Feuds over birthdays

State day, if they have to have one, ought to be a day of pride and not pain

Brothers and sisters of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry! Greetings for November 1, your state or territorial day.

Not all these states and territories were created on November 1, 1956; nor are all of them ‘creatures’ of the States Reorganisation Act. Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and a few of the UTs were created in 1956; Andhra Pradesh is older by three years (created in 1953); Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh UT are younger by 10 years (1966). Chhattisgarh was created on November 1, 2000.

Many believe that the old Andhra Pradesh was the first state carved out on the basis of language. Not at all. Odisha was created on language basis in 1936. Maharashtra and Gujarat, separated at birth on the basis of language, were created on May 1, 1960. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah fixed Sardar Patel's birthday, October 31, for making Jammu & Kashmir a UT. If they had delayed the move by a day, J&K and Ladakh, too, could have joined the November 1 birthday club.

Countries, too, have their national days. For most Afro-Asians and Latin Americans, it is the day on which they won freedom from European colonialists, formed republics, or threw out native tyrants. For Europeans, it varies. The French have their Bastille Day on which they revolted against their tyrant kings in 1789; the Germans have their Unification Day (October 3) on which the Cold War-separated West and East Germanys were reunited in 1990, the Russians have it on June 12, the day on which Russia was made a federal state in 1990 after shedding the Soviet empire, and so on.

The British, having no such revolutionary experience except a civil war and a bloodless revolution—both of which they try to forget as bad dreams—celebrate their monarch’s birthday as the national day. Even that is not fixed. The government decides which day the king or the queen would have his or her official birthday.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

The Bengalis, too, have been without a state day. Having been the original ‘nationalists’ who bore the idea of India long before the rest of India did (“What Bengal thinks today, India will think tomorrow,” said Gopal Krishna Gokhale), they haven’t had a state formation day. Yet, the good people didn’t complain as long as they had their Poila Baisakh, Puja and other fests.

Of late the Union government and its BJP friends in Bengal have been telling the state government that they ought to have a state day, and that ought to be on June 20. Governor C.V. Ananda Bose celebrated it this year in the Raj Bhavan. No way, said Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamoolis. June 20, 1947, was the day on which members of their assembly voted for partition between West Bengal and East Pakistan.

To Mamata and Co, the suggestion sounded like being asked to revere George Nathaniel Curzon as their state’s founder. That guy divided the state first between Hindu and Muslim regions. The state day, if they have to have one, ought to be a day of pride and not pain. After much sound and fury, the Trinamool-majority assembly resolved last month to celebrate April 14/15, Poila Baisakh, as the state day.

Telanganis have been celebrating theirs on June 2, since the day on which the state was formed in 2014. Last month, Home Minister Amit Shah suggested that they also celebrate September 17 as Liberation Day to commemorate the Army’s police action that freed old Hyderabad state from the secessionist Nizam and his Razakars.

Which state next?