By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 13 Nov: On the first day of the Sixth Edition of Valley of Words Literature Festival held in Dehradun, yesterday, one of the books launched was “We the People of the States of Bharat” written by retired senior IAS officer and the Curator of Valley of Words Literature Festival Dr Sanjeev Chopra. The session was chaired by Chancellor of Ashoka University, Prof Rudrangshu Mukherjee, an eminent historian himself, while noted journalist Shekhar Gupta held a conversation with the author, Dr Chopra.
The book covers the events that led to integration of India as a union after Independence and the reorganisation of states on a linguistic basis. The session began with Dr Mukherjee highlighting the fact that integration of more than 500 princely states into the Union of India after Independence was tortuous and, even at stages, a bizarre process. It was a very deft political exercise led by the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, helped ably by VP Menon, who was then Secretary to Government of India under the Ministry of States.
Dr Chopra pointed out that, at present, it seemed improbable that Congress and RSS could be on one page on various national issues but, indeed, in the pre-independence era and in earlier years of independence, they were indeed on a common page on various issues of national importance. Creating states on a linguistic basis was one such issue. Both Congress and RSS agreed on issues like merger of Hyderabad and Goa, Daman & Diu into the Union of India.
Chopra also pointed out that there was no state in India since Independence that had not seen its boundaries being changed or re-aligned. The reorganisation of states was a continuous process which had continued till the present times, with Telangana being the latest state to be carved out. He conceded that, for the integration of India post-independence, much of the credit ought to go to the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, who was decisive and was not opposed to even military engagement in order to achieve the objective.
Chopra revealed that, due to constant engagements and events happening at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, of which he was Director, he remained busy, but reprieve came in the form of Covid. It was then that he could spend valuable time in the Library and conduct research for his book. He also revealed that, at one time, there was a proposal to merge West Bengal with Bihar as a single state. While this proposal was praised by the English press, the local language press in both the states was vehemently opposed. Both, Mukherjee and Shekhar Gupta conceded that they were not aware of this proposal.
The speakers also agreed that Partition was a brutal exercise in which millions were killed but it was only the beginning of the challenges in the integration of Union of India and reorganisation of the states. Even after the reorganisation of states on a linguistic basis, there were other challenges. For example, in Punjab, choosing the script for the Punjabi language remained a major issue for some time. Mukherjee pointed out that different kinds of Bangla languages were spoken in Bengal and there was a conflict between them.