Ambedkar and small states
January 31, 2010
First Published: 23:01 IST(31/1/2010)
Last Updated: 23:03 IST(31/1/2010)
As the nation once again grapples with the issue of reorganisation of
states, BR Ambedkar's book Thoughts on Linguistic States, written in
December 1955, might need an urgent revisit.
His ideas were proved right and his assessment of the creation of new
states in the federal polity is relevant in post-Independent India.
One of the most interesting proposals by Ambedkar in the 1955 book was
to split Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. He wanted Madhya Pradesh divided
into northern and southern states.
Bihar also was to be split into two, with Patna and Ranchi as the
capitals. After a good 45 years, the split came with the formation of
Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand out of Bihar in the
Ambedkar, fresh after working on the Constitution of India (he was
head of the drafting committee of the Constitution), came out with a
vision for a reorganised India. He felt that a state should have a
people of one language to have uniformity and to retain linguistic
culture. At the same time, there could be two states where people
spoke the same language. He proposed splitting single-language states.
For instance, he wondered at Uttar Pradesh's huge size (still it is
the fourth-largest in India) and wanted to split it into three states.
Ambedkar had a special formula for Bombay, then a mixed-language
province (including the present-day Maharashtra and Gujarat). He
proposed 'city state' status for Bombay. He acknowledged the presence
of people of multiple linguistic groups and their role in establishing
Bombay. He proposed to split Maharashtra (he conceptualised it before
the state came into existence) into three states. At that time,
Maharashtra comprised several districts of the erstwhile Nizam's
Hyderabad. Ambedkar was responding to the report of the first State
Reorganisation Commission (SRC) in 1955, through his book.
Gandhian Potti Sriramulu died on December 16, 1952, after a 58-day
fast demanding a separate Andhra state for Telugu-speaking people (to
be carved out of Madras Presidency). This prompted the central
government to go for the SRC and triggered the formation of linguistic
states. Ambedkar ridiculed Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister:
"The creation of a new Andhra province now being thought of is only a
pindadan to the departed soul of Mr Sriramulu, by the Prime Minister."
One of Ambedkar's major proposals was to make Hyderabad the second
capital of India because of the centrality of location, as a junction
of North and South, and on defence considerations.
The Andhra state issue never died down. The 1955 SRC recognised Andhra
and Hyderaba (Telangana) as separate entities. By then Hyderabad as a
separate state had elections in 1952 and a state government was in
place. The clamour for a single-language state for the Telugus led to
the merger of Andhra and Hyderabad states in 1956 with assurances to
Hyderabad in a "Gentleman's Agreement" that the cabinet will have 40
per cent representation from Hyderabad. There would be the post of
deputy chief minister so that either the chief minister or deputy
chief minister was from Hyderabad.
The failure of the agreement led to the 1969 Telangana agitation,
which too got settled by a six-point formula (between the leaders of
the Andhra and Telangana regions), with equitable opportunities in
education and employment.
In November 1996, a hugely successful meeting called Vidroha Sabha
demanding Telangana was held. Later Telangana ideologues Jai Shankar
(former vice-chancellor of Osmania University) and Mallepalli Laxmiah
(a journalist) released book in 1997 a book called Telangana lo Emi
Jaruguthundi (The Present Conditions in Telangana), which tried to
cite injustice and discrimination as causes of its backwardness even
today. The differences in the conditions of the Andhra and Telangana
regions seem to have accentuated in the post-liberalisation Andhra
Pradesh. This emerged into a fresh movement demanding Telangana and
got a political face in 2001 and the electoral politics around it
Ambedkar seemed to have solutions to all such problems — all written
down 55 years ago. On splitting one-language states, he said: "Into
how many States a people speaking one language should be cut up,
should depend upon (1) the requirements of efficient administration,
(2) the needs of the different areas, (3) the sentiments of the
different areas, and (4) the proportion between the majority and
The size of the state for him had a special connotation. Ambedkar
wrote: "As the area of the State increases the proportion of the
minority to the majority (communities/castes) decreases and the
position of the minority (castes) becomes precarious and the
opportunities for the majority to practise tyranny over the minority
become greater. The States must therefore be small."
Ambedkar's appropriate advice for our times: "The formation of
Linguistic States, although essential, cannot be decided by any sort
of hooliganism. Nor must it be solved in a manner that will serve
party interest. It must be solved by cold blooded reasoning."
The author is an IAS officer.
The views expressed are personal
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