“India was never meant to be a union of linguistic states, but a union of well governed and managed states,” writes Mohan Guruswamy in the opening paragraph of a recent article. I got to know about this article (and its author, frankly) when my good friend Sandeep Kambi wrote an article about it.
That one sentence of Mr. Guruswamy gives away the poverty of imagination with which the rest of his article is written.
Imagination is important. It’s not as if everything that India ever needs to be has already been imagined. Sure, our forefathers have had their spiels, but they couldn’t have imagined everything. Besides, they were human. Their imaginations must be challenged day in and day out.
If we refuse to use imagination, or worse, don’t recognize that faculty in us, the future is going to be dark. That’s a given. If we’re going to talk only about what something is meant to be, we’re not doers here; we’re just commentators sitting in a box and changing our emotions and emotional out-pours to fit the game on the field.
Imagination isn’t the only thing lacking in Mr. Guruswamy’s article. There’s information, for example.
You see it in his claim that linguistic states have no historical basis. Suffice it to say that Kannada Nadu (like Tamil Nadu, yes) was a state whose name was called out in the earliest work of rhetoric, poetics, and grammar of Kannada, viz., the Kavirajamarga, which dates back to 850 AD.
Therefore, I’d like to offer Mr. Guruswamy a piece of advice: don’t get into the historical basis of states. It’s states like Karnataka which have it, not the one manufactured by the British and which you seem to think has basis even in physics: India.
Moving on, Mr. Guruswamy claims that regional affinity is stronger than sub-national identity. What’s regional affinity? His word for love of regions half their current size (a strange sort of love, indeed). And what’s sub-national identity? His word for linguistic identity which isn’t meant to be.
That Mr. Guruswamy dislikes the term linguistic identity is more than obvious, but not so the fact that he has the temerity to force something unreal on to his readers. Namely, the idea that there’s a mathematically proven national identity to begin with, under which all other identities must be subsumed.
So, where does Mr. Guruswamy go with regional affinity? Strangely (for a person who wants more states), he laments the fact that people have this affinity, or rather, that it is leading to political mobilization (think Telangana).
Instead, he wants the creation of new states to be based on a strange map drawn in 1973 by a certain Dr. Rasheeduddin Khan of Hyderabad. On what did that man base his map?
Perhaps we should take a cue from the fact that Mr. Guruswamy goes on to argue that India’s states have become unmanageably large in terms of population. They have too much power, too, leaving the Central Government begging for some, as it were. This power in the states, he argues, must be further decentralized like it’s been done in Honda, Toyota, General Motors, and Ford.
That’s his theory to replace warlords like K Chandrashekhar Rao of Telangana. Let there be more Telanganas, he says, but not the political mobilization around regional affinity. Instead, let the “indestructible” centre destroy the existing states and create some Telanganas. That would hopefully illustrate the centre’s powerlessness which Mr. Guruswamy “has always held”.
So, in summary, what has Mr. Guruswamy written at all? Just this, that some R. Khan has already given the ideal blueprint for restructuring India into 56 states based on population. Has he said anything new? No. He has only reiterated what he thinks is meant to be.
Unfortunately for him, those who want change can never accept meant to be even if it’s written in the constitution. As far as they’re concerned, there’s no meant to be. Even what they do is tentative. It’s up to future generations to decide whether or not to retain it.
As far as I’m concerned, I want India to be a weak but indestructible federation of strong and indestructible linguistic states. As I’ve argued in the book, that’s the only way the post-independence Indian nation can become an ethical entity.
Of course I know this isn’t meant to be, but who cares? For the British, even an independent India wasn’t meant to be. Did we care? No, Mr. Guruswamy, welcome to politics in general, and democracy in particular, where the future is something the people imagine and bring into existence.