Madhav Sadadhiv Gowalkar and Jawaharlal Nehru
Madhav Sadadhiv Gowalkar and Jawaharlal Nehru
Wikimedia Commons

On Friday morning, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi put out two tweets congratulating both Maharashtra and Gujarat for their respective formation days.

While Rahul Gandhi’s tweet might be in good faith, it was his party, along with the support of the RSS that vehemently opposed the formation of both states. The Congress incidentally went back on its original promise that it would introduce linguistic states in India after India attained independence in 1947. However, Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel opposed the idea, fearing that it would affect the integrity of India. Nehru had a surprising supporter: RSS and its Chief Madhav Sadadhiv Gowalkar.

However, before we get into how Maharashtra and Gujarat had their formation days, one important incident changed Nehru’s mind. 51-year-old Telugu-speaking Potti Sreeramulu went on a hunger strike to death demanding that Telugu-speaking regions be carved out of the Madras Presidency. The Presidency comprised all of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Lakshadweep. Potti Sreeramalu, who participated in Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha, died in 1952 in a fast unto death, thereby prompting the States Reorganisation Committee to recommend the creation of linguistic states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in 1956. The Committee also recommended that Maharashtra and Gujarat stay as one state with Bombay as the capital, and the Vidarbha region stay outside Maharashtra.

Birth of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and Maha Gujarat Movement

In November 1955, the Lok Sabha witnessed a debate between two Maharashtrian Congressmen –SK Patil and NV Gadgil. While Patil suggested that Maharashtra be formed without Bombay, Gadgil warned of the ramifications.

Soon after, Marathi leaders such as Prabodhankar Thackeray (the father of Bal Thackeray), SM Joshi, Keshavao Jedhe, Shahi Amar Sheikh gave speeches, highlighting Marathi pride stirring the people from the region. The Left parties and trade unions then took to the streets. Mill Dock workers, led by Senapati Bapat, also went on strike. In January 1956, Nehru declared Bombay as a Union Territory, and more people took to the streets. From a week since the announcement, the union leaders called for Bombay Bandh. Morarji Desai once again issued orders for firing upon the protesters that then left 90 dead and over 400 injured.

In February 1956, the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and the Maha Gujarat Movement started, demanding the creation of a separate Maharashtra and a separate Gujarat. However, both movements wanted Bombay as the capital city. While the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement argued that Bombay had more Marathi speaking people, the Gujarat movement said that it was because of the amount they had invested in the city. The Gujarati community then spoke to Chief Minister of Bombay State Moraji Desai, saying that Bombay should either be part of Gujarat or made into a Union Territory.

In August of that year, the Union cabinet agreed that a bigger bilingual Bombay state should be created, along with Maharashtra, Marathwada, VIdharba, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch and Bombay city.

Exactly a year later, during the Bombay State elections, Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti secured 101 out of 133 seats in the western Maharashtra region and the Congress won 32 seats. The Congress met a similar fate in Gujarat, but ended up winning Bombay State and Maharashtra State, with Yashwantrao Chavan becoming the first CM of Maharashtra state. Chavan later explained to Nehru the futility of having a Bombay State, as it could be futile for the Congress in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Finally on 4 December 1959, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) passed a resolution recommending the bifurcation of the Bombay State.The Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti achieved its goal when Bombay State was reorganised on linguistic lines on 1 May 1960. TheGujarati-speaking areas of Bombay State were partitioned into the state of Gujarat. As a memorial to the martyrs of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, Flora Fountain was renamed as Hutatma Chowk (Martyr's Square), and a memorial was erected, since it was the starting point of the agitation

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