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Demand for New States

There is an acute sense of relative deprivation in the underdeveloped regions of many states. This perception of lack of development has transcended the linguistic cohesion which had seemed to be such a strong cementing force in the initial years of post-colonial political development.

The process of the creation of three new states of Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal (Uttarakhand) and Jharkhand has evoked mixed responses from the people living outside these proposed states. While some have hailed it as a right step taken after considerable procrastination, others have apprehended the eventual break-up of the country into several small political units reminiscent of the over 560 princely states at the time of independence. While these fears are certainly exaggerated and even misplaced, the passage of the bills in parliament creating the three states has given a fillip to demands for creation of many more such states. In fact there are several small and not so small regions which have over the years demanded separation from their parent states in the name of development, cultural distinctness, administrative convenience, history of separate existence as political entities and economic discrimination.

It may be recalled that in the first round of states’ reorganisation, the states had been created largely on the linguistic principle, and the last state created on this basis was the resultant state of Punjab as a bifurcation of the bilingual Punjab in November 1966. Most other states created thereafter were either created on ethnic basis (such as Meghalaya) or were simply elevated from centrally administered units to full-fledged states (such as Goa, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh). One thing that may be important to note is that the break-up of the bigger states into smaller ones, even in the 1950s-1960s, was not always on linguistic basis. Thus when Assam was broken up to create new states (like Nagaland) or the Union Territories (like Mizoram), this was actually done on ‘anti-linguistic’ lines in the sense that the non-Assamese speaking populations living in the undivided state of Assam were excessively concerned about their possible ‘Assamisation’ as a result of the declaration of Assamese as the sole official language of the state.

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