[Editor's note: Time to updated Natural Earth vector already! Last week India added a new state to the national map (see map at right), not without counter protest. India is largely administered by language-focused states. The last time states were added was in 2000. The BBC has some good coverage (second).]
Republished from The Washington Post via the AP.
Demand for new states could change India’s map
Ethnic minorities and activists in economically deprived regions are seeking states of their own, following the government’s surprise decision last week to give in to a hunger strike and create a new state in southern India.
Now, India is confronting serious calls for a grand reorganization of this sprawling, diverse nation of 1.2 billion.
“We are looking at what could be a major crossroads in the political evolution of the Indian system,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a prominent political analyst at Delhi University. “Are 28 states enough for a billion people when 300 million Americans have 50 states?”
China, which India is expected to surpass in 2025 as the world’s most populous country, uses centralized, authoritarian rule to maintain order and unity. India’s democracy has relied on constant negotiation and compromise to empower its different ethnic groups and bind the diverse country, from the rural hill people who live on the Tibetan border to the business tycoons of Mumbai.
The Indian system gives broad power to the states. It was largely created after a Gandhi disciple died from a 58-day hunger strike in 1952, while pressing for the creation of Andhra Pradesh, a new state in the south.
Following the ensuing street protests, the government agreed to reorganize the country based on language groups. India has occasionally tweaked its internal boundaries since then, most recently with the creation of three new states in 2000 that brought the total to 28.
Some states remain so large they have become difficult to govern, leaving politically marginalized regions out of the country’s economic boom.
“You’ve got to try something new,” Rangarajan said. “Something’s not working about it.”
Parties across the spectrum – including the ruling Congress Party – have backed appeals for new states to garner regional support during elections. But as the campaigns fade, so does the pressure for statehood.
In an attempt to re-ignite the passions, politician K. Chandrasekhar Rao embarked on another hunger strike in Andhra Pradesh last month, demanding his neglected region of Telangana be given statehood.
As his health faded and protests grew, the government suddenly gave in – and was immediately swamped by calls for at least 16 other new states.