Sanyukta Maharashtra: Talk Show 2
Duration: 00:12:02; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 246.746; Saturation: 0.179; Lightness: 0.486; Volume: 0.091; Cuts per Minute: 4.732; Words per Minute: 109.758
Summary: The Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement in 1950s, was the most important post-independent political movement in Bombay. The movement received active support from parties and groups whose ideological base ranged from radical left to the centerist. Popularly it is referred as a movement for assertion of the rights of majority language group - Marathi, and thus the inclusion of Bombay in the Maharashtra state is considered as the victory of the movement. But actually the historical period at which the movement picked up momentum was a junction between the existing vibrant trade union movement in the city and the beginning of identity politics in the region. We felt it is important to revisit the movement in order to understand the present social scenario. A discussion session was organized between various active members of the movement.
Anchor: Pushpa Bhave (PB), art and literary critic, teacher and social activist. Was a young student during the movement. (Unfortunately the footage with her image have got spoilt. So we only have her audio).
Participants: Prof. Sadanand Varde(SV): Samajwadi (socialist) leader, economist, former state minister of education. Was in the forefront of the movement.
Pushpa Trilokeka(PT): Journalist. Was part of the daily newspaper Maratha, which was considered as the mouthpiece of the movement.
Tara Reddy(TR): Communist, Member of CPI (communist party of India), also active in women’s movement. Was active participant of the movement.
Himmatbhai(HB): Samajwadi (socialist) leader. Also part of the Gujarati community, which was largely against the movement.
Soon after the independence various language groups all over the country asserted their autonomy and started demanding special status of official state language for their respective languages. It was aggravated due to previous anti people policies of the British. Hence there was a great commonality between the demands of the different language groups. That is why even the other language groups from the working class of Mumbai supported the Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement.
TR: I'd like to say one thing... post-independence, the concept of identity, for all sections of society, began to emerge, since the British colonial past had successfully eradicated it. Within that identity, the emergence of our language as a means of rule, wasn't first propagated by Sanyukta Maharashtra. There was Vishal Andhra with Hyderabad, Madras etc., similarly, Ikya Kerala in Kerala, same goes for Gujarat, language was given its due importance. Hence in the Sanyukta Maharashtra movement, for this assimilation of languages, it in fact had the endorsement of all other language groups too. The Telegu committee lent its support too. In a conference in Mumbai, Malayalee language groups held a conference in Dharavi.and the greatest achievement was that this divide was bridged because there were Kerala, Telegu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, all demanding their own language representation, but it was all said in one voice.
Studio in Dadar
language based state
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united maharashtra movement
In the Sanyukta Maharashtra Andolan (movement), there was never a gap between language groups. Then in the question of religion. I will tell you this because I am from the Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement, that Muslims, especially all the Muslims from Maharashtra, from Sangli, Satara, all the Muslims in these areas took sabhas and not only gave support to Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement, but also gave votes to all the candidates (candidates from the movement) at that time. Never was there any problem with religion. And another thing - caste - everyone forgot that they are Koli, they are chitpavan, they are kayasthas, they are Pathare Prabhus. And the original residents here - who are Kolis, here the original residents - Pathare Prabhus are Marathi speakers. The original residents here are Marathi speakers.
The movement broke many divisions and barriers among people: division along language, religion, caste, gender - all broke, according to comrade Tara Reddy. It was an over arching, all encompassing movement. Only people who stayed away from it are the sectarian parties and they are the one who now make shrill demand along the regional or religious line.
And fourthly, women. In the independence movement the number of women who took part in Gandhiji's struggle many times more than that. One woman per house has come and participated in the Satyagraha (non-violent protest).What is the meaning of this? If the woman finds this demand close to her, then the demand is surely the demand of all masses. Therefore all were supporting this demand this is what I want to say. Why do I want to say? Because now all this religious enmity, caste fights, Marathi-non-Marathi debate these people have not understood the Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement, they have not understood why we demanded Maharashtra. In fact I will say, all these people were not there at that time. Jansangh (religion based ultra right outfit) never participated in the struggle for Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement.All of them are in the Jansangh, aren't' they? BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) and all who carry the legacy. Jansangh has never participated in the Sanyukta Maharashtra movement, it has never taken part in the movement of the people. They are the ones who are digging out these issues now.
But not all sections of the society were supporting the movement - the upper caste Hindus feared an uprising of the lower castes and stayed away. Some also thought it may affect the essential cosmopolitan features of Mumbai.
PB: My memory of my youth is a little different from this, Taratai. We lived in Hindu colony. And at that time the debates going on in the homes of my Brahmin friends was that, if Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement becomes a reality, then Marathas will get power and the power of the Brahmin Samaj will go away and that is why we should not support the Sanyukta Maharashtra. On the other hand, the position which S.K. Patil led was that Mumbai is cosmopolitan, and that is why it should not go to Maharashtra. Himmatbhai you have lived in Mumbai for many years, what do you think about this?
HB: Mumbai is cosmopolitan but it cannot go out of Maharashtra. Other language speakers live here and other language speakers also as Tarabai was saying, Malayali, Telegu supported this movement. This question, if you take the cosmopolitan point of view, you cannot oppose Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement. This was a wrong position.
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TR: But Mumbai also as Varde said, is a trade centre of India, but it is also an industrial capital of India, financial also. What does this mean? Mumbai had a lot of working class people. 84 cloth mills were there. All these workers were from Konkan, then ghat (plateau), then Telegu worker. Those who have seen mills, now they are burning them, yesterday also one got burnt, but those who have seen mills - they will know that in mills some departments were looked after by only the north Indians workers. It was called the "bhuler" dept. there only the north Indian workers could work. In weaving, only Marathi and Telegu people could work. And in winding only women, this was the situation of the working class. And 84 mills. And this working class was so powerful... that, this plan to take away Mumbai, was a plot to destroy this working class by the big capitalists. Jawaharlal Nehru fell victim to this and it was the working class which first took a step against it - that 'Sanyukta Maharashtra with Mumbai'. And then all shahirs (bards), all artists, singers, all girls, all students... students held conferences.
For Tara Reddy it is a History of rise and fall of the working class in Mumbai. In post Independence Mumbai, the trade unions of the 84 textile mills were full of energy. Since the workers were mostly Marathi, the demand for attaching Mumbai to the United Maharashtra was first articulated by them.
When technically that was achieved on 1st May, 1960 (workers' day, also known as Maharashtra Day because of that achievement), the right wing politicians manipulated that political energy into petty identity politics and politics of intolerance. Shivsena was born and begun the end of workers' unity and
trade union movement.
TR: In Phanaswadi the first conference was held by young kids. Women held - 10,000 women were present at that first conference you know Pushpa, and all of them from Mahila Mandals (women's groups), what is that? Pathare Prabhu mandal, CKP mandal, Chitpavan mahila mandal, all different castes women came together and made up this conference of 10,000. Then how do we destroy the power of the workers? Take Mumbai out. This plot of theirs failed! But to keep this plot alive, they have created another Sangathana (outfit in this case) and that is Shiv sena (a Dominant right wing parochial party). That destroyed this working class; otherwise this worker would have gained power in the politics of the whole nation! And the working class WAS gaining power. And first slogan that shiv sena came with was "Jala do, jala do, lal bavta, jala do!".(Burn the red flag) They picked up the name of Marathi person later. First it was only "lal bavta" (red flag) that means burn the working class. And that they have achieved. Working class is destroyed, mills have gone and while this was happening Shiv Sena did not do anything!
PB: Pushpatai, I will ask you - that while you were in 'Maratha' (newspaper), you dreamt about Sanyukta Maharashtra (united Maharashtra), and looking back after so many years what do you feel.
PT: What Tarabai was saying is correct. Shivsena started to cut 'Maratha' and the way they have created divisions among the Marathi people. They have totally broken up Marathi people. But the extreme bad position was taken up by the Jansangh (extremist Hindu religious party). I will tell you now in the context of the language state issue. That is with relation to Punjab. Punjab was made into a separate language state in 1966.
Shivsena appropriated the movement and misled the Marathi masses in horrible Negative identity politics.
But till then they had not made Punjab a separate state. Even though Punjab was asking for it. what language was there. There were Hindus, Muslim and Sikhs. All these people used to speak in Gurumukhi and wrote in Urdu.So when this issue came up, Jan Sangh told them to mention themselves as Hindi speakers. According to
that they wrote themselves as Hindi speakers. Though even today they, a lot of Punjabis speak Gurumukhi and write Urdu and in this way they noted themselves as Hindi speakers. That is how Punjab and Haryana were
separated into two states. So what happened was that in Punjab Sikhs became more powerful. After this what happened to Punjab, everybody knows. For ten years
that state was burning because of the Khalistan issue.And the main blame (she says paap - sin) for this goes to Jansangh. That is why I say that language state has never created any divisions among people, it is the creation of these parties, say it Khalisthani or say Shivsena which were created only to make division among people.
To destroy the morale of the common man that was the work of these opportunist parties.
Pushpa Trilokekar talks about how Jansangh played fowl identity politics in Punjab by hiding the fact in official records that Punjabis mostly write in Urdu and speak in Gurumukhi.
divide and rule