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Formation Of Kerala State

From time immemorial, the land of Kerala was divided into different geographical units. At about the close of the 18 century most of these units came under the administrative control of three political powers namely Travancore, Cochin and Madras. The first two were Princely States and the latter was one of the British Presidencies in India. Each of these administrative units was politically, socially, culturally and economically different, but linguistically unique. The vast majority of the people of these administrative units were denied basic rights. In the course of time, they gathered strength and the spirit to fight for getting what they were deprived of. Thus, the increasing demand for gaining political, social, cultural, and linguistic equality in different parts of the administrative units of the present Kerala, developed into a mass movement for securing the due share in the administration and politics of the State. During the period, 1900-30, these movements paved the way for aspirations on linguistic grounds. In short, the civil rights movements, the rise of newspapers in regional languages, the rise of political consciousness, the rise of political parties, Freedom Movements, etc, acted as catalysts for the Linguistic Movements. The Linguistic Movements ultimately led to the unification of these geographical divisions into a single administrative and cultural unit.


The agitation of the movement for the linguistic formation of Kerala began with the formation of the linguistic provinces of Assam, Bihar, Sind and Orissa, at the beginning of the 20th century. The formation of the Congress units in Kerala and elsewhere, based on language in 1920, added the necessary impetus to this movement. The establishment of the Kerala Province Congress Committee helped to bring political workers from all the three administrative units on a common platform and to make them think in terms of a Malayalam speaking State.


The State Peoples' Conference organized at Ernakulam in April 1928 was an important landmark. The Conference was well attended by delegates from all parts of Kerala, and one of the resolutions passed therein, called for the early formation of Aikya Kerala. Following this conference, a number of other conferences and meetings were held at different places. These sessions provided the energy and enthusiasm to the entire populations of these three units for forging a Malayalam speaking State, extending from Kasaragod to Cape Comorin. Thus, the people at large as well as various Non-Governmental Organizations strived and struggled together as the United Kerala Movement. Meanwhile, in 1946, the Raja of Cochin expressed his willingness in the Cochin Legislature, to join hands with the United Kerala Movement Leaders, for Aikya Kerala State. The proclamation of the Cochin Raja for the United Kerala Province was the first positive move from the Government agencies, which contributed tremendously to the efforts to create a unified Kerala State. The consent of Cochin State in 1946 to merge with Travancore State had strengthened very much, the demand for a United Kerala.


At this time, the ruler of Travancore was against the United Kerala Movement. He took all necessary measures to maintain its paramountcy after Indian independence. The Cochin Raja's announcement to form a United State of Travancore and Cochin for a United Kerala was doubted by the Travancore ruler, and he took the stand of 'independent Travancore.' The Indian independence Act 1947 protected Travancore for maintaining such a stand. The people were well aware, that without merging Travancore and Cochin States, the unification of Kerala would only be a dream. However, the leaders of the Aikya Kerala Movement tried their level best for the early union of these two States.


Meanwhile, the Aikya Kerala Movement created anxiety among the Tamil speaking people of Travancore, fearing that they would be treated as a minority in the Malayalam State. Hence, they opposed the idea of merging Tamil speaking taluks of the State into a Malayalam speaking State. Having exploited the opposition of the Tamilans, the Diwan C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer declared that the idea of Malayalam speaking State was unthinkable and there was no intention on the part of Travancore Government to surrender its sovereignty to any union. At the same time, the Tamil speaking people of the Southern taluks opposed the Government's stand to remain as an independent State because of the same reason. Feeling of neglect towards them by authority forced the Tamils to think of forming a Tamil district, comprising the four Tamil speaking southernmost taluks of South Travancore. The proposal was not authorized. Consequently, the discontent among the Tamils against the authority led to the formation of Tamil Merging Movement, which later turned into an Anti United Kerala Movement in the Tamil taluks. They demanded merging with the Tamil speaking Madras State. Thus, the independent move of the Travancore State and consequent developments between 1946 and 1948 in the Aikya Kerala Movement created some bitterness among the Tamils. When India became independent and an elected Legislature came to power at the Centre, the Government of India seriously considered the issue of the formation of linguistic States. It had given a hope for the Tamils too. Hence, they strengthened their agitations for the Tamil merging movement.


In their struggle for attaining their goal, the Tamilians made use of the Tamil organisations and the Tamil political party named Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress. The formation of the Tamil Movement and the Tamil political party in Travancore State were actually the result of the encouragement given to them by the Diwan C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer with the intention to weaken the public support of the Travancore State Congress. The Travancore State Congress challenged the autocratic moves of the Diwan in 1938. To weaken the Travancore State Congress's influence in Tamil areas, the Diwan gave ample support for the growth of the Tamil Movement. In this attempt, the Diwan attained his goal; Travancore State Congress could not take deep roots in Tamil taluks. At the same time, day-by-day the Tamil movement attained momentum. Later, the subsequent events, programs and agitations of the Tamil Movement in Travancore became a threat to the aspiration of the Diwan as well as the Unification Movement of Kerala itself.


While the protest against the independent move of Travancore and the Unification of Travancore and Cochin States were going on, the first election to the Travancore State was held in 1948. In this election campaign, in the Tamil taluks, the people upheld Tamil nationalism, while the Travancore State Congress seemed to uphold Malayalam nationalism. Consequently, in the election campaigns, rivalries between the Malayalees and Tamils flared up at different places in the Tamil taluks. Out of 120 seats, the Travancore State Congress contested 112 seats and won 97. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress contested only in Tamil speaking border taluks of Travancore, in 18 seats and won 14 seats. The party proved that they are the second leading political party after Travancore State Congress in the whole of Travancore and the leading political party in Tamil taluks. Thus, as the election result shows, Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress became a threat to Travancore State Congress and the United Kerala Movement. In short, the discontent of the Tamils towards the authority was the prime factor, which reflected as Anti Malayalee Movement in the Tamil taluks of the border areas of Travancore. The election result gave the confidence to them to go ahead with their stand. In fact, both linguistic groups took the election as an opportunity to prove their strength in Tamil taluks.


During this time, Kasaragod taluk of South Kanara district of Madras State was passing through a series of agitations and protests between the Malayalees and the Kannadigas. The demand of the Malayalees was to add the taluk with the adjoining Malayalam speaking Malabar district of Madras State. It reflected in the Madras Legislature also. However, due to the strong opposition from the side of the Kannadigas the demand could not produce any result. Kasaragod, being a part of Kamataka Province Congress Committee, the cooperation of Malayalees of Kasaragod with Kerala Province Congress Committee created problems for the smooth functioning of both Kerala and Kamataka Province Congress Committee in this area. The Chief Minister and Rajpramukh of Mysore strongly supported and assured all help for the Kannadiga Movement. Meanwhile, the United Kerala Movement leaders of Malabar, Travancore and Cochin assured all help for the Malayalee Movement in Kasaragod.


While the discussions were going on, as a part of integration of Native States, national leaders had discussions with Travancore and Cochin States. National leaders like Sardar Patel and V. P. Menon were given assurance from the rulers of Travancore and Cochin to form a Union of both States on 1 July 1949. Accordingly, they entered into an agreement and transferred their sovereignty to the newly formed Travancore-Cochin State on 1 July 1949. Thus on 1 July 1949 the United State of Travancore-Cochin came into being. The United State of Travancore-Cochin was the forerunner of the present linguistic unit of Kerala.


During this time, wide protest and agitations were taking place in the Tamil taluks of both States against this unification. However, this protest did not affect the unification process. The newly formed Travancore-Cochin State was a predominantly unilingual State. Even in the Tamil speaking taluks of the South, the Malayalam percentage was 86.3, which was higher than that of the main languages of most other States. The adjacent areas of the north of Travancore-Cochin remained the Malayalam speaking Malabar district and Kasaragod taluk of Madras State. The Malayalam speaking population of these areas was above 95 percentage. The formation of the United Travancore-Cochin State accelerated the sentimental feelings of Malabar and Kasaragod to merge with Travancore-Cochin and to form the United Kerala.


After a few months, the agitation of the Tamils against the unification of Travancore-Cochin, weakened. Meanwhile the political organization Travancore State Congress was merged with Kerala Province Congress Committee. At this time, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress leadership proposed to form a separate District Congress Committee of Kerala Province Congress Committee for the Tamils comprising four southern taluks of the State. But the proposal was not considered. Thus, opposing it, they took the stand not to merge with Kerala Province Congress Committee and stay as an independent one. All the attempts of Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress to merge with Kerala Province Congress Committee, and similarly all the attempts to weaken the strength of Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress was to no avail.


Meanwhile the first general election to the Legislature of Travancore-Cochin State was held in 1952. In this election, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress upheld the vision of Tamil Merging Movement of the Tamil speaking taluks with Madras State. During the election campaign, severe clashes took place between Malayalees and Tamils. However, when the election results came out the Tamils repeated the victory of 1948 in Tamil taluks. They considered the victory as the support for Tamil Movement. As a result, they strengthened their struggle for merging the Tamil speaking taluks with Madras State. It reflected in the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and Madras Legislature also.


In the 1952 election, no political party got single majority. The Congress gave assurance to Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress that they would support their demand of merging Tamil speaking areas of Travancore-Cochin with Tamil Nadu, if they support the Congress to form a Ministry. Thus, the Congress made an alliance with Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress due to lack of absolute majority in the House. During this time, some leaders like T. M. Varghese, C. Kesavan and Pattom Thanu Pillai joined and formed a platform for Aikya Kerala, which opposed merging of Tamil speaking areas of Travancore-Cochin with the then Madras State. Consequently, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress withdrew the support given to the Congress Ministry on 12 March 1953. The Ministry formed with the support of Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress by A. J. John was short lived. Consequently, the political set-up of the United Travancore-Cochin was not stable during that time.


During this time, the struggle between the Kannadigas and Malayalees of Kasaragod took a new turn. The Malayalees held meetings at several places and passed resolutions for merging with Malabar and agitating for a Malayalam speaking State. Meanwhile, the Raja of Mysore and various Kannadiga organizations passed resolutions for the attainment of Karnataka State.


At about this time, in Andhra State, the agitation for a separate linguistic State took aggressive form after the death of Potti Sri Ramalu. Consequently the Andhra State was formed. The formation of Andhra State in 1953 gave a fillip to the movement for linguistic States. In 1953, the Government of India appointed the State Reorganisation Commission to study and submit a report regarding the formation of States.


Meanwhile, public opinion in India warmly welcomed the scheme proposed by the State Reorganisation Commission. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress submitted memoranda before the Commission regarding the merger of Nine taluks, Thovala, Agastheeswaram, Kalkulam, Vilavancode, Shencottah, Peermede, Devikulam, Neyyattinkara and Chittur of Travancore-Cochin State with Madras State. The Madras Government also supported the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress's proposal of the memorandum. The Tamils upheld that their claim for merging these taluks with Madras State rested mainly on linguistic consideration and administrative and economic importance. If we examine the memoranda, it can be seen that in the four Southern taluks, namely, Agastheeswaram, Thovala, Kalkulam and Vilavancode, situated in what is known as Nanjil Nad, the percentage of Tamil speaking people was above 79. Neyyattinkara was claimed by them because of being an adjoining taluk of Nanjil Nad. The Shencottah taluk was partly an enclave in Tirunelveli district of Madras State and the percentage of Tamil speaking people in this taluk was about 59.3. The percentage of Tamil speaking people, including the Tamil migrants, in the Devikulam and Peermede taluk was 72 and 44 respectively. Chittur in Palghat was claimed because the Tamil-speaking population was 95 per cent, and a portion of Chittur was an enclave of Malabar district in Madras State. Apart from this, Madras also appealed for the transfer of the portion that lay north of the Chandragiri River, to the proposed Karnataka State.


At this time, the Travancore-Cochin State appealed to the State Reorganisation Commission that the State of Kerala should consist of the territories of the whole of Travancore-Cochin State, Malabar district, the whole of the South Kanara district, the Gudalur taluk of the Nilgiri district. Fort Cochin, the Laccadive Islands and the Amindives of the Madras State and the Part C State of Coorg.


Meanwhile, the election to the Travancore-Cochin legislature was held in 1954. In this election, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress repeated the victory in Tamil taluks. After the election, due to the lack of single majority, the Congress supported the Praja Socialist Party which came to power under Pattom A. Thanupillai. During this Ministry, the border Tamil taluks of the State of Travancore-Cochin took to aggressive forms of protest. The Tamil taluks passed through severe struggles for Tamil departion. In some places, the Government had even failed to protect the life and property of the people. The Government policies and systems were severely criticized. In the southern parts of the State, the Tamil Departation Movement took violent form and 13 lives were lost in firing incidents at two places of Nanjil Nad. At Devikulam, Peermede, Shencottah and other Tamil influential taluks, severe agitations and struggles against this firing incident took place. This incident was subjected to serious discussion in the whole of India. The issue was vociferously raised in the Travancore-Cochin and Madras Legislatures. It forced the Travancore-Cochin Government to appoint an Enquiry Commission. The Commission justified the firing incident in its Report. As a protest, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress withdrew the support given to the Ministry. Consequently, the Ministry fell and President's rule was imposed in the State. Thus, the firing incident resulted in wide protest and led to the fall of the Ministry of the State. At this time, in Kasaragod, the Kannadigas continued constitutional agitations to merge with Kannada speaking Karnataka State. Being a constitutional way of agitation there was not much distress as in the south, but it also invited the attention of State Reorganisation Commission.


After a careful study of the incidents and the thousands of proposals including memorandums, letters, telegrams, etc., the Commission in its Report proposed that the State of Kerala should be formed consisting of the territories of the State of Travancore-Cochin minus the taluks of Agastheeswaram, Thovala, Kalkulam, Vilavancode and Shencottah, the Malabar district including Fort Cochin, Laccadive islands, the Kasaragod taluk of the South Kanara district and the Amindive Islands.


The State Reorganisation Commission justified the proposal of transfer of the taluks of Agastheeswaram, Thovala, Kalkulam, Vilavancode and Shencottah of the Travancore-Cochin State because the wishes of the people of this area have been clearly expressed and there was no particular reason to ignore the wishes. Thus, the struggles and consequent incidents of the South were taken seriously by the Commission. The firing incident on 11 August 1954 and the martyrdom of 13 Tamilans of Nanjil Nadu region, the struggles and civil disobedience agitations in Shencottah taluk, the victory in the elections in the southern taluks very much influenced the Commission to reach this conclusion.


As far as Shencottah taluk is concerned, there was no direct mention in the report regarding the enclave in Shencottah, which lies to the west of the Ghats. Thereafter a discourse about the dispute regarding the enclave ensued between the United Kerala leaders and Tamil leaders.


Regarding Malabar district and Kasaragod taluk of the Madras State, the Report proposed that, Madras State is linguistically homogeneous except for the regions proposed to Karnataka and Malabar and South Canara, geographically located in a distant corner and non-Tamil speaking as well. The Commission observed that the problem of Madras regarding Malabar and Kasaragod, merging with Kerala, does not present any serious difficulty. A series of discussions have taken place regarding these areas since then. Regarding Kerala's claim for the whole of South Kanara district of Madras State the State Reorganisation Commission pointed out that there was little justification for Kerala's claim to the whole of the South Kanara district. Thus along with Malabar, only Kasaragod of the South Kanara taluk was proposed to be handed over to the proposed Kerala State.


After the submission of the State Reorganisation Commission Report, the Government of India invited comments from the States on the Report. When the Government of India invited States' comments on the proposal of the Report of S R Commission, the Madras Government and Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress gave comments in two stages. Firstly, Madras Government and Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress unanimously appealed before the Government of India and State Reorganisation Department to transfer to Madras State, the Devikulam and Peermede taluks along with the southern taluks of Travancore-Cochin State from the proposed Kerala State. The portions, which lie north of Kasaragod taluk of the South Kanara district, should be transferred to Kamataka State. Laccadive Islands and Amindive Islands should be maintained as union territories and Fort Cochin should not be transferred to Kerala but should be brought under Central Government because of security reasons. At this time, the Kannadigas of Kasaragod submitted memoranda to State Reorganisation Department raising two views, i.e., the whole of Kasaragod taluk should be merged with the proposed Mysore State and at least the portions that lie north of the Chandragiri river should be merged with the then Mysore State.


As against Madras' and Kannadiga's claims and the State Reorganisation Commission's justification, the Travancore-Cochin State suggested to review the decision on the five southern taluks of Travancore-Cochin State proposed to be merged with Madras. The State clearly explained that the geographical continuity, economic importance and administrative convenience of these taluks are closer to the proposed Kerala State than Madras State. In the proposal, the Travancore-Cochin State admitted that the linguistic majority of the Tamils of this taluk is an acceptable one. But this taluk is of economic, geographic, political and social importance to Kerala. In the same proposal, Travancore-Cochin State insisted that the Government should not at any rate remove from Kerala the portion of the Puliyara Hill Pakuthy lying to the West of the Western Ghats. The State explained that the Ghats divide the Shencottah taluk into two parts, ie, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats. Travancore-Cochin State claimed the portion that lies west of the Ghats taking into account its geographical, economic and administrative importance with Kerala. Otherwise, this proposed portion of Madras would bulge into Kerala and remain as a Tamil corridor in Kerala. Apart from these, Travancore-Cochin proposed that the whole of Kasaragod taluk, and Devikulam and Peermede taluks should be retained in Kerala as recommended by the Commission. The decision taken on Gudalur and Coorg should be reviewed and they should be added to Kerala State. The Travancore-Cochin State maintained that Gudalur and Coorg geographically form part of Malabar.


The State Reorganisation Department seriously considered and examined the arguments of both Governments. As for the claims of Travancore-Cochin State against the proposal of State Reorganisation Commission on the Southernmost four taluks of Travancore-Cochin State, the State Reorganisation Department was not ready to review the proposal of the State Reorganisation Commission on the four taluks and made no changes in the Commission's proposal. In the case of Shencottah taluk, the State Reorganisation Department was convinced that there is justification for Travancore-Cochin State's claim for the portion, which lies west of the Ghats. Thus, the Government of India suggested the recommendation of State Reorganisation Commission, in respect of only the portion of the Puliyara Hill Pakuthy lying to the west of the Ghats be retained in Kerala. The portion, which was added to Kerala State from the Shencottah taluk, was only to avoid the pocket of land existing as corridor between the States. The proposal on the Laccadive, Minicoy and the Amindives Islands was accepted and these territories were constituted into a centrally administered area.


Regarding the Devikulam and Peermede taluks, the Tamil side of the case was that, although originally much of the population of Devikulam and Peermede was migrants, it then constituted a majority and that in the 1954 elections, the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress won both the seats to the assembly. The S R Department observed that it is important to note that the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress itself recognized the special interests of the Travancore-Cochin Government in this area. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress sought to transfer these areas to Tamil Nadu- the Pallivasal Pakuthy of the Devikulam taluk, where the Hydro Electric Works is located and the Peruvanthanadu Pakuthy of Peermede taluk, which includes the town ship of Mundakayam where the major areas of Rubber estates are located. These are economically and geographically very important to Kerala. However, the State Reorganisation Department found that the departure of Devikulam and Peermede taluks would weaken the economy of the proposed Kerala State. Moreover, the Department concluded that there is geographically and linguistically importance of these taluks to Kerala.


In the case of Kasaragod, the dispute escalated with the proposal of the State Reorganisation Commission. Mysore State and Madras Government appealed constantly to assign the portions that lie north of the Chandragiri River to the proposed Kamataka State. After long deliberations, the State Reorganisation Department prepared a note and after approval of the Cabinet sought the President's permission to transfer the area to the proposed Mysore States. The content of the note was that the Chandragiri river should be treated as the natural boundary between the proposed Kerala and Mysore State and the portion of the Kasaragod taluk that lies to the north of the river should be transferred to the Kamataka State. The President sanctioned the proposal. Having known this decision, P. S Rao, the adviser to the Rajpramukh of Travancore-Cochin States, sent a letter which said that if the Chandragiri is the Natural boundary between Kerala and Kamataka, the Thamra Parni river should be considered the natural boundary between the Kerala and Tamil Nadu State and the land that lies to the North of the river should be transferred to the Kerala State. The decision concerning Gudalur should also be reviewed. Having realized that the cause was reasonable, the President cancelled the decision on Kasaragod the next day.


Kerala State, a homeland for the Malayalees came into being on 1 November 1956. The discourse regarding the Formation of Kerala State did not end even after the State came into being. After the formation of Kerala, the matter was continued to be discussed in both houses of Indian parliament, Kerala, Kamataka, and Tamil Nadu legislatures, in various other government bodies and among various political parties, local bodies, associations and individuals.


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