Punjab
The other state where an exception was made to the linguistic principle was Punjab. In 1956, the state of PEPSU had been merged with Punjab, which remained a trilingual state having three language speakers-Punjab, Hindu and Pahari within its border. In the Punjabi speaking part of the state, there was a strong demand for carving out a separate Punjabi Suba (Punjabi Speaking State). This demand got communal overtones. The Akali Dal led Sikh Communalists, while the Jan Sangh, led Hindu communalists.
SRC had rejected the demands in Punjab, as it would not solve either the language or the communal problem of Punjab. Finally in 1966, Indira Gandhi agreed to the division of Punjab into two Punjabi and Hindi speaking status of Punjab and Haryana, with the Pahari speaking district of Kangra and a port of the Hoshiarpur district being merged with HP.
Finally, after more than ten years of continuous strife and popular struggles, the linguistic reorganization of India was largely completed.