The States Reorganisation – was it done right?

A lazy Sunday, with no power at home (thanks to KSEB) to watch TV, I was feeling quite bored and jaded. I have to depend on my blackberry to get the latest news and views. Connecting it to the half-charged laptop and opening Rediff, it throws up a question – “Do you support Telengana?”. This reminded me, that the Telengana march was supposed to happen today…

“Do you support Telengana?”.

Good question, especially to open up a thought process for the idle mind on a lethargic weekend.

I support the Telengana cause. In fact, I feel that every fight for reorganisation of states in India needs to be supported. Because the way states were created in India after independence was not correct (my personal views). Somebody had the brilliant idea of creating states based on language, but for me this was nothing short of a gaffe.

Why do I think that this was not right? Have listed a few points below, which I feel may be right in one context or the other.

1. Reorganisation based on language created super-states and sub-regional loyalties

Classic example is Tamil Nadu. Erstwhile Madras Presidency had Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telegu as languages spoken, but reorganisation made it an exclusively Tamil state. Now we know, over the years how the Tamil nationalistic feelings have developed, especially in the context of the struggle of their linguistic cousins across the seas.

Another case in point is Punjab. The problem might not have been entirely linguistic, but the sub-regional plot created a lot of damage, and it has taken our country decades to recover.

Now we have states like Bengal, which follows a separate agenda altogether with reference to their outlook of governance and development. If the government at the centre takes a decision, they have to think over and over which regional pride is going to take a hit.

Linguistic regionalism has promoted people identifying themselves as Tamilian, Bengali, Malayalee, Marathi or Gujarati first, instead of Indian. For me this is just as dangerous as religious fragmentation.

2. Arrested development in certain areas of the country

Take Telengana, Jharkhand as the case. Jharkhand has got separate borders now, but Telengana, which was the heart of the Nizam’s dominion, is still struggling for development after it got merged with parts of Madras to form the Andhra Pradesh, despite being rich in minerals and natural resources.

Same in the case of Malabar in Kerala, which I personally feel was far better off being part of British Madras Presidency than with United Kerala. Whatever development happened here, the roads, railways et al, do not see much improvement from the days of the empire, when the Kannur, Thalassery and Kozhikode had far more significance that of Kochi or Trivandrum.

3. Cut off culturally and socially connected places across borders

Places like Nagarcoil, Padmanabhapuram, and Kanyakumari was part of the erstwhile Venad (Travancore Kingdom). Many cities of significance to Travancore history now lies within Tamil Nadu, and with each passing year, the bonds and reminiscences associated with these places are slowly and steadily being erased.

The northern part of Kasargod district, also within Kerala is culturally more aligned to Mangalore. Karnataka lost this out to Kerala as some sort of compensatory adjustment when the southern tip of the peninsula was allocated from Kerala to Tamil Nadu on the virtue of having Malayalam speaking population.

Another district that comes to my memory is Belgaum, which is the sticking point between Maharashtra and Karnataka. Belgaum was part of the Bombay Presidency that was partitioned into Maharashtra and Karnataka.

4. Created linguistic minorities

One category of minorities that has the least priority in our country, unlike the highly fashionable religious minorities is the linguistic ones. They are present in all states – like the Kannada and Tulu speaking Keralites in Kasargod, the Marathi speaking chaps in Belgaum, the Malayalee in Nagarcoil. In pre 1947 India, in Presidencies like Bombay and Madras, the composition of the population was far more unwavering. For example, Madras, in addition to the majority Tamil speaking population, also had a good number of Malayalees (courtesy the Malabar district), Kannada and Telegu speaking population. Same was the case with Bombay, where Gujarati, Marathi, Konkani and Kannada coexisted. Once broken up, the linguistic minorities have difficulties as the state language may not be their cup of tea. Most of the time, their plight is not captured or highlighted anywhere – be in in the government, society, or in the print, visual or social media.

5. Created scope for future social turbulence

Telengana, Belgaum all are examples of the unfinished and unempirical reorganisation that has happened earlier. Don’t know whether it was by intent or by accident, the people who framed the agenda left the space wide open for countless such flashpoints which has created, is creating and will continue to create turbulence at various levels of social and governmental activity.

6. Water wars and disputes for natural resources between states

Different states have varied interests. So we see disputes arising everywhere when it comes to water sharing and other natural resources. Kaveri, Mullaperiyar, Krishna, Balimela are just some flashpoints to name a few. Think – would the Kaveri water dispute have ever raised its head if the boundaries were of the Old Madras State?

Reorganisation based on language disturbed the natural borders of the land, and this is the significant cause of the disputes that exist between states in India today.

7. Convenient vote banks and influence of voting pattern

Another aspect is the rise of linguistic vote banks, as in the case of the Dravidian politics and Maratha pride. We have seen language playing a part in the political landscape of various states in India.

The major reason for the rise in regional parties and decline of national parties, according to me, can be attributed to the convenient pattern of demographic distribution that has happened post the reorganisation. Looking at alternate history, I don’t think the Dravidian parties would have been so successful if the Old Madras State has existed in its original form today.

This can prove that politics and policies of convenience can give success in the short run, but it the long run, the damage is done. If not for the 1953 States Reorganisation Commission, the political landscape of the country might have been just a little different, I suppose.

8. Closed doors for future reconciliation based on regional requirements

States reorganisation based on language is a jigsaw puzzle that once joined together cannot be broken up and patched up in a different manner. The bond is just too strong now. Any attempt to redraw the boundaries on any other pattern other than language now would promote anarchism. Think, joining a Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam speaking Indian once again under one state – the political implication it would have. TDP, DMK, CPIM and JDS in the same state assembly in almost equal numbers is a too distant political dream.

People may say the States reorganisation was done to create an identity for the aspiring regions and improve governance. But what it has done now is create an identity crisis for the average Indian and lead a confused existence. Language, for the ease of governance, may have created social divide among Indians coming from different states, as he might not deem it necessary to learn other scripts as they are not of any use to him in his state. Why should a Kannadiga learn Marathi in today’s scenario? The idea of India as a nation, over the centuries was in its ability to integrate, assimilate and share knowledge and culture. Now, we what we have is exclusive linguistic zones, mostly with a single culture and exclusive civilisation that does not extend beyond its drawn boundaries. Maybe, it’s time to find and hit the rewind button, to untie the knots that are all tied up.

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