The big trees use up all the sun’s rays to themselves. The shrubs do not get any rays. That is why they do not grow. The Marathwada people must not forget the moral of this story… I advise the people of Marathwada or Central Maharashtra to have a State of their own so that they have power in their own hands to improve their own lot.”
Dr B R Ambedkar, 1955.
Reference: Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Volume 1, published by the Education Department, Government of Maharashtra.
Political temperatures have soared in Maharashtra, with the now-former state Advocate General Shreehari Aney batting for a separate Marathwada and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh extending support to the statement. The Assembly proceedings were stalled and the ruling ally Shiv Sena, along with opposition Congress and NCP, took the BJP government to task, resulting in the resignation of Aney. But just like RSS, even the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, had sought division of Maharashtra into four States, and a separate Statehood for Marathwada.
Raj Thackeray recently commented that Shreehari Aney’s statement for separate Marathwada was actually a ploy by the RSS, which asked Aney to speak on it. BJP’s ally Shiv Sena too has questioned the statement, and has claimed that it is an effort at spreading unrest in the state. But an argument for separate Marathwada is not new. Ambedkar had talked about it way back in 1955.
The RSS too has been talking about it for at least a decade now. “Smaller states make administrative sense. No state should have a population of less than 50 lakh and more than three crore. In such cases, the administration becomes viable,” M.G. Vaidya, former RSS spokesperson said from Nagpur.
The RSS itself has divided Maharashtra in four parts—Konkan, Western Maharashtra, Devgiri (Marathwada region) and Vidarbha. While supporting Aney’s call for separate statehood for Marathwada, or central Maharashtra, Vaidya called for dividing the state in these four regions.
“In the 1970s, there was a movement called Marathwada Vikas, whose leaders said that if the state government could not bring development to Marathwada, it should give separate statehood to the region,” said Prakash Ambedkar, Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson and leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.
A glance at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s writings too shows the concern for the development of Marathwada soon after it was freed from the Nizam rule.
AMBEDKAR ON MARATHWADA
Ambedkar had believed in three divisions of Maharashtra. He had felt that Marathwada should seek a separate statehood for itself if it wants to develop. Questioning the importance of political treaties that were being discussed at the time to seek concessions from western Maharashtra, he had said that such treaties were nothing but scraps of papers, and that people should instead take power in their hands for their own development.
To quote him from an article written in 1955 (Thoughts on Linguistic States), he had stated, “I am greatly worried about Marathwada. It was hitherto part of the Nizam’s Territory for the last 200 years. The Nizam had criminally neglected this area. He took no interest in it. There is not a mile of canal irrigation in Marathwada. There is hardly a high school in taluka places in Marathwada. There is hardly a youth in Nizam’s public service from Marathwada. I speak from knowledge and experience. People are not only down and out they are ignorant. They are being grabbed by highly advanced people on both sides. When their avenues of employment are closed there will be further degradation in their position.”
He had predicted that if Marathwada was merged with the rest of Maharashtra, the jobs in Marathwada would be grabbed by the Brahmins of Pune and Nagpur.
Asked why there is not a concerted movement for a separate Marathwada today, Prakash Ambedkar claimed that the issue gets discussed in private discussions, where people believe that Nizam’s rule was better as it at least provided water to the thirsty populace. Marathwada has been reeling under a severe drought for the past few years. “Some issues are invisible. But when they blow up, they sweep us over. The picture is very grim and people are unhappy with their condition. Yes, there is no overt movement for a separate Marathwada, but there is also no condemnation of Shreehari Aney from Marathwada. We cannot miss that,” Prakash Ambedkar said. He also claimed that there was growing discontent in Marathwada as the figures of development backlog are mounting. “The younger generation is feeling disillusioned with the Congress, which has traditionally believed that Marathwada will get funds if it stays connected with Mumbai,” he said.
As for Shiv Sena’s “Sanyukta Maharashtra”, that is united Maharashtra, Ambedkar had written in 1955, “Maharashtrians who talk about Samyukta Maharashtra have no conception of the vastness as to the area and population of their Maharashtra. But why there should be one single Maharashtrian State. I am quite unable to understand.”
Drawing from this, Prakash Ambedkar asks if any ministers in the state Cabinet will be able to tell the number of districts and talukas in the state offhand, without looking at the data. “It is not just the largeness of area, it is also the largeness of population. When Ambedkar wrote against Sanyukta Maharashtra, the total population of the state was two crore. Today, we are 10 crore. With this kind of population, a welfare state is not possible,” he said.
“To have a separate Maharashtra State is one thing. To have a single Maharashtra State is quite a different thing. The only argument in favour of United Maharashtra is that it is like a meeting of the two brothers Rama and Bharat in Ramayana after a long separation. It is … not worth consideration,” Ambedkar had written in the year 1955.
He had also put forth that since ancient times Maharashtra was always divided into three parts, sans Mumbai, since it did not exist then. It was called “Trai Maharashtra” then, he had noted.
He had observed that since Maharashtra was divided in three parts, its culture, social and economic conditions were never unified. He had drawn attention to the problems in having a unified Maharashtra, and had discussed them in detail. He had predicted that it would be impossible to have an efficient administration of such a vast area under a single state.
Some say that there is a similarity between the ideas of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the RSS on the division of Maharashtra. Ambedkar had talked about this division in 1955, whereas the RSS has been talking about it for over a decade.
Ambedkar had proposed the following divisions: Western Maharashtra, Central Maharashtra, Eastern Maharashtra and a separate Maharashtra City State (Bombay).
RSS believes that Maharashtra has to be divided into four zones: Konkan, Western Maharashtra, Devgiri (Marathwada region) and Vidarbha.
Ambedkar had wanted Mumbai, and some areas around it to be bunched into “Maharashtra City State”, to enable it to be good and strong. According to him, Western Maharashtra should have consisted of Thane, Kolaba, Ratnagiri, Pune, Satara, Kolhapur and the Marathi-speaking territories given over to Karnataka.
The Central Maharashtra division should have consisted of Dang, Khandesh, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Usmanabad, Solapur and the Marathi-speaking territories given over to Telangana. Whereas eastern Maharashtra should have been constituted of Buldhana, Yavatmal, Akola, Amravati, Wardha, Chanda, Nagpur, Bhandara and the Marathi-speaking territories given to the Hindi states. But Prakash Ambedkar believes that the thoughts of Dr B.R. Ambedkar and of the RSS on the division of Maharashtra cannot be compared. “Ambedkar’s proposal for division had a reference point of merger between then British-ruled states and the Indian states. He had considered various factors while proposing the division. Whereas RSS’ ideas lack basic principles. They only talk about the range of population which should constitute a state, but they miss the point of homogeneity of that state,” he claimed.
Revisiting Ambedkar and his thoughts on the linguistic division of states is opportune at a time when any rational arguments are being countered with high-pitched and fervent emotive appeals which refuse to debate and discuss the underlying issues.
“The formation of Linguistic States, although essential, cannot be decided by any sort of hooliganism. Nor must it be solved in a manner that will serve party interest. It must be solved by cold blooded reasoning,” Ambedkar had written in 1955.