People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 06, 2004
to Oppose Break-up of Linguistic States
of the contentious issues in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of United
Progressive Alliance is that of a separate Telangana, and it is known that the
Left cannot agree to any bifurcation of the existing linguistic states. As we
know, the way the previous BJP led regime created three new states only fuelled
the demands for break-up of existing linguistic states that had materialised
after long struggles. And now the UPAís promise to consider the demand of a
separate Telangana may boost the demands of a separate Vidarbha and the like.
may recall that the idea of linguistic states was a product of our freedom
struggle. We know that after conquering large parts of the country, the British
created an administration on the basis of their own convenience and not on any
sound principle. This caused a lot of trouble to the people speaking various
languages, most of which were well developed before the British raj. As language
binds people together in their day-to-day intercourse, this artificial break-up
of the people of a linguistic group hampered their coming together. This only
served the British imperialist interests.
of our independence struggle recognised the importance of linguistic principle
for drawing the people into a common anti-imperialist struggle. As early as
1922, the Congress organised its branches on the basis of linguistic groups and
not in line with the British system of presidencies and provinces. Then, in
1928, the report of the Nehru committee, with Motilal Nehru as chairman and
Jawaharlal Nehru as secretary, clearly laid down that, after independence, India
would be reorganised on linguistic basis. All major parties of the time endorsed
this idea even if they differed on some other recommendations of the report.
after independence, the bourgeois-landlord regime went back on its word and
refused to form linguistic states. The reason was that, now in power, the
Congress had no care for the aspirations of various nationalities inhabiting
India, nor did it care for the unity of diverse nationalities in a federal
set-up though the idea of federalism was incorporated in our constitution. The
earlier system of provinces was kept by and large intact, with minor changes
here and there. The difference was that, under the pressure of struggles
launched by the All India States Peopleís Conference, princely states were
merged in neighbouring provinces and then these provinces were divided into
Group A, B and C states. Even then, the PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab States
Union), Hyderabad, Travancore, Cochin and some other princely states were
maintained as separate entities.
merger of princely states in India, in itself, did not pose much of a problem.
The autocratic rulers of these 560-odd states, some of whom did not stretch
beyond a few miles, saw which way the wind was blowing and felt the pressure of
their peopleís struggles. Hence they merged into the Indian Union without
resistance, on the condition that their privy purses (perks and privileges etc)
would be maintained. These privy purses were later abolished in 1969, under the
pressure of a different political situation.
this stage, three states --- Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir --- refused to
merge with India. These wanted to take advantage of a mischievous provision in
Mountbatten award that after the British left India, the princely states could
merge with either Indian Union or Pakistan, or remain independent. This was a
clever British imperialist move to have a foothold in the subcontinent even
after they left.
these, the merger of Hyderabad and Kashmir proved difficult. The Communist Party
was then waging an armed struggle against the Nizam of Hyderabad, and one of our
demands was that the state should merge with India. Finally, on the plea of
forcing the Nizam to merge, the Nehru regime sent its forces to the state, but
one of its aims was to break the growing strength of the Communist Party and
Andhra Mahasabha. The Nizam yielded.
Hari Singh of Kashmir also wanted to have his separate rule though the people
wanted to merge with India. But then the events took a serious turn. Soon after
partition, rulers of the newly created Pakistan sent into Kashmir valley armed
raiders who soon reached the vicinity of Srinagar. Pakistanís flimsy plea was
that the state had a Muslim majority population and therefore should come to
Pakistan. But, led by the National Conference, the stateís people rose against
the raiders and fought them for months together. Pressed between the Pak-backed
raiders on the one hand and the peopleís movement on the other, the Maharaja
sent an SOS to the Nehru government which then sent its forces to Kashmir. The
raiders were repulsed though Pakistan had by now occupied (and still holds) a
good part of the state. The Maharaja perforce signed a treaty of accession to
India, and the peopleís dream of becoming a part of secular India became a
telling part of this history is that, at that time, the RSS was active in
Kashmir under the guise of Praja Parishad, and this so-called nationalist outfit
was unashamedly supporting the Maharajaís game to remain independent. Nay, the
Praja Parishad men were not fighting the raiders but murdering those who were
striving for Kashmirís merger with India.
Indiaís rulers still refused to reorganise the country on linguistic lines.
This gave rise to a new wave of struggles in various parts of the country for
linguistic reorganisation of states. The struggles for Vishalandhra, Aikya
Kerala and Samyukta Maharashtra were the main struggles of this period. The
genuine character of these demands can be gauged from an example. In British
days, the Malayalam speaking people were divided between Travancore, Cochin and
Madras presidency. This naturally hampered their development as a distinct
nationality. Hence the slogan of Aikya Kerala. Similarly, the Marathi and
Gujarati people were forced to remain in one entity, the Bombay presidency, a
creation of British rulers.
were powerful struggles, and the Communist Party led several of them. A K
Gopalan, EMS and their comrades played a leading role in the formation of
Kerala, P Sundarayya and others had a no less leading role in the formation of
Andhra Pradesh, while Dange and others were in the forefront of Samyukta
Maharashtra struggle. To recall, while the glorious Telangana struggle had
started before 1947, one of its important demands was that the Telugu people,
scattered in the princely Hyderabad as well as Madras and Bombay presidencies,
must be brought together into a distinct unit. Though the changed situation
after independence necessitated the withdrawal of Telangana struggle in October
1951, this struggle not only forced the recalcitrant Nizam to merge with India
but also brought the issue of Indiaís linguistic reorganisation on the
countryís agenda with such force that the demand could no longer be ignored.
The rulers were now forced to constitute a States Reorganisation Commission
whose recommendations led to the formation of linguistic states. The task was by
and large completed in 1956.
struggles the Communist Party waged for the formation of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh
and Maharashtra brought immense prestige to the party, and it won many seats in
these areas in first Lok Sabha polls in 1952. Similarly, the party made
significant gains when the newly reorganised states went to assembly polls in
1957. That year a communist government, led by late Comrade EMS, came to power
the present linguistic states were won at the cost of heavy sacrifices; for
instance, during the Samyukta Maharashtra agitation, a police firing claimed
more than three dozen lives on a single day. But the RSS (which never took part
in the freedom struggle) and its political platform (Jan Sangh, which was the
BJPís precursor) never recognised this identity of the people, as it went
against their unitarian concept of nationhood. And the reason was that they
never recognised the unity in diversity for which India has always been known.
As we all know, ours is a country with numerous languages, religions, ethnic
groups, cultures, festivals, dressing and food habits, etc, and that was why the
framers of our constitution incorporated federalism and secularism as the
pillars of our body politic.
all this is anathema to the Sangh Parivar that seeks to impose a contrived unity
on this diversity, without realising what dangers the consequent killing of the
aspirations of any section of our people may pose to our unity. Little do they
realise that real unity can grow only out of diversity, when all sections of
people get an equal opportunity to develop and feel that they all are parts of a
single great whole. The Parivarís Hindutva can prove fatal to our national
unity. It is yet to learn a lesson from the experience of Pakistan where the
suppressed aspirations of East Pakistanís people led to the birth of
was thus not surprising that after coming to power, the BJP sought to dismantle
the linguistic states and, for this purpose, its government appointed a
constitution review commission. It is another thing that the BJP game faced
tough resistance. To make the goings easier for it, the party cloaked its game
under the idea of administrative convenience that really means convenience for a
totalitarian centre to control the whole country. But the fact is that such
administrative convenience can only be at the cost of aspirations of various
linguistic groups that constitute India. The BJPís hope is that in case
smaller states are there, it would be easier for it to win polls by misleading
people on caste and communal lines. Though the Parivarís game has failed for
the time being, one cannot be certain as to when it will raise the same divisive
slogan again. The RSS and its outfits have already talked of the division of
Jammu & Kashmir into three and four parts on communal lines.
brings us to the issue of backwardness, as divisive forces of all hues seek to
mobilise sections of people on the plea of their backwardness. Today, there are
certain states in the country, and certain areas within a single state, that are
more backward than others. Even in an otherwise advanced state or area, certain
sections (like the scheduled castes or tribes) are more backward than others.
unevenness is a product of the bankrupt path of capitalist development, and it
is clear that our bourgeois-landlord system is unable to solve it
satisfactorily. Nor are the bourgeois-landlord parties interested in seeking a
durable solution to this bane of our collective life. On the contrary, they seek
to exploit the discontent the continuing backwardness of sections of the people
is generating. The post-independence history of our country is replete with
instances of divisive politics.
demand to break the linguistic states is one example of such divisive politics.
But while a thorough remedy of backwardness is urgently needed to protect our
peopleís fighting unity and cement out national unity, it is certain that a
break-up of linguistic states is not going to provide any such solution. On the
contrary, we see in case of Uttaranchal and Jharkhand that though these were
formed by breaking the existing states, no semblance of development is visible
there. If anything, divisive forces are active in these states to deprive the
genuine residents of their rights in the name of domicile, etc. In Jharkhand,
the BJP state government is out to kill the Chhota Nagpur and Santhal Pargana
tenancy acts and, if it succeeds, this will only add to the tribal peopleís
backwardness, on which plea the state was created, and ignite their discontent
to unmanageable levels. It is clear that break-up of linguistic states can only
add to the problems instead of solving them.
sadly, some parties seem eager to lend their weight behind the slogan of a
separate Telangana or separate Vidarbha, little realising the dangers of this
slogan. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has an alliance with the Telangana
Rashtra Samiti that stands for a separate Telangana. Though the Congress has
been opposed to bifurcation of Maharashtra, at one time it showed signs of
vacillation on this issue.
of the CPI(M) are aware of the dire need to address the issue of backwardness of
Telangana and other areas. But we are also aware of the dangers the divisive
slogans pose. That is why we say that giving up the principled stand in defence
of linguistic states can only kill the interests of future for the sake of some
temporary gain. The linguistic states are a product of long struggles and a must
for preserving Indiaís unity, and the need to preserve them cannot be
overlooked. It is also certain that in case states are bifurcated, they will
lose their weight in a federal set-up.
this consideration, we of the CPI(M) stand not only for the statesí autonomy
but also for genuine devolution of autonomy to lower levels. Hence we have been
advocating the formation of autonomous councils for backward areas in the states
where the problem is acute. Not only that, we have put this idea in practice in
Tripura and West Bengal. Long back, in late 1970s, the Left Front government of
Tripura created an autonomous council for backward tribal areas, and this
council has done a lot of commendable work in solving the tribal peopleís
problems and thus cementing their unity with the non-tribals. If Tripura is
facing the problem of secessionism, it is not because of any discontent among
tribals but because certain imperialist-aided forces are trying to break the
tribal-non-tribal unity in order to destabilise the state and the region as part
of the imperialist game of balkanising India. In West Bengal, which for years
witnessed a violent struggle in northern parts, the creation of an autonomous
council has gone a long way in tackling the problem of development.
is the approach the CPI(M) advocates for the problem of backwardness in states,
and we are of the firm opinion that this approach will not only satisfactorily
address the problem but also safeguard the unity of people and nation. We are
therefore resolved to present our viewpoint with full force and mobilise the
people along this line.