The purpose of this paper is to take a synoptic view of internal boundaries of India in periods of subcontinental states in history, and closely examine the issue of reorganization of States in independent India. The major hypotheses of this paper are that (i) the historical internal boundaries are more a reflection of accidents of war and conquest than physical and cultural and regional geography and demography; (ii) the reorganization of States in independent India suffers from hangovers of history and ad hoc decisions of the Centre under regional protests and passions of the moment than any comprehensive deliberative design of redrawing of internal boundaries; and (iii) the Constituent Assembly of India missed the opportunity of making a comprehensive reorganization in conformity to cultural, administrative, and fiscal rationales that may have been feasible at the constituent defining moment in the life of the Indian nation-state. That opportunity having been missed by a beleaguered and fatigued nationalist political elites, the only conceivable conditions under which a comprehensive perspective plan for internal territorial reorganization can be imagined is under conditions of unsustainable fiscal overload or further political fragmentation crippling governability and politico-economic management of India. Given the foregoing, the foresight of the article 3 of the constitution leaving the final authority of reorganization with the Parliament of India with the obligation to only “consult” the States concerned is a pragmatic feature of the Indian federal experiment, even though it is generally supposed to be an unfederal feature by scholars like K.C. Wheare (1964). However, as B.R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly subsequently explained: “Article 3 of the Constitution gives power to Parliament to create new states. This was done because there was no time to reorganize the states on linguistic basis for which there was a great demand”.1
Pre-Independence Internal Boundaries
Independence, accompanied by the Partition in 1947 was, of course, the politically constitutive defining moment in India negotiated interdependently by the modern historical forces of nationalism and colonialism. “Partition was”, observes Bidyut Chakrabarty (2004:10), “not forced upon the subcontinent, but it emerged as the best possible alternative at a particular historical conjuncture. Even the Congress that never accepted the two-nation theory was forced to swallow its outcome, possibly to avoid a further bloodbath in the name of protecting communal pride and interests”. This dramatic imperial demarcation of India’s external boundaries glosses over several significant moments, both before and after Independence, when internal boundaries of colonial and post-colonial India were drawn and redrawn. The process, indeed, goes back to medieval and ancient times. While the focus of this paper is limited to modern India, especially to India since 1947, we may at least take three historical snapshots at the internal boundaries of Mauryan India (c.322-185 B.C), Mughal India (c.1526-1858 A.D.), and British India (1757-1947). Ashoka’s India was divided into four provinces, besides of course the centre with its capital at Pataliputra (Patna): (a) the eastern province (capital city Toshali, Orissa today); (b) the western province (capital city Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh today); (c) the northern province (capital city Taxila, in west Punjab in Pakistan today), and (d) the southern province (capital city Suvarnagir Brahamagiri somewhere in the south) (Romila Thapar, 1997:100-1). Akbar’s India was divided into 15 “subas or Governments” (H.S. Jarrett’s preface to The Ain-I-Akbari, Vol. II: viii): Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Allahabad, Oudh, Agra, Malva, Khandesh, Berar, Gujarat, Ajmer, Delhi, Lahor, Multan, and Kabul (Abul-Fazl Allami, 1981:129-404). “The empire… stretched from Afghanistan up to the head of the Gulf of Bengal, from the Himalaya up to the Deccan” (Jarrett, 1989.: viii)2.
As in Mauryan and Mughal India, internal provincial divisions in British India were products more of incidents of war and annexation than anything else. The period of extension and consolidation of British rule in India was fairly long. There was, for example, a gap of nearly a century between the onset of the preliminary British conquest of Bengal in the trail of the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and the annexation of Punjab in 1846. By the time the British Parliament enacted the feebly federal scheme of provincial autonomy under the Government of India Act, 1935, and held elections to provincial legislatures early in 1937, there were eleven provinces in British India (besides the native princely states linked in subsidiary alliances with the British Raj under the paramountacy of the Crown of the United Kingdom): Madras, United Provinces of Oudh and Agra, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Bombay, Assam, North-West Frontier Province, Bengal, Punjab, and Sind (M.V. Pylee, 1984: 99-100).
The three cross-sectional points in time telescopically selected above for fleeting glimpses of internal territorial divisions of India are separated by millenniums and centuries: the Mauryan centuries fell in the last millennium B.C., the Mughal centuries in the mid-second millennium A.D., and the British centuries ran from the latter half of the eighteenth to the first half of the twentieth. Mauryan India was civilizationally Brahmano-Buddhistic in its worldview and geopolitically pulled eastward. Mughal India was civilizationally Indo-Islamic and geopolitically pulled westward. British India, without abandoning its subcontinental cultural heritage, joined the orbit of European Enlightenment and was pulled into global geopolitical equations for the first time. The Mauryan state was thus autocthonic in terms of political culture with its centre of political gravity in Magadh located in modern Bihar, the Mughals came to India from Central Asia through the perennial northwestern mountain passes by which foreign travelers, traders, migrants, and aggressors had poured into India since times immemorial. The European explorers and traders came to India from the sea route, among whom the British finally established their political ascendancy and gradually moved into the hinterland from coastal British outposts of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras Presidencies and finally moved the capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911-1912.
The internal boundaries in pre-modern India, after the emergence of state-based socio-political formation at the end of the Age of the Buddha in the sixth century B.C., were a product of realpolitik and annexations predicated on royal matrimonial alliances and conquests. The first redrawing of boundaries in response to popular mass pressures occurrd in the early twentieth century British India following Lord Curzon’s imperial partititon of Bengal on religious-communal lines in 1905. The move was aimed at breaking the back of newly emergent spirit of Indian nationalism in the English-educated Bengali middle class (bhadralok). The decision stirred up a strong popular protest in the form of the swadeshi movement which ultimately forced the British rulers to annul the partition of Bengal in 1911. This popular movement in Bengali-speaking part of the Bengal Presidency was subsequently to be emulated by the Hindi-speaking Biharis and, after some time, by the Oriya-speaking people in the Bengal Presidency. The British decided to shift the capital to Delhi in 1911, created a new province of Bihar and Orissa the same year, and held a huge assemblage of native rulers at the Delhi Durbar in 1912 coinciding with the royal visit of George V to India. Several years later, at the earliest manifestation of the popular demand for a separate Oriya-speaking province, the British rulers bifurcated Orissa out of the province of Bihar and Orissa in 1936.
These province-creating drivers were animated by the undercurrent of three forces at work then in British India. The hornets’ nest was stirred, as briefly alluded to above, by the attempt of the British colonial rulers to weaken the force of proto-pan-Indian nationalism beginning to be championed by the English-educated Bengali bhadralok in the last quarter of the nineteenth century mingled with Hindu revivalism (with other religious rivivalistic tendencies waiting in the wings) by the beginning of the twentieth century. With this objective in view the British portioned Bengali linguistic region of the larger Bengal Presidency Province on religious Hindu–Muslim line in 1905. In reaction to it the swadeshi nationalist movement sprung up, which ultimately succeeded in forcing the British to annul the partition. The swadeshi movement in Bengal engendered similar linguistic provincialist fervour in Hindi–speaking and later Oriya-speaking parts of Bengal Presidency – Bihar and Orissa. Demand for separate province-formation in Bihar in all appearances was less strongly linked with indigenous linguistic identity and more with prospects of greater employment, middle class professional earnings, and freedom from domination by Bengalis (Rajendra Prasad, 1992: 55; Girish Mishra and B.K. Pandey, 1996: 28-38).
The situation in Orissa was probably not all that different from Bihar.
Thus began the modern historical process of nationality-formation in India. The major landmarks of this development were the acceptance of the federal idea by the Lucknow conference of the Indian National Congress in 1916, acceptance of the idea of linguistic provinces by the 1920 Congress held in Nagpur, submission of memoranda in large numbers to the British Government of India and the India Office in London for recognition of nationalities of Oriyas, Kannadas, Andhras, Tamils, Bengalis, and Jharkhandis and creation of linguistic states for them. The 1942 “Quit India” Resolution of the Congress pledged “the largest measure of autonomy for the federating units”. Things moved into different gears in 1946 when memoranda were submitted to the British Cabinet Mission visiting India by the Dravid Kazagham for a sovereign state of Dravidastan and by the Communist Party of India for “17 sovereign National Constituent Assemblies based on national homelands of various Indian peoples” and advocated “a voluntary union of national states” (Suniti Kumar Ghosh, 1996, quoted in Himanshu Roy, 1996:23).
Post-Independence Reorganization of States
With transfer of power to the Indian National Congress under the Government of India Act, 1947, and lapse of paramountacy of the British Crown over native Indian states in 1947, the Government of India combined consensual diplomacy and ‘police action’ (Hyderabad) and defensive intervention–on–invitation (Jammu & Kashmir) to effectuate the integration of these states with the Indian Union in the process of being crafted by the Constituent Assembly doubling as the provisional Parliament. The Constitution of India created, to begin with, three categories of states out of the British Indian provinces and the native states in response to the variety and varying stages of integration with India that marked the federating and federated units. The States and categories of states created by the Constituent Assembly are given in Table 1.
The States of the Union: Crafted by Constituent Assembly
Part I States
Part II States
Part III States
SOURCE: B. Shiva Rao et. al (eds.), The Framing of India’s Constitution: A Study/Select Documents, Vol. V, (New Delhi: Indian Institute of Public Administration, 1968): 543-545. In the text of the Constitution the three categories of states were finally called I, II, and III category states.
Part I states listed above largely corresponded with British Indian provinces administered by a Governor under a central Governor General overseen by the authority of the Parliament of Great Britain. Part II states were also administered likewise before the commencement of the Constitution but, instead of being placed under a Governor, they were put under a Chief Commissioner. Part III states were former native states ruled by Indian kings under the paramountacy of the British Crown, deputized in India by the Viceroy who doubled as the Governor General of the British Indian Provinces.
If the reorganization of provinces in the Bengal presidency by the British rulers around the first decade of the twentieth century in response to popular demands and movements may be said to be the first wave of ‘democratic’ reorganization of territories in modern India, such democratic waves were soon to follow with almost seasonal frequency following the ‘constitutionalization’ of democracy with commencement of the Constitution in 1950 and the holding of the first general elections in 1952 on universal adult sufferage. The nationalist leaders during the freedom struggle had kept adopting a variety of strategies of deepening the sociological foundations of India nationalism. Besides using territorial patriotism3 as the bedrock of civic nationalism by Congress Moderates, Congress Extremists leaned on Hinduism, and Gandhi on Indian languages in search of “cultural” nationalism with ethnic undercurrents. As early as the early 1920s Gandhi advocated the reorganization of the Indian National Congress along linguistic lines instead of the British administrative provincial boundaries. Gandhi’s proposal was adopted by the Congress at its Nagpur session in 1920. However, Gandhi`s demand for a directly elected constituent assembly for future and independent India made in 1922 was never conceded by the British rulers.
Shortly after Independence movements for linguistic reorganization of states appeared in several states. The central Congress leadership as well as the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) Report (1956) largely accepted the linguistic principle in some cases but preferred, unless pushed to the wall, the maintenance of multilingual states for cultural homogenization. The reorganization of states as proposed by the SRC is given in Table 2.
The SRC Report took pains to point out some “obvious limitations to the realization of unilingualism at the state level” due to the following “limiting factors”: “(i) not all the language groups are so placed that they can be grouped into separate states; (ii) there are a large number of bilingual belts between different linguistic zones; and (iii) there exist areas with a mixed population even within unilingual areas” (Report of the State Reorganization Commission Report, 1955:205).
The SRC recommended the reorganization of the states as listed in Table 2
The Reorganization of States as Recommended by SRC, 1955
(in Sq. Miles)
Jammu & Kashmir
SOURCE: Report of the State Reorganization Commission (1955:203-4.).
Soon after the submission of the SRC Report, B.R. Ambedkar (1989 b, preface date 23 December, 1955) presented a critique of it mainly on the ground that the proposed reorganization would result in great imbalance among the states on account of disparities of population: eight states with populations between one and two crores each, four states with populations between two and four crores, and two states with populations of above four and six crores each. In his opinion “It will be impossible for the small States to bear the weight of the big States” (Ambedkar, 1989 b:18), especially because the Constitution of India, as pointed out by K.M. Panniker in his note of dissent to the SRC Report, had not incorporated the principles of equality of states qua states in the federal second chamber, and popular and the federal chambers were endowed with disparity of size and powers (Ambedkar, 1989 b: 19). This disparity in Ambedkar’s view boiled down to a serious North-South divide:
The North is Hindi-speaking. The South is non-Hindi speaking. Most people do not know what is the size of the Hindi-speaking population. It is as much as 48 per cent of the total population of India. Fixing one’s eye on this fact one cannot fail to say that the Commission’s effort will result in the consolidation of the North and the balkanization of the South (Ambedkar, 1989 b: 20).4
As a solution to this problem, Ambedkar proposed a scheme for division of four Northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, into smaller states. U.P. could be trifurcated into Western, Central and Eastern U.P. (with capitals in Meerut, Kanpur, and Allahabad, Bihar into North and South, Bihar (with capitals in Patna and Ranchi respectively); Madhya Pradesh into Northern and Southern M.P.; and Maharashtra into the city-state of Bombay, Western, Central and Eastern Maharashtra. He summarized the principles governing his scheme of reorganizing Northern India into smaller states into the following points: (1) All mixed states must be replaced by unilingual states; (2) “The formula of one State, one language, must not be confused with the formula of one language, one state”; (3) People speaking one language may be divided into more than one state, depending on (a) administrative rationality, (b) developmental needs/backwardness, (c) popular sentiments, and (d) a rational proportion between the majority and minority. Smaller states were advocated by Ambedkar especially to avoid what he called the “tyranny of the communal majority” (The term “communal” for him here subsumed religious as well as linguistic and caste majorities.) The remedies against this phenomenon suggested by him were mainly two: (a) “not to have too large a State”, and (b) “to have plural member constituencies (of two or three) with cumulative voting” (specifically rejecting reserved seats as well as separate electorates) (Ambedkar, 1989 b: Chapters 6-10). Finally, taking into account considerations of history and climate, culture, convenience, and strategic defence in war, Ambedkar recommended two capitals for India – Delhi and Hyderabad (1989 b: Chapter 11).
The seventh amendment to the Constitution supplemented by the States Reorganization Act (both enacted in 1956) created the following states with effect from 1 November 1956, eliminating the distinction between Part A, B, and C states (see Table 3):
Reorganized States in 1956
1. Andhra Pradesh (merging Andhra and Telangana region of the erstwhile Hyderabad state)
4. Bombay (enlarged by the addition of Saurashtra and Kutch and Marathi-speaking districts of Nagpur Division. Southernmost districts of Bombay were transferred to Mysore state)
5. Jammu & Kashmir
6. Kerala (merging Travancore-Cochin state with the Malabar district of Madras state)
7. Madhya Pradesh (merging Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal: Marathi-speaking districts of Nagpur Division were transferred to Bombay state)
9. Mysore (enlarged by the addition of the Coorg state and the Kannada-speaking districts from southern Bombay state and western Hyderabad state)
11. Punjab (enlarged by the merger of Patiala & East Punjab States Union, PEPSU)
12. Rajasthan (Rajputana was renamed Rajasthan and enlarged by adding Ajmer-Marwar state)
13. Uttar Pradesh
14. West Bengal
SOURCES: The Seventh Constitutional Amendment and SRC Act, both 1956.
Thus the Union government in 1956 conceded to the demand for unilingual states only in case of Andhra Pradesh, where the agitation had culminated into the self-immolation of a popular Telugu leader. Milder agitations for linguistically mixed rump states of Madras after bifurcation of Andhra, Bombay, Mysore, Punjab, and elsewhere were ignored. However, the popular linguistic movements did not die down.
As it happened, under the pressure and persistence of linguistic, religious, and tribal movements, the central government yielded, creating Andhra Pradesh (Telugu-speaking), Tamil Nadu (Tamil-speaking), Karnataka (Kanada-speaking), Gujarat (Gujarati-speaking), Maharashtra (Marathi-speaking), Punjab (Punjabi-speaking with a Sikh majority), Haryana (Hindi-speaking), and Himachal Pradesh (Hindi-speaking) in the 1950s or 1960s. This process of territorial reorganization extended to the northeast in the 1960s or 1970s. Beginning with the bifurcation of Nagaland out of Assam (1962), the process culminated in the emergence of the so-called ‘seven sisters’ – states or the union territories – in the region. (see Table 4).
States & UnionTerritories in India today
Note: The years in the parentheses denote the dates of creation of the units as states or union territories or changes in their states by constitutional amendments.
SOURCE: The Rajeev Dhavan Typescript on the State of the Federal Union (early 2000s) revised and used by Rekha Saxena (2006:114) and further revised by the present author.
Sub-state movements based on tribal or ethnic identities acquired salience in several states in the 1980s such as Gurkha National Liberation Front in the Darjeeling hill district of West Bengal, Bodoland agitation in Assam, and Jharkhand Mukti-Morcha in the Chhotnagpur region mainly in Bihar but marginally also in the adjoining states of West Bengal, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. To meet these sub-state demands, a new proto-federal innovation of autonomous Regional Development Councils was set up in Jharkhand, Darjeeling, Bodo, and Ladakh areas of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, and Jammu & Kashmir respectively.
The three new states created in the Indian Union in 2000 were Jharkhand (replacing the Jharkhand Regional Development Council), Uttaranchal, and Chhattisgarh bifurcating the states of Bihar, U.P., and M.P. in the year 2000. These three new states were made also in response to some popular demand, backed by mass movements in descending order of intensity in the more backward regions of these three backward Hindi-speaking states. The element of novelty in their case is that they are the first clear-cut category of states created more on considerations of economic backwardness and step-motherly treatment by the political elites of the respective parent states than on considerations predominantly linguistic, religious, or tribal. Uttaranchal is hardly distinguishable in these ethnic terms from U.P., except in terms of regional economic disparities. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh do have disproportionately larger tribal populations than their parent states. However, over the years, the tribal majority in the former is said to have been reduced to a minority by migration into the area from Bihar plains and other parts of India. It is another matter that the migrants too joined the movement for creating a new state initiated by the tribals. Chhattisgarh region never really mounted a regional movement of any agitational magnitude. In both Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh the tribal population is around one-third of the total population of the newly created states concerned. The creation of these new states is understandable more by looking at a new federal coalitional governing framework in New Delhi. More than any other reason what really prompted the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government to give a new lease of life to forces of regionalism and elevate them to statehood appears to be the desperate need of the BJP to bolster its electoral strength by winning new vote blocs or new regional parties in coalition in New Delhi and the states.
The latest state in India was created in 2013-14 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government. The demand for bifurcation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh has a rather long history. The movement first came to ahead in 1969 when nearly 400 people lost their lives in police firing. The Indira Gandhi Congress Government intermediated a settlement with an agreement for greater regional autonomy for Telangana within the united Andhra Pradesh, including a central University of Hyderabad and preferential public employment for Telangana‘Mulkis’. The movement intermittently kept surfacing on lack of sincere implementation of the regional accord despite the incumbency of some political leaders from Telangana holding the office of the Chief Minister. However, as in the case of the three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand, so also Telangana the new state formation actually took place when the Congress-led UPA suddenly
brought out a dormant issue out of the closet in December 2009 by announcing its intention of initiating the process of carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. This was prompted by partisan interests of the Congress party in the state politics. Congress first unscrupulously and instrumentally dealt with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in coalition government formation and maintenance and was driven to take the precipitate action on division of the state when faced with a fast unto death by the TRS political entrepreneur called Chandrasekhar Rao. This immediately flared up intense violent agitations for and against the move in the Telangana and Seemandhra regions in a vicious competitive cycle. This was the first instance where the decision to divide a state was so determinedly opposed by both sides to the dispute. In face of this dilemma the Union government belatedly appointed a judicial committee chaired by Justice Srikrishna to study and report on the problem, which recommended that the best step forward was the maintenance of status quo. But the government proceeded in its bind pursuit of party-political interests. For by now the Congress then ruling in Andhra Pradesh had suffered a grievous loss in the accidental death of Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekkhar Reddy and, on denial of the dynastic right of succession to the office to YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy, a major split in the formation of a separate regional party, YSR Congress. Thus Congress appeared all set to lose Andhra Pradesh electorally in reaction to the division of united Andhra. To compensate the loss, the high command of the drowning Congress clutched at the straw of Telangana at least in the flow of events getting out of its control. As it happened, the promised merger of TRS after the creation of the new state also eluded the Congress in poetic justice, so to say. This was the first time that the Centre divided a state in blatant disregard of the resolution of the State Legislature rejecting the Parliament`s proposal to do so. Moreover, whereas Andhra Pradesh was the first Telugu-speaking linguistic state to be created in independent India in 1953, Telangana ironically turned out to an instance of the division of that unilingual state on the basis of the step-motherly treatment to its backward southern landlocked region.
The latest round of state formations in India must cause a rethinking on Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution granting unilateral power to the Parliament in the matter of creation of new states, in consultation (not necessarily concurrence) with the affected state(s). This unfederal provision is uniquely Indian aberration in comparative federal theory and practice. The makers of the Indian Constitution presumably decided to grant this absolute power to the Parliament as they realized that the internal boundaries of India were accidents of historical conquests and colonial convenience. And they did not have time to open this question right in the Constituent Assembly and in the midst of the greatly unsettled conditions of the partition, communal holocaust, and war-time economic crisis. But perhaps they grossly erred in their estimation of our future Honourable Members of Parliament and governments in making trustees of the national/federal interest. In any case, this onerous power must now be made subject to special majority required for constitutional amendment (scrapping the simple majority clause) and must be federalized by requiring the Parliament to solicit the consent of the state concerned for any such move.
The foregoing discussion suggests that the reorganization of Indian Union since Independence has mostly been done in ad hoc ways in response to political passions of the time. Interestingly, a regional geographer has made out “a case for constituting the federal structure on the basis of smaller units [of] most preferable cultural regions, with a regional capital acting as a powerful economic node”. C.D. Deshpande envisages four categories of federating units and subunits “having regional identity and consciousness of their home environment and socio-economic problems” plus “practicability of territorial changes and adjustments” (Deshpande, 1992: 309). The Deshpande plan advocates nineteen federating states, two devolutionary states, nineteen regional development authorities within the federating states, and six substates with special responsibilities cast upon the Union government. A closer scrutiny of the proposed scheme suggests that Deshpande’s major first-order reorganizing principle is, by and large, the linguistic basis, with departure from this principle made only in the case of the Hindi-speaking region. The two devolutionary states of Deshpande appear mainly guided by constraints of size and prohibitive fiscal costs of separate federal statehood. One of these, Himachal Pradesh, falls in the Hindi-speaking region, and the other, Purvanchal Pradesh, is the mixed bag of tribal areas in the northeastern region and northern Bengal. The substate regional development authorities attached to various linguistic federating states are based on physical-cultural factors and fiscal viability and metropolitan character. Finally, the Union territories directly attached to the federal government appear to be carved out by Deshpande on considerations of characteristics such as national metropolitan capital location, Indo-Portuguese exotic cultural traits, hilly or islandic socio-cultural distinctiveness, and fiscal viability. (see Table 5).
The Deshpande Scheme for Reorganization of States of the Union, 1992
States Under the Union Government with Devolved Powes;
Sub-States and Regional Development Authorities (R.D.A.) in the States (Numbered according to the States in which they are located)
6.1 Jharkhand (Bihar) Sub-State
6.2 Santhal Paraganas (R.D. A., W. Bengal)
7.1 Calcutta Metropolitan Region (W. Bengal) Sub-State
9.1 Mewar Hills (R.D.A., Rajasthan)
13.1 Kutch (R.D.A., Gujarat)
13.2 Eastern Hill Areas of Gujarat (R.D.A.)
14.1 Konkan, (R.D.A., Maharashtra)
14.2 Marathwada (R.D.A., Maharashtra)
14.3 Vidarabha (R.D.A., Maharashtra)
14.4 Bombay (Metropolitan Region) Sub-State
14.5. Western Ghats comples (R.D.A., Maharashtra)
15.1 Baudh Khondmals and Highlands (R.D.A., Orissa)
16.1 Telangana (R.D.A., Andhra Pradesh)
16.2 Rayalaseema (R.D.A., Andhra Pradesh)
16.3 Eastern Ghats Region (R.D.A., Andhra Pradesh)
17.1 Malnad or Western Ghats Complex (R.D.A., Karnataka)
18.1 Madras Metropolitan Region (Tamil Nadu) Sub-State
18.2 Nilgiris and other Tribal Hills (R.D.A., Tamil Nadu)
19.1 Western Ghats Complex (R.D.A., Kerala)
Sub-States Under the Union Territories with Special Responsibilities:
1.1 Ladakh (J & K)
4.1 Uttarkhand (Hill Region of Uttar Pradesh)
22. Delhi Metropolitan Region
5. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
6. Lakshadweep Islands
SOURCE: Deshpande, 1992: 309/311.
I find at least some features of the Deshpande proposal questionable. First, it is not clear why Bhojpuri areas are attached to Avadhi areas in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and not with Mithila-Mgadha in Bihar. To me Magahi, Maithili, and Bhojpuri dialects have mainly coexisted in Bihar and would also make Bihar territorially and fiscally more viable than it is today. Second, I find it indefensible why Gwalior, Malwa, and Mahokoshal in the present state of Madhya Pradesh should form three separate states and Sikkim, Darjiling, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura should be jumbled up in a new devolutionary state called Purvanchal Pradesh. This is specially so when there has been no popular demand for separate statehood in Gwalior/Malva/Mahakoshal, while the northeastern states have had stronger regional identity movements, some verging on separatism. Third, Deshpande does not pause to ponder whether some existing full-fledged states would agree to be reduced to the status not only of devolutionary states but also to substate regional development authorities. In any case, the centralized political authority that is needed to execute the plan of reorganization suggested by Deshpande is simply not available right now. The only moment when this scheme could have been implemented was at the historic defining moment of the making of the Constitution in the wake of the Independence. It is debatable whether the Indira Gandhi regime could have effectuated it. Yet a rethinking of the kind suggested by Deshpande could begin when the sheer fiscal costs of the present political mentality of a termite colony visible in India today becomes too prohibitive and crippling. The Deshpande proposal deserves deliberation in view of the fact that even after the latest reorganization giving birth to three new states, there are still many more pending demands for new federal statehood within the Union (Ajay Kumar Singh, 2003). Incidentally none of the newly created states, with the exception of Chhattisgarh, deserved federal statehood in Deshpande’s reckoning. In my understanding, even Chhattisgarh is a doubtful case. Jharkhand ought to have been at most a devolutionary state, and Uttaranchal and Chhatttisgarh substates with special Union responsibilities.
Crystal-gazing into the future one can identify the following major problems on the agenda of reorganization of states in India in the decades ahead. First, the North-South divide that preoccupied the mind of Ambedkar so intensely in the 1950s is at least partly moderated by division of some bigger North Indian states since then. However, another dimension of this problem has surfaced due to postponement of the delimitation of electoral constituencies following a decennial headcount since the 1971 census. After being held in abeyance earlier until 2000, the process has now been frozen until 2026 by the eighty-fourth amendment (2001). It has aheady resulted in a potentially explosive question on the North-South axis, as disproportionate increase of population in the two mega macro-regions has produced distressing representational disparities in the Parliament. The northern region has considerably larger populations and proportionately fewer seats in the Parliament. This disparity is likely to be further magnified by the time the question of delimitation of constituencies is reopened after 2026. (Ashish Bose, 2000: 1698-1700).
Secondly, rise of fragmented ethnic identities and strong micro-regionalism have forced the short-sighted Union governments to create new states, often in blind disregard of administrative rationality and financial viability. In the new political economy of neo-liberalism, privatization, and globalization, when even the more resourceful central and richer provincial states are facing growing and chronic deficits, how long the older and new poorer states can sustain their statehood is a big question-mark. Most of these new states have been created in an ad hoc political manner without the benefit of recommendations of a States Reorganization Commission like the one appointed by the Nehru government in the mid-1950s. The problem has become messier by the year since. A second states reorganization commission would appear to be called for.
Thirdly, the asymmetrical federal relations of Jammu & Kashmir and Nagaland with the Indian Union are still not satisfactorily resolved. The problems are particularly complicated due to insurgencies in these states aggravated by external forces by neighbours and others. The existing special status enjoyed by these states under the constitution are basically sound. What is needed is to give these formal constitutional provisions greater democratic substance and federal autonomy in practice. The moderates and hard-liners in these states need to be seriously engaged in a democratic dialogue for meaningful alternatives in power-sharing, security of life and property for the citizens, and economic development.
Fourthly, even after creation of numerous new states before and since Independence, the Union of India is still a complex mosaic of religious, linguistic, caste and tribal minorities within and across the existing internal boundaries. Given the compact geographical template of the subcontinent and the endowment of complex demographic but an overarching civilizational unity-in-diverstiy, no reorganization of states can produce internally homogeneous and administratively and financially viable set states in all cases. Hence endless fragmentation of the Indian nation-state is not a solution but a part of a problematic package of ungovernability and international instability. There is a strong tendency of clinging to majority-minority straight-jacket of Hindu-Muslim communalism of the period around the bloody imperial partition of 1947. Commmunal violence in India today has become radically transformed. It is a far more complex and messier affair right now. It would be an ostritch-like self-imposed blindness to gloss over the massacre of Dalits and upper castes in Bihar and of tribal elsewhere as less serious and heinous than the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat and elsewhere and of Hindus and Sikhs in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi. The bland view that minority communalism in less of an evil than majority communalism is not only unethical but it has also proved to be destructive of civic community and Indian citizenship. By now both Hindus and Muslims have come to suffer, for this reason and others, by what may be called “minority” syndrome or psychosis. India is now face to face with hydra-headed communalism involving not only Hindus and Muslims, but also other ethnic communities of whatever kinds we have. We are challenged by the problem of guaranteeing the rights and securities of ‘internal minorities’ i.e. minorities within minorities, ‘discrepant majorities’ i.e. majorities that may be nationally so called but are provincial minorities or vice versa. Federal solution has historically been predicated on the grant of statehood to provincial majorities within a composite federal union. Federal theory and practice is yet to adequately address to the problem I have posed above. To come to grips with this problem, federal theory must self-consciously engage more thoroughly than in the past with the theories of constitutionalism and the rule of law, consociationalism, and multiculturalism.5
Finally, if South Asia has exit from the history of internecine feudal and colonial feuding and warfare, it must become internally democratic and move ahead to embrace the processes of regional and global integration like other supranational regions of the world. It must make a concerted effort to emulate what David Held (1994:316) called “the cosmopolitan model of democracy”. This model envisages a global and regional order comprising multiple and overlapping networks of political, economic, and social power and clusters of individual autonomy and rights “within and across each network of power” spanning states, civil societies, and regional and global organizations. These developments would give birth to “an empowering legal order – a ‘democratic international law’.” The emergent legal principles would “delimit the form and scope of individual and collective action within the organizations and associations of state and civil society. Certain standards are specified for the treatment of all, which no political regime or civil association can legitimately violate” (Held 1994: 319). This cosmopolitan model of democracy in the core and peripheral nation lf South Asia alone can ensure simultaneous pursuit of democracy and development and an escape from the vicious cycle of war and poverty. There is no other way.
1. In a memorandum on the safeguards for the Scheduled Castes submitted to the Constituent Assembly on behalf of the All India Scheduled Castes. Federation, Ambedkar had earlier incidentally dealt with the question of federating provinces and centrally administered areas of the British Indian states and the native Indian states. He had then evinced a more federal approach as also a more complex approach to the problem. The incorporated territories were to be divided into “Qualified States” and “disqualified states” and in a phased manner they were to be reorganized into a Union of qualified states. “A state shall not be deemed to be Qualified State unless it is proved it is of a standard size prescribed by the Union Legislature and is endowed with natural resources capable of supporting a decent standard of living for its people and can, by reason of its revenue and population function as an autonomous State, protect itself against external aggression, maintain Law and Order against internal disturbance and guarantee to its subjects minimum standards of administration and welfare which are expected of a modern State.” Such qualified states would also be in a way indestructible as much as they could not tampered with, without their “Consent”, by the Union Legislature. (Ambedkar, 1989 a: 11-12).
2. Jarrett’s Preface gives 16 subas but the text of the Aim only 15.
3. Such territorial patriotisms in various regions of India served as the prelude to Indian nationalism. See C.A. Bayly, 1998.
4. Ambedkar (1989 B) also quoted the view of C. Rajagopalachari expressed to the former in an interview when the latter was the Head of the state in the interim government and Ambedkar was law minister: “You are committing a great mistake. One federation for the whole of India… will not work. In such a federation the Prime Minister and President of India will always be from the Hindi-speaking area. You should have two federations, one Federation of the North and a Confederation of the North and the South with three subjects for the confederation to legislate upon and equal representation for both the federations” (Ambedkar 1989 b: 22). To get back to Ambedkar’s comment about lack of data about Hindi-speaking people in India, the 1991 census offers some clues. Hindi-speakers then constituted 40.22 percent of India’s population. Grammatically and lexically in the form Gandhi called Hindustani the closest cognate language of Hindi is Urdu. It is reported to be spoken by 5.18 percent. North Indian languages originating from Sanskrit, a member of the Indo-European linguistic family, together amount to 74.37 percent. And South Indian languages belonging to the Dravidian linguistic family add up to 21.72 percent. Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Series 1-India, 1999, C-7 Part C-1: 203-205.
5. On constitutionalism and rule of law, see the two classics that continue to be eminently relevant today, i.e., Albert V. Dicey, (1974); Carl J. Friedrich, (1974). On consociationalism, see Arend Leijphart. On multiculturalism, the best contemporary theoretical statement is Will Kymlicka, (2002). The implications of these theoretical interfaces, especially in the Indian context, are yet to be thoughtfully worked out. Preliminary attempts may be sampled in the writings of Bhikhu Parekh (2003); Gurpreet Mahajan, 2002; and M.P. Singh, 1994, 1996.
1. Ambedkar, B.R. Statesand Minorities (Aligarh: Anand Sahitya Sadan, 1989 a, Preface dated 15.3.1947).
2. Ambedkar, B.R. Thoughts on Linguistic States (Aligarh: Anand Sahitya Sadan, 1989 b, Preface dated 23.12.1955).
3. Baley, C.A. Origins of Nationality in South Asia: Patriotism and Ethical Government in the Making of Modern India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998).
4. Bose, Ashish “North-South Divide in India’s Demographic Seene”, Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), Vol. XXXV, No. 20, 13-19 May 2000.
5. Chakrabarty, Bidyut. The Partition of Bengal and Assam 1932-47: Contour of Freedom (London: Routledge. 2004).
6. Deshpande, C.D. India: A Regional Interpretation (New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science Research and Northern Book Centre, 1992).
7. Dicey, Albert V. Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (with a new Introduction to the 10th ed. By E.C.S. Wade) (Delhi: Universal Book Traders, 1974; first published 1885).
8. Dua, B.D. & M.P. Singh (eds.), Indian Federalism in the New Millennium (New Delhi: Manohar, 2003).
9. Fazl Allami, Abul. The Ain-i-Akbari, Trans. Into English by Colonel H.S. Jarrett, corrected and further corrected by Sir Jadu Nath Sarkar (Delhi: Low Price Publications, reprint in 1989 of the 1st ed. Of 1927-1949).
10. Friedrich, Carl J. Constitutional Government and Democracy: Theory and Practice in Europe and America (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co., 1974, reprint of the 4th ed. Of 1968).
11. Ghosh, Suniti Kumar. India’s Nationality Problem and Ruling Classes (Calcutta: the author, Calcutta, 1996).
12. Government of India (Republic). Report of the States Reorganization Commission Report (New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affaris, 1955) (Chair Fazal Ali).
13. Held, David. “Democracy: From City-states to a Cosmopolitan Order? in The Polity Reader in Social Theory (Cambridge, the U.K. : Polity Press, 1994).”
14. Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Philosophy: An Introduction (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002, 2nd ed.).
15. Lrijphart, Arendt.
16. Lrijphart, Arendt.
17. Mahajan, Gurpreet. The Multicultural Path: Issues of Diversity and Discrimination in Democracy (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002).
18. Mishra, Girish and B.K. Pandey. Sociology and Economics of Casteism in India (Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1996).
19. Parekh, Bhikhu. Re-imagining India, The Sixth D.T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture, 28 March 2003 (New Delhi: Institute of Social Sciences, 2003).
20. Prasad, Rajendra. Atmakatha (Autobiography) (New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd., 1992, first published 1947).
21. Pylee, M.V. Constitutional History of India 1600-1950 (New Delhi: S. Chand & Co. Ltd., 1984 rev. 3rd ed.)
22. Pylee, M.V. “Seventh Amendment” (Text) in his edited compilation Constitutional Amendments in India (Delhi: Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2003).
23. Rao, B. Shiva et. al. (eds.) The Framing of India’s Constitution: A Study/Select Documents, vol. V (New Delhi: Indian Institution of Public Administration, 1968).
24. Roy, Himanshu “Facets of Nationality Question in India”, Frontier (Calcutta), Nos. 11-14, October 19-November 9, 1996.
25. Saxena, Rekha. Situating Federalism: Mechanisms of Inter-governmental Relations in Canada and India (New Delhi: Manohar, 2006).
26. Singh, Ajay Kumar. “Federalism and State Formation: An Appraisal of Indian Practice” in B.D. Dua and M.P. Singh (eds.), Indian Federalism in the New Millennium (New Delhi: Manohar, 2006)
27. Singh, M.P. “India: The Constitution and Consensus” in J.S. Grewal and Hugh Johnston (eds.), The Indo-Canada Relationship: Exploring the Political, Economic and Cultural Dimensions (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1994).
28. Singh, M.P. & Rekha Saxena, “Lok Sabha Elections 2004: Change with Continuity,” Think India Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1, January-March 2005.
29. Thapar, Romila. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997 rev. 2nd ed.).
30. Wheare, K.C. Federal Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, 4th ed.).
* Formerly Professor of Political Science University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, INDIA; presently honorary Senior Fellow, Centre for Multilevel Federalism, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi 110070, INDIA.