On March 25, 1953, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru announced the creation of India’s very first linguistic State – Andhra Pradesh. Three years later Parliament passed the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. The primary objective of this amendment was to constitutionally encode the reorganisation of Indian States based on language. The Amendment modified various Articles of the Constitution including the First Schedule to lay down the new boundaries of different States. It added new Articles to provide for smooth governance and the protection of minority interests in the newly formed States.
The idea of organising Indian States on linguistic lines was not new. In 1920, members of the All India Congress Committee at its Nagpur Session passed a resolution demanding such an arrangement. Soon, this became a popular demand and gained some currency within the Congress.
Almost a decade later, the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly appointed the Dar Commission to look into the idea of linguistic States. The Commission suggested in its report that language should not be the core basis for organising provinces: administrative convenience, history, geography and economy must be given primacy instead.
Protests against these recommendations pushed the Congress to constitute the JVP Committee at its 1948 Jaipur Session. The Committee consisting of Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya stated that the old Congress policy of having linguistic States was not practical. The Committee echoed the Dar Commission’s recommendations: the primary consideration must be security, unity and economic prosperity of India, not language. This was broadly the position of most members in the Constituent Assembly too. Members like Renuka Ray believed that the reorganisation of provinces on a linguistic basis was illogical and would cause bitterness and strife.
Then in 1953, everything changed with the death of Potti Sriramulu due to a hunger strike aimed at persuading the Union government to create Andhra Pradesh for Telugu speaking Indians. Immense political pressure was brought to bear on the Union government, and it was forced to create the State of Andhra Pradesh in 1953 – the first linguistic State in independent India.
Soon, movements demanding other linguistic States emerged. The Union government appointed a Commission to look into these demands. The Commission submitted its report in 1955 recommending the formation of 16 States based on language and 3 centrally administered areas. The Government of India slightly deviating from this recommendation formed 14 States and 6 union territories under the States Reorganisation Act of 1956.
Giving effect to this scheme, the 7th Amendment made the following changes to the Constitution. Under the original Constitution of 1950, the First Schedule contained four types of States and territories - Part A: Former British Provinces, Part B: Former Princely States, Part C: Chief Commissioner’s Provinces and Part D: Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Amendment collapsed this into just two categories - Part A: States and Part B: Union Territories. It redrew the boundaries of all territories in Part A on linguistic lines.
The Amendment also substituted Articles 239 and 240, that addressed the administration of Union Territories to allow the President to appoint an administrator to act on his behalf in each Union Territory. The President was also empowered to make regulations for specific Union Territories. Safeguards for linguistic minorities were also included in the Constitution - Articles 350A and 350B were inserted to mandate States to provide primary education in the mother-tongues of linguistic minorities as the medium of instruction. The Amendment also made minor changes to Articles relating to High Courts, and appointment of High Court judges and Governors.