Previously, we had discussed about the fast-unto-death by Gandhian activist Potti Sriramulu, which changed the map of India:
Today, we shall find out what happened next.
With the implementation of “States Reorganization Act” in 1956, the protests by linguistic groups almost came to an end. Kannada speaking people were happy that they got Mysore state (which was later renamed Karnataka), Telugu speaking people were happy that they got Andhra, Malayalam speaking people were happy that they got Kerala, while the Tamil speaking masses were happy with Tamil Nadu state.
However, there were still some protests from Western parts of India, because they were not satisfied with the Govt’s decision to form Bombay State as a bilingual state, catering to both Marathi & Gujarati speaking population with a single state.
Over the next few weeks, these protests led to full fledged movements, with the demand for creation of separate states for Gujarati & Marathi population respectively.
On 8th August 1956, a few Gujarati students marched to the Congress house at Ahmedabad to meet Morarji Desai and demand for a separate Gujarati state. Chief Minister Morarji Desai not only ignored them, but also ordered police action, which led to police firing, resulting in the death of 5 students.
That was the turning point which triggered massive protests throughout the state. On the one hand, Gujaratis started the “Mahagujarat Andolan”, demanding for a separate Gujarat state with Bombay as its capital, and on the other hand, Marathi speaking masses started the “Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan”, demanding for a separate Maharashtra state with Bombay as its capital.
Over the next 5 years, more than 100 protesters were killed due to police firing ordered by Chief Minister Morarji Desai. But the protesters never relented, and with more participation from across the public spectrum & support from the common man, the movement grew intense by the day.
Succumbing to public pressure, finally, on the 1st of May 1960, Nehru Govt divided Bombay State into 2 states: Maharashtra for Marathi speaking population and Gujarat for Gujarati speaking population. Bombay city turned out to be a sticky wicket because the Marathi activists wanted it to be part of Maharashtra due to the simple reason that majority of the people there spoke Marathi, and it was surrounded by districts which were also densely populated with Marathi speaking people. Whereas Gujarati activists wanted Bombay to be part of Gujarat or at-least a separate Union Territory because they believed that the Bombay city was actually developed by Gujarati businessmen. That argument was also finally settled by awarding Bombay to Maharashtra, which became an icing on the cake for Maharashtra’s celebration.
However, Gujaratis also celebrated with great splendor because their main agenda of having a separate state for their Gujarati identity was finally fulfilled. Our Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was just 10 years old back then, had also participated in the movement, taken the lead, shouted slogans and distributed sweets.
In the memory of those 5 students who sacrificed their lives due to police firing, Gujarat State Govt built the “Shahid Smarak” at Ahmedabad, and in the memory of those 106 Marathi protesters who sacrificed their lives over 5 years due to police firing, Maharashtra State Govt built the “Hutatma Chowk” at South Mumbai.
Since then, the 1st of May has been observed as “Gujarat Foundation Day” and as “Maharashtra Day” by the respective states, with homage & tributes paid by the respective Chief Ministers to those martyrs, every year, followed by cultural programmes, speeches & celebrations.