Since the independence in 1947, India has adopted the federal system of government. In India, most of the states are organized along major linguistic lines. Language-based organization of state boundaries started in 1950s and completed in 1987. However, even today there are many demands for the creation of new states. In this paper, I focused on the case of the creation of Telangana state in the Southern India in 2014, and examined three points: (1) Which socio-economic factors contribute to the movements for new states. (2) How the federal and state governments respond to such movements. (3) What are the conditions for the creation of new states.
According to the case of the Telangana statehood movement since 2000s, people’s movements for new states in India today are motivated by not only their political and economic interests or so-called identity politics based on caste, religion, etc., but also their demands for the fair distribution of wealth and educational opportunities and for the preservation of their own dignity and self-esteem. A research group led by Kalpana Kannabiran concludes that the Telangana statehood movement is “the emergence of a new politics that is committed to deliberating over the meanings of democracy and direct action.”
The existence of such statehood movements is certainly one of the most important factors which contributes to the creation of new states. Nevertheless, whether they are actually created mostly hinges upon the decisions of the federal government and the major political parties. A new state is likely to be created when (1) most of the major political parties in the old undivided state consider that they can get political benefits from the creation of new state, and (2) the ruling party or parties at the center are one of such major political parties in the old undivided state.
Although the existence of the statehood movements is important for the creation of new states, it is in fact only a trigger or just cause for the federal government to start the process of the creation of those states. However, if a “new politics” as Kannabiran et al. says is actually emerging in India and the recent movements for new states are one of such “new politics,” it may become more and more difficult for the federal and state governments to deal with such movements in the same old way.