How India’s map has evolved since 19473 min read . Updated: 14 Aug 2019, 11:11 PM IST
India’s internal boundaries have changed over past seven decades—the biggest reorganization being in 1956, followed by nine changes in state borders
New Delhi: Seventy-two years after India won Independence on 15 August 1947, the country’s internal boundaries continue to change, with the announcement of the creation of two new Union territories (UTs) by bifurcating the state of Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month.
While the latest move by the Union government to convert a state into two UTs is unprecedented and remains mired in controversy, India’s internal boundaries have undergone continuous evolution over the past seven decades, as the charts below show.
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The biggest reorganization of India’s internal boundaries occurred in 1956 when an official States Reorganization Act was implemented.
But even after that, there were nine changes in state boundaries.
Apart from the loss of territory to Pakistan in 1947 (parts of Kashmir, though they continue to be claimed by India and are part of India’s map) and to China in 1963, India’s external boundaries has changed only three times—when Goa was subsumed into the Indian Union in 1961, Pondicherry in 1962 (officially) and Sikkim in 1975. While most regions in British India achieved independence on 15 August 1947, there were several regions that joined the Indian Union later. States, such as Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh, Manipur and Tripura, became part of the Union in the period between 1947 and 1949, not always without controversy.
By 26 January 1950, India had formally transitioned to a republic of states from a dominion. It had largely amalgamated the smaller states into larger regional territories, such as Saurashtra.
This union of states had three classifications based on whether they were former provinces (part A), princely states (part B), and territories that were going to be directly ruled by the Union government (part C), the precursor to UTs.
Following the creation of an Andhra state in 1953 for Telugu-speaking regions of Madras state, the State Reorganization Commission (SRC) was established to evaluate the restructuring of the republic largely along linguistic lines.
In 1956, the country was organized into 14 states and six Union territories. It remains the single largest reorganization in the nation’s history. Six states and five UTs still retain their boundaries from back then. Interestingly, the SRC recommended against splitting Bombay and Punjab along linguistic lines.
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However, that recommendation fell on deaf ears as they were split subsequently.
The Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan and Mahagujarat Andolan protests led to the split of the Bombay state in 1960 into two parts: Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The Akali Dal led the Punjabi Suba movement, which led to the creation of a Punjabi-speaking and Sikh-dominated Punjab state, and the Hindi-speaking and Hindu-dominated state of Haryana in 1966.
The mountainous parts of erstwhile east Punjab were also merged with the then Himachal Pradesh, to create a Union territory.
The ’70s witnessed several changes in state boundaries along the north-eastern frontier, often to douse the fires of militancy and violence. Manipur and Tripura were granted statehood and the state of Meghalaya and Union territory Mizoram were carved out of Assam in 1972.
Three years later, a referendum held in Sikkim, till then India’s protectorate, voted for joining the Indian Union as a state.
The ’80s saw the birth of two more north-eastern states when Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh were granted statehood in 1987 (they were UTs earlier). In the same year, Goa, Daman and Diu were split into the state of Goa and the UT of Daman and Diu.The next changes to the boundaries happened in the first year of the millenium, with Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh carved out of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh, respectively.
Unlike the linguistic basis for states in the ’60s, these states were created to address long pending regional demands and inequalities in regional development. Telangana, too, was formed on the basis of such demands in 2014.
The latest change to Jammu and Kashmir has been justified on the grounds of development although that claim remains contested. This may not be the last of the changes in India’s internal boundaries. Several regions across India aspire for full statehood, although the intensity of demand varies across regions, and over time. The development boards (established under Section 371 to promote equitable development) in states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka, and territorial councils in the northeast could be the potential contenders for statehood in the future.
But such boards and councils could also temper the demands of statehood, as the political scientist Rononjoy Sen has argued, pointing to the Ranji Trophy cricket teams of Vidarbha and Saurashtra as the “unfulfilled ambitions" of statehood in India.