In the fall 2000, the Government of India, pursuant to legislation passed by Parliament during the summer, created three new states, Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, and Jharkhand, reconstituting Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, respectively. Both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress party supported the formation of the states. The basis for creating the new states is socio-political and not linguistic. With the new states, the Indian Union now has 28 states.
Madhya Pradesh was reorganized with the creation of Chhattisgarh, constituting the seven eastern districts of the old state. The division here is rooted in caste distinctiveness, with upper peasant Brahmins and Kurmis leading the movement for a separate state. Rich in mineral wealth and an important rice-producer, Chhattisgarh has resented its disproportionate contribution in revenues to any return it has received from the state. The new state has a substantial tribal population, but the Chhattisgarh movement was not driven by tribal demands, as was the creation of Jharkhand.
The formation of Uttaranchal, carved from Uttar Pradesh, fulfills long-voiced demands by the people of the Kumoan and Garhwal hills of northwestern U.P. for a separate state based on cultural, social (caste), and economic distinctiveness. The hill districts are heavily Brahmin, with comparatively few of the "backward castes" that dominate the most of Uttar Pradesh. The eleven hill districts and two plains districts that form the new state have long-felt neglected by the U.P. state government. The principal opposition to forming the new state has come from the Sikhs in the plains districts and the Akali Dal, the Sikh political party, with their principal concern over the status of their extensive agricultural land-holdings and fear that land ceilings may be imposed.
The formation of Jharkhand, constituting the 18 districts of southern Bihar, is the fulfillment of a fifty-year struggle for creation of a heavily tribal state. The boundaries of the new state are less extensive than the originally-conceived Jharkhand, embracing tribal hill areas of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and West Bengal, in addition to southern Bihar. The new state takes 35 percent of the population of Bihar--India's second most populous state--but, with its coal mines and steel mills, 65 percent of the state's revenue. The division of Bihar was possible because the state's ruling party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (led by Laloo Yadav, with his wife Rabri Devi as state chief minister) found it politically advantageous. The RJD has little support in southern Bihar, and the loss of the south (however costly to the state exchequer) enables Laloo to secure his majority in the state legislature and strengthen his position in the state relative to other parties. In Jharkhand, the BJP and its allies have a narrow edge over other parties, of which the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Congress are the largest.
The formation of the new states has aroused concern that there will be an intensification of demands for the creation of additional states in other parts of the country. Telengana in Andhra Pradesh and Vidarbha in Maharashtra have already staked their claims.
For detailed analyses of the new states, see Frontline, Sept. 1, 2000.
Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., November 7, 2000