Divided, Yet We Stand: How the States of India were Formed

Freedom. As powerful as the term sounds, it’s not always an easy task to establish it or, once attained, to retain it. Freedom of speech can be quite difficult in the face of a rigid system, while freedom of association is almost impossible if your purpose isn’t for the greater good. Freedom of expression poses a challenge in an intolerant society, and exercising one’s freedom of belief can be challenging even as an expression of your basic rights.

Interpreted differently in different nations and cultures, freedom broadly means the right to do what you want in the way you want. It also means having the right to choose a system that you believe in and make your own decisions for yourself, without harming others. If personal freedom is an important, basic right, then freedom for larger groups – communities, regions or even states, and nations – signifies independence, development, democracy, and other qualities that can ensure a brighter future.

On the occasion of Independence Day, as we recollect the remarkable freedom that India has acquired through a collective effort and in the spirit of oneness, we shed light on the nation’s individual states and some of their battles. These states have been divided to exercise their own kind of freedom. But no matter the types or number of divisions, what brings them all together is the resolve to belong to one nation.

History teaches us that, before the country achieved freedom in 1947, there were no states as such in India. While the concept of statehood didn’t emerge until 1950, the dominion of India comprised British provinces and princely states during the British Raj.

At the time of independence in 1947, the erstwhile British India had only 17 provinces. During the partition of British India into the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, 11 provinces joined our country. They were: Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Bombay, Bihar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Orissa, and the United Provinces. Three provinces – Baluchistan, Sindh, and the North-West Frontier, joined Pakistan. And the remaining three – Punjab, Bengal, and Assam – were partitioned between India and Pakistan.

British India also had 562 princely states. Of these, 552 joined the Republic of India, which were inside the geographical boundaries of the country. After Independence, following the States Reorganization Act of 1956, many regions were divided into individual states. Let’s take a look at the states that were formed following Independence.    --- Sumana

West Bengal (1947)
After winning the Battle of Plassey, the British made Bengal their administrative capital. In 1905, Bengal was partitioned into East and West Bengal but was soon reunited in 1911. The place was rife with Hindu-Muslim riots. This, along with the run-up to the divide again, hastened the partition of Bengal. While the western part went to the Dominion of India and the eastern to the Dominion of Pakistan, Bengal was later renamed as West Bengal, after Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971. 

Uttar Pradesh (1947)
Uttar Pradesh is known for having churned out eight of India’s prime ministers, including the current, Narendra Modi (during his reign as MP of Varanasi). The state is known as a confluence of religions, culture, and art. Back in April 1937, during the British rule, it was created as the United Provinces, which combined the Oudh and Agra regions to improve its administration. In 1950, it was renamed Uttar Pradesh.

Rajasthan (1948)
Known as the Rajputana, a name adopted by the British Raj, the princely states came together to form the United State of Rajasthan and were merged into the Dominion of India in 1948. Although renamed as the United State of Greater Rajasthan in May 1949, in 1956, the state of Rajasthan was born. The modern Rajasthan includes most of Rajputana. Today, the erstwhile 19 princely states, the British district of Ajmer-Merwara, and two chiefships comprise the state.

Jammu and Kashmir (1948)
In October 1947, the Dogra King, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and agreed to accede to the Dominion of India. And it was in 1956 that J&K completed the process of merging with the Indian Union. Renowned for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu and Kashmir consists of three divisions: Jammu, Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh.

Assam (1950)
When the Burmese handed the territory to the British, Assam became a British protectorate, in 1826. It was ruled by the Ahoms for over 600 years. While it was separated from Bengal in 1874, in 1912 it was made as the Assam province under the British rule. The Greater Assam consisted of Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, among other areas, which were later formed as independent states.

Odisha (1950)
The Bihar and Orissa Province was formed in April 1912, and in 1936 they were split into two separate provinces by the British. The new province of Orissa came into existence on a linguistic basis in 1950. Later, in 2011, it was renamed as Odisha.

Bihar (1950)
An Indian state considered to be part of both eastern and northern India, Bihar was formed as a state in 1950, after being separated from Orissa. During the independence movement, an important development in the northern and central regions of Bihar was the peasant movement, which formed the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks to gain back their rights on occupancies.

Tamil Nadu (1950)
In 1947, when India became independent, the Madras presidency became Madras state, which comprised the present-day Tamil Nadu, South Canara district Karnataka, coastal Andhra Pradesh up to the Ganjam district in Odisha, and parts of Kerala. The state was subsequently split based on linguistic lines. Reorganised as a state in 1950, the erstwhile Madras Presidency was renamed Tamil Nadu, meaning ‘Tamil country’ in 1969.

Tripura (1956)
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, some parts of Tripura were shelled by the Pakistani Army. Subsequently, the Indian government re-organised the Northeastern region to ensure that international borders were controlled effectively, when three new states came into existence in January 1972: Tripura, Meghalaya, and Manipur. Before that, Tripura was a Union Territory, the third-smallest state in the country, surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides, until1972.

Madhya Pradesh (1956)
This state was formed when the former British Central Provinces and Berar and the princely states of Makrai and Chhattisgarh merged with Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal in 1956. The Marathi-speaking southern region of Vidarbha that included Nagpur (the capital of the state then), was ceded to the Bombay state. After the merger, Jabalpur was chosen to be the capital. However, Bhopal was later made the state capital due to some political pressures.

Kerala (1956)
After India was divided into India and Pakistan, Travancore, and Kochi were merged in 1949. Following the States Reorganisation Act, Kerala was formed by merging the Malayalam-speaking regions, Travancore and Cochin with Malabar, in 1956.

Karnataka (1956)
After India’s independence, Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar allowed the accession of his kingdom to India. This was when Mysore became an Indian state, in 1950. Acceding to the long-standing demand of the Ekikarana Movement, the Kannada and Kodagu speaking regions were incorporated into Mysore in 1956. Seventeen years later, the expanded state was renamed as Karnataka, in 1973.

Andhra Pradesh (1956)
In 1953, all the Telugu-speaking areas were separated from the Madras Presidency. They were unified as Andhra Pradesh. The state officially came into existence during the reorganisation of states in 1956, and Hyderabad was merged with Andhra Pradesh. In 2014, although Hyderabad became the capital of the newly-formed Telangana state, it will remain the joint capital of both the states for a certain period. Thus, Amaravati is being built to serve as the capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Maharashtra (1960)
At the time of Independence, the Bombay Province constituted a large part of western India. During 1954 and 1955 when Maharashtra protested against a bilingual state and formed Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, it fought for a separate state of Maharashtra and also to make Mumbai its capital. Seeking a separate Gujarat state, the Mahagujarat Movement also began at the same time. Consequent to the mass protests and deaths, the separate Marathi-speaking state was formed in May 1960. The earlier Bombay State was divided into Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Gujarat (1960)
Initially a part of the Bombay Presidency in British India, Gujarat was separated in 1960. It was formed as an independent state along with Maharashtra, in the wake of the Mahagujarat Movement.

Goa (1961)
Earlier a Portuguese colony, Goa was liberated by the Indian Army, which invaded with Operation Vijay in 1961. It was later made part of the Union Territory, along with Daman and Diu. In 1987, the state of Goa was formed, while Daman and Diu continues to remain a Union Territory.

Nagaland (1963)
Earlier a part of the province of Assam, Nagaland demanded a political union of their native and ancestral groups. In 1957, the Naga Hills Tuensang Area was brought under the control of the Central government with a large degree of autonomy. As this was not satisfactory to the tribes, violence and attacks increased across the state, with a demand of a separate identity to preserve its unique culture. The government of India recognised Nagaland as a full-fledged state after it was separated from Assam in 1963 and named with Kohima as its capital.

Punjab (1966)
Punjab was divided into East Punjab and West Punjab, after India’s independence. While the western Punjab became part of Pakistan, the eastern Punjab stayed with India. The princely states of Patiala East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) were formed by combining the princely state of Patiala and eight similar states. In 1956, this region was added to the rest of Punjab, while Haryana was separated from it as an independent state in 1966. Chandigarh, the Union Territory is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.

Haryana (1966)
Haryana was formed as a state after it was divided from Punjab in 1966. After considering the languages spoken by the local people, the state of Punjab was divided, and the boundaries of the new state were determined by the government’s Shah Commission. The commission recommended Kharad, which includes the state capital of Punjab, Chandigarh, to be part of Haryana. However, Haryana got only a small portion of Kharad, and Chandigarh remains the shared capital.

Himachal Pradesh (1971)
Created with the merger of 30 princely states in 1950, Himachal Pradesh became a union territory in 1956. And in 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed, and it was formed as a new state in January 1971 with Shimla as its capital.

Manipur (1972)
The Kingdom of Manipur fought for their rights against British rule, between 1917 and 1939. It negotiated with the British administration its preference to be part of India, rather than Burma. After Independence, the instrument of accession to merge the kingdom with India was signed and Manipur became part of the Republic of India in October 1949. It was made a
Union Territory in 1956 and became a state in 1972.

Meghalaya (1972)
In 1970, Meghalaya took shape as an autonomous state within Assam. And in 1972, it became a separate state, with Shillong as its capital.

Arunachal Pradesh (1972)
Controlled by the Central government and a part of the Assam region, Arunachal Pradesh is a strategically important state. It’s also a part of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). It became a Union Territory in 1972 and in 1987, it was formed as an independent state in India, with Itanagar as its capital.

Sikkim (1975)
After 1947, this peaceful state continued as an Indian protectorate. The Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament in 1975, to make Sikkim a state of India. The Indian Army took over Gangtok in April of that year and disarmed its ruler Chogyal’s palace guards. Eventually, monarchy was eliminated, and it merged with the Indian Union as an independent state, in 1975.

Mizoram (1987)
Like several other north-eastern states of India, Mizoram was a district of Assam until 1972, before it was declared a Union Territory. It became the 23rd state of India, a step above Union Territory, in 1987. This was after a peace accord was signed with the Mizo National Front.

Chhattisgarh (2000)
Carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the state was formed on November 1, 2000 by dividing 10 Chhattisgarhi and six Gondi-speaking southwestern districts.

Jharkhand (2000)
Jharkhand is a state separated from the southern part of Bihar. This tribal-dominated region was made an independent state in 2000.

Uttarakhand (2000)
The strong bond between the hill kingdoms – Garhwal and Kumaon – formed the basis of the political identity of Uttarakhand. It gained significant momentum in 1994 and a separate statehood was achieved. Uttaranchal, the hilly state, was formed as an independent state in 2000, with Dehradun as its capital. The state was renamed as Uttarakhand in 2007.

Telangana (2014)
Hyderabad was dissolved as per the norms of linguistic reorganisation of states. This was when Telangana was combined with Andhra, the Telugu-speaking region, to form Andhra Pradesh. In the early 1950s, a peasant-driven movement was commenced for the separation from Andhra Pradesh, which continued until Telangana was separated, which happened in 2014.

The Union Territories that were formed are
Delhi (1956), Lakshadweep (1956), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1956), Dadar and Nagar Haveli (1961), Puducherry (1963), Chandigarh (1966), and Daman and Diu (1987).

It is on the 15th of August that we pay homage to the nation’s founding fathers and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have fought and sacrificed their lives to achieve freedom. Also the day we honour the legacy that was handed down to us, lets come together and hope for an everlasting freedom and independence, on this occasion.