"The language and culture of an area have an undoubted importance as they represent a pattern of living which is common in that area." ~ Resolution of the Government of India relating to the State Reorganization Commission, 1953
The struggle for independence from the British Raj was an extremely significant battle India fought. However, post-1947, India had another major struggle forward – the important decision of forming states for effective administration of the newly formed democratic country. According to historical records, during the British rule, India was divided into about “600 princely states and provinces”. Those that remained within the international boundaries of India were reorganised based on principles devised by the State Reorganization Commission (1953). These principles included the bases of strengthening the unity and security of India, linguistic and cultural uniformity, and economic considerations.
Despite the promise of formation of states on linguistic basis, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru recommended the “Bombay State”, which was a bilingual state and consisted of the Gujarati-speaking Saurashtra and Kutch, and the Marathi-speaking Marathwada (Hyderabad) and Nagpur district (now in Madhya Pradesh). Areas in the south of Bombay belonged to the then Mysore state. The reason for this uneven state reorganization was based on the fear that a uni-linguistic state may try to break away from the country and want to form a separate country. Then again, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala – all reorganised uni-linguistically – were already declared.
Formation of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti
People and political parties wishing for the formation of a single Marathi-speaking state came together and founded the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti (United Maharashtra Front) in Pune in February 1956. It had members who were known for being followers of Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi. Their sole purpose was to demand the formation of a “Samyukta Maharashtra”. The movement was led by Keshavrao Jedhe.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and his party, Scheduled Caste Federation, were believed to support the statehood of Maharashtra too, and they formed an alliance with the other parties in the Front for achieving this goal.
A similar front was formed in the Gujarati-speaking areas as well, known as the Samyukta Gujarat Samiti.
The United Maharashtra Movement or the Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan began with peaceful agitations from Belgaum. Participants of this Satyagraha comprised men and women across castes and communities. The Samiti also wrote letters to the Centre, iterating their demands for a uni-lingual state of Maharashtra that would include Bombay. The Congress leaders changed their stance after much agitation, but proposed to detach Bombay from Maharashtra and make it into a separate city-state. This was unacceptable to the Samiti due to economic reasons.
The movement got impetus when the then Finance Minister in the central cabinet under Nehru, Mr. C. D. Deshmukh, resigned and announced his joining the United Maharashtra Movement.
A gruesome part of history associated with the movement was the police firing at the Flora Fountain in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) in January 1960. This led to many lost lives. According to sources, this andolan saw the death of about 105 people in different places in the region. Today, Flora Fountain is known by a different name – Hutatma Chowk (English: Martyr’s Crossroad) memorialising the lives lost that day.
The United Maharashtra Movement, after much struggle for the past four years, saw victory when the proposal for the formation of Maharashtra and Gujarat was put forward and approved in the Lok Sabha. With the passing of the resolution, the state of Maharashtra with its administrative capital at Bombay (now Mumbai) came into existence on May 1st 1960. It is believed Indira Gandhi, the then president of the Indian National Congress, was instrumental in the view-shift of the party and the Government.
To this day, the first of May is observed as Maharashtra Diwas or Maharashtra Day. Celebrations are held at the Shivaji Park (Mumbai) every year and attended by the governor, chief minister and other ministers, armed force officials, and the public. The day is commemorated by a colorful parade, hoisting of the national flag, and paying tribute to the martyrs.
Also on this day:
1919 – Manna Dey, Indian playback singer, was born
1988 – Anushka Sharma, Indian actress, was born
- Language Use in Administration and National Integration by B. Mallikarjun (Published by the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore)
- Language Movements of India by E. Annamalai (Published by the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore) Wikipedia sites