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BJP "caught" in double talk: Having supported smaller states, it now seeks way out of the commitment

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
The pent-up demands for separate statehood by people in different parts of India are now bursting forth since the Gorkhaland demand has grown in dimension and effect. Last Saturday New Delhi was the venue where some of these new statehood demand protagonists met. This means that in the coming days, the demand is going to intensify, not die down.
BJP as usual is indulging in double-talk. BJP West Bengal state President has come out with a laughable argument. He has declared that BJP was not against smaller states. But since the proposed name is Gorkhaland, it means it will be a state for Gorkhas. But since other tribes in Darjeeling hills area have no objection, who is the sate BJP chief to object to the name. Since that is not a tenable argument, the state BJP chief has adduced the economic viability argument as well.
He does not take into account the proposed state’s income from tourism and royalty from tea gardens. Take a European country, Switzerland. Tourism gives that country an annual income of 35.5 billion Swiss Franc, or roughly 2360 billion in Indian rupees. Or take Monaco. Nearly 15% of its GDP of $5.8 billion (2011 data) comes from tourism. If you add the income of tea gardens royalties to Darjeeling hills state’s income from tourism, the amount becomes a substantial sum. Gorkhaland government when it is formed can go in for other sources of income as well. So both arguments of state BJP chief are untenable. Luxemburg, world’s smallest country, has Europe’s highest per capita income and has become Europe’s knowledge capital.
The other argument also is not factually correct. One can ask BJP state chief that how could a tribal state like Jharkhand state formed? It is not a single tribe state. Similarly, other tribes in Darjeeling hills besides Gorkhas are in the Gorkhaland movement. They have no objection to the name of Gorkhaland. Will the BJP chief have no objection if the proposed state is called Darjeeling Hills State?
Actually, BJP is now caught in double talk. Having supported “smaller states”, it now seeks a way out of that commitment. Hence, the argument on economic viability and single tribe state in Darjeeling hills.
The demand for smaller states has since snowballed. It is now voiced in as many as 13 of the 29 existing states and in 2 out of 7 union territories. It may be recalled that the British provinces in India were reorganised as States on the basis of language and ethnicity. And exactly these issues have now come up for further reorganisation of states.
The British left us with nine Part A states, eight Part B states and ten Part C states. Part A states comprised Assam, Bengal (divided later into West Bengal and East Pakistan), Bihar, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Part B states covered the Princely States: Hyderabad, Saurashtra, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, Patiala and East Punjab States Union, and Rajasthan.
Part C states included Kutch, Himachal Pradesh, Coorg, Manipur and Tripura. Jammu and Kashmir was awarded a special status. The British administration’s scheme was untenable in Independent India. Demand grew for new states. When the Constitution of India was being formulated, this demand grew in intensity but New Delhi did pay heed.
It is only after the demand of separating Tamil-speaking areas of Madras reached a crescendo and Patti Sriramulu died after a 56-day fast. Only after his death did the demand fructify and the central government announced a States Reorganisation Commission in 1956 to reorganise the existing states on the basis of language. The Tamil speaking areas of Madras formed the Andhra Pradesh.

Further modifications were made; in 1960 Bombay was split into Maharashtra and Gujarat. Several states were made later at different times and as at the end of 2000, we had 29 States and 5 Union Territories.
Now the demands of linguistic states have come up again. Let us have a look at the demands statewise. In Assam the Bodos demand Bodoland. This demand was earlier moderated to some extent by setting up the 48-member Bodoland Territorial Council to govern the four Bodo majority districts under the Assam government. Now the Bodos want a separate state.
A similar demand is growing in Karbi Anglong district, formerly Mikir Hills, of Assam. This area has been practically without any development and no taxes were collected there. Now with modern civilisation coming to the hills, there is a great demand for development and independent rule.
In Bihar, there is a demand for a Bhojpuri state for Bhojpuri speaking people who are not only in Western Bihar but also in Eastern UP, Northern Chattisgarh and parts of Jhakhand.
The Maithil speaking people want a Mithila state that is to cover the 24 Maithili-speaking districts of Bihar and six Maithili speaking districts of Jharkhand.
In Gujarat, there is a demand for Bhilistan comprising the tribal regions of Bharuch. There is a demand for a Kutch state consisting of Kutch, the Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Gujarat. Till 1956 such a state existed but later it was added to Gujarat.
The demand for a separate State of Saurashtra has grown since 1972 and was initiated by late Prime Minister Morarji Deai’s close aide Ratilal Tanna. Besides the linnguistic difference of Saurashtrian language with Gujarati, the people here have complaints about lack of development in the area.
Karnataka is not a single language-speaking area. It can be broadly divided into Karu Nadu, Kalyana Karnatka, Tulu Nadu, Mysuru, Konkana and Vijayanagara.
Jammu and Kashmir has demands for three separate states; this means Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Jammu. The language spoken in Jammu is mostly Dogra, in Kashmir Valley it is Kashmiri while in Ladakh it is Ladakhi. The first two areas are ruled directly by the J&K government, Ladakh though a part of J&K is governed the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. The BJP has promised the people of Ladakh the status of a Union Territory in October 2015 and on that basis won 18 out of 24 seats it contested, obtaining a clear majority.
Vindhya Pradesh was merged with Madhya Pradesh in 1956 but in 2000 the demand was revived for a separate Vindhya Pradesh. Since this did not find favour with many, now a demand for a separate Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand is gaining ground.
That is not all. There is the demand for Mahakoshal which has a distinct cultural identity. Within it there is a demand for Gondwana which was earlier ruled by Gond kings. In addition there is demand for a Malwa state which also includes Jhalawar districts of Rajasthan and parts of Banswara and Pratapgarh. The main language in this area is Malwi.
In Maharashtra, there are several demands for setting up separate states. Among these is Khandesh in north-western Maharashtra where former Deccan begun. Then there are demands for a Konkan state which covers the coastal districts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Two other regions of Maharashtra have similar demands: Marathwada and Vidarbha.
Then there is the demand for Delhi state, currently a Union Territory. The statehood demand covers the areas of Delhi, Meerut, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Gurgaon, Sonipat, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida. It will thus comprise 9 districts.
Another Union Territory that is facing a similar problem is Puducherry where Karaikal district wants to have a separate Union Territory. Another area, Konkan, wants to be a Union Territory comprising the Konkoni-speaking areas Raigad, Ratnagiri, Thane, Mumbai, Navi Mubai and Sindhudurg districts.
Kukiland or Kuki Hills used to be an independent state. It was occupied and merged with Manipur by the British rulers. Now the demand has been raised for a separate state.
In Orissa there is the demand for a separate state of Kosal which consists of the districts of Sundergarh, Jharsuguda, Debagarh, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Sonepur, Boudh, Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur, Aathmalik subdivision of Angul district, and Kashipur block of Rayagada district.
In Tamilnadu, there have been demands for a separate Kongu Nadu comprising the territory of old Chera kingdom, parts of Southern Karnataka and Central-East Kerala.
Four states are proposed to come up by dividing Uttar Pradesh. It includes Awadh, Braj Pradesh or Harit Pradesh, and Purvanchal. UP is a huge area and Awadh state would cover over 50 million people. Harit Pradesh is demanded on the basis of the majority here speaking Braj Bhasha and the proposed area includes Bharatpur district of Rajasthan and Gwalior from Madhya Pradesh.
West Bengal has not only the demand for an independent Gorkhaland but also of Kamtapur which comprises the districts of Cooch Vihar, Jalpaiguri and Southern part of Darjeeling area including Siliguri.
There is another issue. Sindhis have demanded the separation of Sindh Province from Pakistan and the formation of a Confederation with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged the idea and described it as an accomplishable idea. He even compared the idea with Jews having no land of their own and after 2500 years they had accomplished that idea (Speech at Chetichand celebration in Ahmedabad, 24 March 2012).
Thus there is no doubt that for BJP the chickens have come home to roost.
---
*Veteran journalist

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