The Indian States

Train travel to Mangalore teaches you one thing: the clearcut definition of states that we see on an Indian map is both arbitrary, and a fallacy.

Just the fact that Mangalore has three commonly used names is evidence. The official one now because of Kannadigization is Mangalooru. The British Mangalore is still used more frequently, but for Keralites, it’s Mangalapuram. It’s kind of funny actually – from the starting end, the train is Thiruvananthapuram Mangalapuram Express, when it reaches, it’s Trivandrum Mangalooru Express 🙂

This doesn’t mean the separation of states via language is a bad idea or that everybody in Mangalore is bilingual (I would guess far from it), but everybody there does understand a smattering of Malayalam, and many speak both.

Separating states based on language was a great idea – a brilliant stroke of post-independence diplomacy. How else could you preserve the vast differences between people that make India unique, remove old allegiances to territorial rulers, ensure cohesive growth and representation, and direct an emergence of a new, valid and distinct identity – all at the same time? It’s like a zillion birds with one stone. For the people responsible, see States Reorganisation Act on Wikipedia.

However, the recent creation of new states (Uttarakhand, Jharkhand) based on the existence of a tribal majority is I believe a mistake. What made sense 50 years ago hardly does so now. Isn’t it time we strongly instill the idea of Indianess as opposed to regional or communal identity? (part of what makes U.S. and China so strong is their sense of national fervor) Add to this, there’s the danger that Maoist separatists bring to the country. They’ve already toppled the leadership of one nation (arguably a good thing), and are fast becoming a distinct danger to Federal rule in India. No need to exacerbate that by splitting the country further. Thoughts?

3 responses

  1. hmmm. I disagree and go along with Ashok’s pov. Decentralization is the best way to go. The states that are doing good are all states that are small (ref: State of the States surveys from TOI). States like Kerala, Goa, Punjab, HP etc where ranked the best in most indices, compared to the larger ones.

    Federalism is important, but the purposes of the federal govt. are different. They are there for matters like foreign policy, military, currency and stuff like that. Fine details of administration has to be done decentralized.

    On your example with US, India is actually more federal that the US. They even have double citizenship, i.e you are a citizen of your state first and only then your country! Imagine stuff like that here.

    I have a positive view… if India could stand more or less united and 100% integrated for more than 60 years now when the going was tough against all odds, then she should be able to manage for quite a long time to come 🙂

  2. Hmm. Never thought about it that way. But isn’t a strong centre important?

  3. I have not read the history of the Jharkhand and Uttarakhand movements. But the demand for separate states could be rooted in under-development of the area, or a feeling of being exploited (or ignored). One of the solutions is therefore to ‘decentralise for development’. A regional or tribal identity may have been used to rally people for that cause.

    One way to prevent violent insurgencies (like that of Maoists) is to decentralise, and encourage democracy at lower levels. Federalisation will backfire, methinks.

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