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Bombay

Thoughts on Linguistic States

Ambedkar begins the book by saying he wanted to come out on the topic of linguistic states sooner. He admits his views have changed over time, and some of his views contradict. However, the idea of linguistic states needs to be vetted with cold reason. Ambedkar denounced the hooliganism going on during the publication of this work in defense of linguistic states.

Linguistic states facilitate fellow-feeling that leads to cohesive democracy. When people are grouped in states based on a common language, they have a much easier time working together. Mixed states fail because it forces people of different ethnicities to work together. Ambedkar asserts there is no real reason for various ethnicities to have conflict in India. The separation into linguistic states would facilitate democracy by reducing ethnic strife.

The downside of linguistic states is the possibility of the states developing into separate nationalities. If this happened, there could be the possibility of interstate conflict and war. A strong central government could quell the threat of interstate war. So the downside of linguistic states is far smaller than mixed states.

Another way to increase social cohesion with linguistic states is to make the official language the same in all provinces. So all business and government transactions would be done in the official language. Ambedkar recommends Hindi because 48% of the country already speaks the language. At a later date, when the population is ready, India would transition to English. The use of an official language reduces bureaucracy and ensures everyone in the country has access to all levels of government. It is paramount that those that advocate for linguistics states support one central language. Ambedkar goes as far as to state that someone that is against on central language is not fit to be Indian.

The work briefly discusses the partition of Pakistan. Ambedkar says he supported it. Specifically, he says, “I was glad that India was separated from Pakistan.” He feared Muslims would dominate the rest of India. By letting the Muslims leave, it would make way from India to build a prosperous democracy. However, he felt recent developments of ethnic conflict could close the door on Indian prosperity.

Upon the establishment of linguistic states a new problem arises. The south would have much smaller states than the Indian north. How then would power be equated between the north and south? The power distribution mattered because, according to Ambedkar, the south is educationally advanced and modern. The north is superstitious and backward. The solution is to break up the largest states in the north: Utter Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh. The new states would have around 20 million people to put them at par with the southern states.

Maharashtra and Bombay

Maharashtra and Bombay were examples of failed mixed states currently in India. Both areas were plagued with ethnic conflict and violence. There were four proposals that the government was vetting to improve the area:

  1. To retain Bombay as a mixed state of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Bombay
  2. To disrupt the existing state and to separate Maharashtra and Gujarat and make them two separate states.
  3. To make united Maharashtra with Bombay as one state
  4. To separate Bombay from Maharashtra and make it a separate city state

Ambedkar believes none of these proposals go far enough. He proposes breaking the state up into four separate provinces: Maharashtra City State (Bombay), Western Maharashtra, Central Maharashtra, and Eastern Maharashtra. The state of Maharashtra as it is was too big to govern. The smaller states would be easier to administrate and facilitate young leaders emerging. The Maharathi people had few political leaders and lagged in education.

Bombay could also benefit from being independent. At this time, the Maharthi population has not developed political or economic leadership. If the transient population of Gujurathis left the economy of Maharahtra would tank. Formation of Bombay into a separate city-state would allow for those creating industry to be satisfied, while the Maharthi develop. Ambedkar also proposes changing the name of Bombay to a Maharthi name.

Caste System Hindered Political Development

There were many problems with the current political system. The treatise talked explicitly about issues of taxation and alcohol prohibition. As in America, alcohol prohibition in India led to a black market and more consumption. To solve this problem, India needed a system that could could facilitate political change.

The social structure of India based on the Caste System caused political stagnation. The Caste System led to an ascending scale of hatred and a descending scale of contempt. A caste has all the pride of a nation. Those in higher caste see themselves as superior, and that led to them not voting for people of lower caste. However, those of lower caste would vote for someone of high caste because they are used to seeing high caste people in leadership. Political reservation would be essential in developing political leadership in lower caste communities. Also, smaller states would allow for areas with concentrations of lower caste people to hold political office.

There are two types of majorities. The first is a political majority formed to push a political agenda. Entrance into this majority is open and would change as political needs change. Societal norms set communal majorities. Entrance into a communal majority is closed, the status is set at birth. If the communal majority became the political majority tyranny would overtake the country.

India is much too large to have a single capital. There was also historical precedent for two capitals in India. For example, the Moghal Empire had Delhi as one capital and Shrinagar in Kashmir as a second. Calcutta and Simla both served the British as capitals. Those in the south had access to a Central government. Ambedkar proposes consolidating Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Bolraum into a southern capital.

Maharashtra as a Linguistic Province

A linguistic province is an independent political entity formed to ensure that those who speak a similar language can govern together. Ambedkar takes on the idea of reforming the region that includes his hometown of Mhow as a linguistic province.

Those that support linguistic provinces see it as a way to preserve and develop local culture. If the government creates provinces without considering local cultures, they will die. In heterogeneous societies, people tend to advantage their group over others. The group hostilities will hinder nation-building.

Linguistic states would make a national democracy more challenging to develop. Democracies work best in homogenous societies. By having province drawn without linguistic considerations, everyone in the province would be forced to use the common language. The use of the common language builds national identity.

In addition to hindering the construction of national identity, Linguistic states increase government bureaucracy. The central government would have to make documents and provide translators of all the provincial languages.

The compromise solution proposed by Ambedkar was to create provinces based on common local language but use the national language for business and government transactions. The local language could be used for cultural activities. However, if the national language overtakes the provincial, so be it. A culture can stay together without a government entity or a unique language. Cultures can be cohesive through shared history, experience, and tradition.

Maharashtra as a Province

Ambedkar begins by explaining that the proposed province of Maharashtra would be viable. When comparing Maharashtra to the American state of Delaware, it is much larger. The population is greater than the most populous American state, New York. Maharashtra also had enough tax revenue to stay self-sufficient.

The next question was, should the province be unitary or federal. Federal meaning that Maharashtra would be broken into sub-provinces that work in a confederation. Ambedkar takes the stand that a federal province would only increase bureaucracy without any advantage. Maharashtra should be a unitary province.

Bombay

The largest city in Maharashtra would be Bombay, which has historically been an international trading capital. It has a sizeable Gujarathi population. Most work as merchants and liaisons from English and other European business. Many of the Gujaratis wanted Bombay to be independent.

Mostly the argument was that the Gujaratis turn Bombay into an economic powerhouse, and local Maharashtrians should not rule them. Most of the Maharashtrians in Bombay were laborers. They had no idea how to govern correctly. Many of the Gujaratis believed that Maharashtra wanted the surplus revenue of Bombay.

Ambedkar reminds the Gujaratis that they are only captains of industry because the British East India company gave them privileges to work in Bombay. Also, the surrounding provinces provide tax revenue to keep Bombay afloat. Lastly, the wealth of Bombay would not exist without Maharashtrian labor. The Capitalist did not gather their wealth themselves and had no right to its complete control. Wealth is the property of the society because it takes a community to build it.

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