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United Maharashtra Movement

United Maharashtra came into being on 1st May 1960. The State of Maharashtra was created under the framework of reconstruction of States on linguistic criteria. But one hundred and six people had to lay down their lives before it could come into being. Before the creation of Unified Maharashtra, a bilingual State came into being. The Maharashtrians continuously opposed the then Congress government on this issue and a separate State of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital but without the territory of Karwar and Belgaum, came into being.

Prelude :

The history of Unified Maharashtra movement can be stretched back to 1920s. Lokmanya Tilak coupled national education and freedom together and highlighted the need to impart national education through mother tongue. Around the same time the aims and objectives of the Congress Democratic Party mentioned formation of States along linguistic lines. The same demand was made in the Party Programme and a declaration was made that a State of Maharashtra be created based on a single language. In the 1917 Kolkata (Calcutta) session of the Indian National Congress, Dr. Pattabhi Seetaramayya proposed to create a separate state of Andhra. This proposal was opposed by Dr. Annie Besant, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya andMahatma Gandhi, while Lokmanya Tilak supported it. Mahatma Gandhi changed his opinion later and in 1921 in the Nagpur Session Gandhiji himself proposed recreation of States along the linguistic lines. The Indian National Congress itself was reorganized along linguistic lines. This helped widen the base of Indian National Congress. In 1928 the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party made a presentation before the Motilal Nehru Committee for reorganization of States and demanded a separate State of Maharashtra. The Nehru Committee sanctioned the demand.

In the Marathi Literary Meet held in Mumbai under the chairmanship of SwatantryaveerSawarkar on 15th October 1938 the phrase ‘Single language State of Maharashtra including Varhad’ was used intentionally. The reason for using this phrase was the recommendation by Ravishankar Shukla, Chief Minister of Central Provinces (C.P.) and Berar, that Varhad be separated and formed into an independent State. In the 1939 Sahitya Sammelan (Literary Meet) in Ahmednagar, a resolution was passed that a single State be formed of all the regions where the Marathi language is spoken, and named ‘United Maharashtra’. The term ‘United Maharashtra’ came to be used for the first time in this Meet. Ramrao Deshmukh, the member of C.P. and Berar Legislative Assembly, founded the Sanyukta Maharashtra Sabha (United Maharashtra Assembly) in Mumbai to sustain the demand for independent Varhad. The Council for Unification of Maharashtra was founded in Pune in 1941 under the leadership of Dr. Kedar.

The Literary Meet in Belgaum

In the Belgaum Literary Meet on 13th May, 1946, writer Madkholkar first made a demand for Unified Maharashtra. This Unified Maharashtra was to include Mumbai, Central Provinces, Berar, Marathwada and Gomantak. A Council for the Unification of Maharashtra held its meeting in Mumbai on 28th July 1946 under the chairmanship of Shankarrao Dev. The Jalgaon Session of the Council for the Unification of Maharashtra upheld the demand for United Maharashtra including Mumbai.

Dar Commission and JVP Committee

As the freedom to India became imminent, a commission under the chairmanship of Justice S.K. Dar was appointed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad to judge the feasibility of reorganization of States along linguistic lines. Even as the commission was working Mahatma Gandhi wrote inHarijan that a plan acceptable to all be prepared by Mumbai for reorganization of States. Seventeen leaders signed an agreement before the Dar Commission that came to be known as Akola Agreement.

In 1948 The Council for Unification of Maharashtra held its session in Mumbai. Annabhau Sathe presented a programme Mumbai Kunachi (Whom does Bombay belong to). Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar gave his recommendation to the Dar commission emphasizing Maharashtra’s right over Mumbai. On December 1948 the Dar Commission published its report. Dar Commission refuted the right of Maharashtra over Mumbai. There was a strong reaction against the Dar Commission Report. So a JVP Committee consisting of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel and Pattabhi Seetaramayya was formed in the Jaipur session of the Indian National Congress. Even the JVP Committee opposed the idea of Maharashtra along with Mumbai.

After the report of this committee became public, Ramrao Deshmukh gave up the demand for separate Berar and asked for the C. P. and Berar to be amalgamated with Maharashtra. Nobody dared oppose Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel. The Unified Maharashtra Movement was getting moribund when Senapati Bapat came forward and gave it a new lease of life. On 29th November 1949 Acharya Atre and R.D. Bhandare moved a resolution in Mumbai Municipal Corporation for Unified Maharashtra.

While the agitation was on in Maharashtra, the demand for separate Andhra State also gathered strength, for which Potti Ramalu laid down his life. In 1952 the separate State of Andhra came into being. Pandit Nehru appointed the Fazal Ali Commission to review the situation for reorganizing States along linguistic lines. The Sanyukta Maharashtra Parishad(Council for the unification of Maharashtra) made a presentation before the commission. The commission recommended a bilingual State, a separate State of Vidharbha (Berar) and Mumbai State including entire Gujarati speaking region and Marathwada. Morarji Desai, the then Chief Minister of Mumbai, declared that Mumbai would not be unified with Maharashtra ‘for the next five thousand years’(!)

Public contribution to the movement

The Bill for creation of three such States was going to be discussed in the Legislative Assembly. The people of Maharashtra took to the streets, protesting against the Bill. The roads leading to the Legislative Assembly were blocked. The mob became unruly and fifteen people died in the police fire that ensued. Senapati Bapat, leader of the demonstration was arrested. These fifteen were the first of hundred and sixteen martyrs to the cause of Unified Maharashtra. P.V. Gadgil, the editor of newspaper Lokmanya, resigned his membership of the Legislative Assembly. The Bill could not be passed due to the strong public opinion against it.

Bilingual State formed

On 16th January 1956 Pt. Nehru declared that Mumbai would remain under the central government and proposed two linguistic States instead of three States: Maharashtra including Vidharbha for Marathi speakers and Gujarat including Kutch and Saurashtra for Gujarati speakers. The public opinion went against this decision. Sixty seven people died in police firings between January 16 and 22. Jayaprakash Narayan demanded Mumbai to be given to the Maharashtra State. The Congress Party in Hyderabad Legislative Assembly also endorsed this view. In the parliament Feroze Gandhi also recommended Mumbai to be given to Maharashtra. C.D. Deshmukh, the famous Economist and minister, resigned from the cabinet on the Mumbai issue. In June 1956, Sanyukta Maharashtra Samiti was formed in London, U.K.

In August 1956, a suggestion was made in Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament, that a common State including Maharashtra, Marathwada, Vidharbha, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch and Mumbai be formed. This suggestion was immediately accepted by the government. In October 1956, Morarji Desai went to the central cabinet and Yashawantrao Chavan became the new Chief Minister. Mumbai became the capital of this new State.

United Maharashtra finally established

In order to oppose Indian National Congress on this issue, a new political party, Sanyukta Maharashtra Vidhansabha Paksha came into being. The party won majority in the Mumbai municipal corporation elections and Acharya Donde became the mayor. In 1959 Indira Gandhi became the president of Indian National Congress. She reviewed the situation in Maharashtra and came to the conclusion that such a bilingual State is not sustainable. She appointed a nine members committee to study the issue. This committee recommended dismantling of the bilingual State and creation of separate Gujarat state. Indira Gandhi accepted that Mumbai be given to Maharashtra. The parliament passed a resolution on 1st May 1960 creating a separate State of Maharashtra consisting of twenty six districts and two hundred and twenty nine talukas.