India is a single entity with many independent units. It can be better understood as a perpetual union with divisible states. Article 3 of Indian Constitution provides inter alia for formation of new states by altering the boundaries of existing states, suitably. The Constitution that came into force w.e.f. January 26, 1950, made India a sovereign democratic republic. The new republic was also declared to be the Union of States.
Why no bigger role for States than Centre in creation of new States?
It is said that during the Constituent Assembly discussions, to an observation by Prof KT Shah that the legislation constituting a new State from any region of a State should originate from the legislature of the State concerned, K Santhanam stated as under: “I wonder whether Professor Shah fully realises the implications of his amendment. If his amendment is adopted, it would mean that no minority in any State can ask for separation of territory… unless it can get a majority in that State legislature.
On many occasions, the constitutional provision under Article 3 has been used to satisfy the provincial aspirations of people. Some political parties have reciprocated by starting secessionist activities leading to formation of Haryana, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
Post-independence, there were movements for creation of new, linguistic-based states. The agitation to create a Telugu-speaking state out of the northern portion of Madras State gathered pace, just after a few years of independence, resulting in the formation of Andhra state in 1953 by extracting the erstwhile 16 northern Telugu-speaking districts of Madras State.
In actuality, the demand of states on linguistic basis was developed even before independence. During that period, Indian administrative regions were identified as different provinces. Odisha (formerly Orissa) was the first Indian state formed on linguistic basis and became Orissa Province in the year 1936. In Odisha, linguistic movement started as early as in the year 1895 itself and strengthened years later with the only demand of a separate province from Bihar & Orissa Province.
After India’s independence, based on the provisions made under Article 3 of Indian constitution, many small changes were made to the state boundaries during the period 1950-1956. For example: the small state of Bilaspur was merged with Himachal Pradesh on July 1, 1954; and Chandernagore, a former enclave of French India, was incorporated into West Bengal in 1955. All this was made under the provisions of Article 3.
In case of the formation of Nagaland state also, Article 3 was efficiently used. After the independence of India, in 1947, the area remained a part of the province of Assam. Post independence, nationalist activities arose amongst a section of the Nagas. Naga National Council led by Phizo demanded a political union of their ancestral and native groups. That was rather a violent movement that India had ever seen for separate statehood. In 1955, the union government sent the Indian Army to reinstate law and order in that region.
In 1957, with the intervention of the newly established central government, Naga Hills Tuensang Area (NHTA) was established as a Union Territory directly administered by the Central government with a great degree of self-rule. Even this was not acceptable to the tribes of the region. In July 1960, following the increasing agitations and violence across the state, and discussions between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Naga People Convention (NPC),an amicable solution was arrived at whereby the Government of India recognized the formation of Nagaland as a full-fledged state within the Union of India.
In a nutshell, all the 16 new states that have come into force since 1953 i.e., beginning with the formation of Andhra Pradesh on November 1, 1956, to the most recently formed state of Jharkhand on November 15, 2000, all were formed in the spirit of Article 3.
However, federalism, which is the nature of Indian republic, has been repeatedly questioned on many instances. Article 3 of the Constitution imposes a question on the entire concept of federalism. It empowers president of India – in actuality through the Central government – to approve a bill for the formation of a new state, irrespective of the views of the Assembly concerned.