TO Jawaharlal Nehru, India's present danger is within. Wherever he has gone across his vast country since Independence, whatever his immediate pronouncement on the affairs of India or the world, Nehru has appealed above all for national unity. "Integrate," he warns, "or perish." He sees it as his historic mission to overcome an endemic challenge to Indian nationalism--a challenge as elemental as the Hindu-Moslem schism which ended in partition and separate statehood for Pakistan less than a decade ago. This is the centrifugal force created by ten major languages, each entrenched in its own historic territory, numbering speakers in the tens of millions and wedded to differing time-honored scripts. How grave a challenge this is to a central authority restrained by parliamentary processes grows clearer year by year as the unity achieved in opposition to the British ruler slips away.

Nehru's leadership focuses more and more plainly on a single overriding objective: to assert a dominant centralizing power before the claims of regional self-interest can gather momentum. In size and resources, the ten regional components of the Indian Union can properly be compared to the sovereign nations of Europe. While of no mind to demand sovereign status, they cross swords in a sharpening political and economic competition which, unchecked, can only undermine India's strength and influence.

In the independence movement, Gandhi and Nehru gave full scope to these ten separate patriotisms within the Congress Party to arouse the spirit of each against the common foe. The British had looked primarily to administrative convenience in drawing the map of India, permitting the accidents of conquest to decide most provincial boundaries. Disregarding the multilingual political babels that resulted, the Congress set up its own provincial units on language lines, pamphleteered to the masses in their languages and promised repeatedly to redraw the map of India when the British were gone. In doing this Gandhi and Nehru deferred to their regional lieutenants, who contended that multilingual units aggravate friction between Indians and that therefore linguistic autonomy is a prerequisite of Indian unity.

Once in power, however, Nehru tried to postpone linguistic redistribution. Reflecting his own second thoughts, the Linguistic Provinces Commission appointed by India's Constituent Assembly in 1948 warned that its inquiry

has in some ways been an eye-opener for us. The work of 60 years of the Indian National Congress was standing before us, face to face with centuries-old India of narrow loyalties, petty jealousies and ignorant prejudices engaged in a mortal conflict, and we were simply horrified to see how thin was the ice upon which we were skating. Some of the ablest men in the country came before us and confidently and emphatically stated that language in this country stood for and represented culture, race, history, individuality, and finally a sub-nation.

Nehru, now the head of an unwieldy, economically retarded state, well realized the heavy strain imposed by regional loyalties on his ambitious development plans. He was able to play for time until late 1952. Then a respected Gandhian disciple in the Telugu-speaking region of southern India fasted to death to win a separate Andhra state. Nehru fitfully yielded to the Telugu hysteria evoked by this martyrdom. The formation of Andhra set off a chain reaction of regional demands which culminated in the appointment of a States Reorganization Commission in 1954. The Commission reported late last year, proposing a new map of India based in general on language boundaries.

Despite concessions to all regions in the report, there were sure to be outbursts of regional fury against proposed inter-regional compromises. For example, when the Commission denied the demand of the Marathi-speaking peoples on the west coast for a separate state, with Bombay City as capital, Marathi protests grew so intense that the Nehru government finally reversed the Commission's stand. Nehru granted a Marathi state, but because he still rejected the claim to Bombay City the Marathis were not satisfied. Out of this impasse resulted the Bombay riots in January.

The furor of the moment over the adjustments attempted in the report will in the long run prove less significant than the fact that the projected reorganization does so clearly accept the linguistic demarcation of political boundaries. The disturbances which followed the report have stirred the national Congress leadership, belatedly, to declare war on the linguistic principle; but the issue cannot be settled overnight. The contest between the central power and the forces of regionalism will long remain the bedrock issue in India.

Asian nationalism, which would appear to work clearly on the side of Indian unity, actually cancels itself out as a factor in this contest. For the separate regional patriotisms within India represent just as authentic expressions of nationalist spirit as the broader pan-Indian ideal. Independence offered the opportunity for each region to assert its own interests in the name of the golden age that each can summon forth from the millennia of Indian history.

II

The chief propulsion behind this mounting regional clamor is the new vitality of the ten regional languages which since Independence have been displacing English as the media of education and public life in India. While most of these languages have not yet been adapted to the transmission of Western scientific concepts, they have been in use for centuries as highly developed vehicles of indigenous literatures. Today, as the languages of farm and factory, of inherited folklore and a rapidly growing modern pulp culture, they are the inevitable vehicles of the mass literacy which the Indian Government is fostering.

The Indian Constitution provides that the most widespread of these languages, the north Indian Hindi language, will become the official Union language in 1965. Until then, while the Government seeks to spread Hindi, both English and Hindi will enjoy official status under the Constitution. In practice the English that all educated Indians learned during British rule remains the de facto official language in New Delhi. It is the language of national political leadership, alike in the high command of Nehru's Congress Party and the Indian Communist Politburo.

At the same time, the government program to promote instruction in Hindi is meeting keen resistance outside Hindi territory. The decision to designate Hindi as the official language is still being widely challenged in testimony before a government commission now studying language policy. No enforcement sanctions, constitutional or otherwise, back that decision up. The Constitution clearly labels education a prerogative of the states. The central government thus has been able to employ only the power of persuasion in seeking to establish uniform educational policies, although its ability to make financial grants may strengthen this power. With the Education Ministry exercising ineffective influence in regional educational councils, the regional universities are free for the present to go their separate linguistic ways. As a result, all ten languages, not Hindi alone, are emerging as alternatives to English.

While the aggressive tone of Hindi chauvinists has to some extent forced a tactical retreat to English on the part of educational administrators in non-Hindi regions, English, as a non-Indian language, is not likely to remain the medium of instruction once the present generation of Western-educated leaders dies out. Even now the new generation of intellectuals is quick to defend its own vested interest in the regional languages. In addition, the regional language press is on the verge of great expansion, and the Soviet Union, hoping to exploit this significant development, is offering technical assistance in one of its least expensive but potentially most influential forms. It is providing linotype machines adapted to Indian scripts.

Present trends, then, point to a rapid decline in the extent and standards of English instruction, to the teaching of most nonscientific university courses through the regional languages, and to the emergence of a generation of provincial bureaucrats and politicians literally unable to talk meaningfully to one another on a national stage.

III

In the balance of power between language regions in India, Hindi does not enjoy a strong enough position to make a reversal of the regional tide at all likely. Even at the friendly statistical hands of the Indian Government, which listed 149,844,311 Hindi speakers in its 1951 census by lumping Hindi together with Urdu and Punjabi, this total Hindi bloc constitutes at the most 46 percent of the total speakers of the ten major Indian languages. Opponents of Hindi dominance, charging that the Government juggled its figures in favor of Hindi, stress script and other differences between Hindi and its variants. If one takes the anti-Hindi argument into account only partially, the Hindi total dwindles to slightly over 100,000,000 or 31 percent of the total population. Nehru has set the Hindi bloc at 120,000,000 or 37 percent. In the multilingual Soviet Union, by contrast, Great Russian overwhelms the other languages--totalling 58.4 percent. Furthermore, unlike the numerous non-Russian regions of the Soviet Union, which with the notable exception of the Ukraine are individually small next to Great Russia, many of the non-Hindi regions of India have significant strength:[i]

 

Hindi 150,000,000 Gujarati 16,000,000
Telugu 33,000,000 Kannada 14,000,000
Marathi 27,000,000 Malayalam 13,000,000
Tamil 26,000,000 Oriya 13,000,000
Bengali 25,000,000 Assamese 5,000,000

Hindi cannot compare in literary development to at least three of these languages, Bengali, Tamil and Marathi. Yet geography and politics make the Hindi-speaking Ganges plain the heartland of India. Reflecting the tension between Hindi and its rivals, K. M. Pannikar has recently stepped forward as a champion of the non-Hindi regions. As a member of the States Reorganization Commission, the former Indian Ambassador to Peking and Cairo formally dissented from the decision to maintain the sprawling Hindi state of Uttar Pradesh as a single unit. Pannikar attacked the "dominance of Uttar Pradesh in all-India matters." In a pointed reference to its power in the Congress Party he said that "modern governments are controlled to a greater or lesser extent by party machines, within which the voting power of a numerically strong group goes a very long way." Under a party constitutional provision basing provincial representation on population, Uttar Pradesh sends 52 delegates to the All-India Congress Committee, while Pannikar's Malayalam-speaking region sends eight.

In only one of the non-Hindi regions, Tamilnad in the far south, does a significant political movement seek to arouse mass demand for outright secession from the Union. This is the movement for a sovereign republic of Dravidasthan. Initially a social protest of the Tamil masses against the power of the Brahmins at the top of the caste hierarchy, the Dravidasthan movement now proclaims that only political independence can free Tamilnad from north Indian cultural and economic imperialism. Hindi is its symbol of cultural oppression, the south's limited industry

is the evidence of northern neglect, and the Tamil Brahmin is considered a fifth columnist racially kindred to the Aryan north. Tamilnad does not differ qualitatively in its regional awareness from Maharashtra, where hegemony over much of India under the emperor Shivaji ended only three centuries ago, or Bengal, where India's most strident regional literature flourishes. But a special edge sharpens Tamil parochialism. New Delhi seems remote to this most distant outpost of the central power. India's most fundamental linguistic dividing line separates the north Indian Sanskritic family from the southern Dravidian languages, of which Tamil is one. The entire Tamil ethos is rooted in uniquely self-contained development, outside the mainstream of Indian history. On top of these factors, the advocates of Dravidasthan exploit the deep race complex of the ebony Tamilians. All fairer-skinned India is charged with color persecution.

From the standpoint of the central government, the saving grace in the Dravidasthan demand is the linguistic diversity within the south which makes a pan-Dravidian union against the north unlikely. Although Dravidasthan partisans hold up a Dravidian federation as their ultimate goal, their own propaganda lacks conviction on this point. For their movement gains its real momentum solely within Tamil borders, and there chiefly within the alliance of aggrieved Tamil castes. In each southern region, the caste structure is regionally self-contained. These separate language-caste patterns have produced a series of distinctive political settings.

IV

The caste structure in India divides into a series of regional caste structures, all threaded loosely together within the all-embracing hierarchy of Hindu society. By and large, the linguistic boundary is the caste boundary; caste is essentially a regional affair. The caste affiliation limits inter-dining and inter-marriage to a native linguistic regional group. Take as an example the Nadar caste, whose members tap the coconut palm tree to make the country liquor known as toddy. The Tamil-speaking Nadars, a bulwark of the Dravidasthan movement, exist within the Tamil caste structure. At the same time, the Nadars fit also within a pan-Indian category, spanning all regions, in the larger structure of Hinduism. The fourfold caste pyramid throughout India--in which most regional castes have a niche--begins with the Brahmin at the top, descends to the warrior or ruler, then the merchant, and finally the laboring masses, leaving the untouchables beyond the pale. The Nadars fall in the laboring category, and so do toddy-tapping castes in other linguistic regions, but each is totally separate for all practical social and political purposes.

Although Indian nationalist literature emphasizes the unity of all Hindu society, linguistic regional stresses can clearly impose a great strain on this unity. It is because caste ties do not cross linguistic borders that Hinduism, for all its unifying power, is vulnerable to centrifugal forces within.

Certainly Indian nationalism gains great strength from the common identity of all Hindus in a non-Hindu world. The broad symbols in Hindu tradition encompass all India. When a Hindu performs his sandhya ritual at the time of his daily bath, he repeats a Sanskrit holy verse in which he imagines the waters of the Indus, Ganges and Cauvery rivers, respectively in the northwest, center and south of the subcontinent, mingling together in the waters of his small pot. To a great extent the content of regional literature draws on a common fund of Hindu culture, and folklore throughout India is often only a local variation of themes from the great Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. The fact that all Hindus have a place in a common social structure makes the local caste tie a crucial part of the larger Hindu loyalty. But at the same time the regional boundary of the operative caste unit suggests that, in terms of social forces competing for political and economic power, caste can be as divisive as it is unifying.

For this reason the linguistic demarcation of state boundaries in India intensifies conflict between castes. Their power relationship changes. The balance of power between castes in a multilingual political unit with its many caste groups differs radically from that in the smaller linguistic unit. This has already been apparent in Andhra, where two rival Telugu peasant proprietor castes, the Kammas and Reddis, have kept the state in political upheaval since its formation in 1953. Before the separation of Andhra from multilingual Madras State, the Kammas and Reddis were lost in the welter of castes. In Andhra they face each other as titans. Similarly, the formation of Maharashtra will heighten the political struggle between the major regional caste groups--the Marathi Brahmins, the Maratha peasant proprietors and the Mahar untouchables.

A distinguished Mahar son, former Law Minister B.R. Ambedkar, has long warned against Maratha subjugation of the Mahars in a linguistically-defined Maharashtra. Switzerland, Ambedkar told Parliament, has no difficulties as a multilingual state "because there linguism is not loaded with [caste] communalism. But in our country linguism is only another name for communalism."

The linguistic boundary to caste solidifies interstate rivalries between regional caste cliques whose interests overlap. Most often it is the economic gain expected to follow the establishment of a beachhead in government that motivates these rivalries, especially at a time when widening economic opportunity in India coincides with an increasingly active government economic rôle. On one side stands the rising local caste with its would-be entrepreneurs. Ranged in opposition may be rivals from neighboring regions who happened to get a head start, or, more likely, the ubiquitous Marwari who dominates mercantile and industrial life throughout India. The Marwari merchant castes of Rajasthan exercise economic power in all regions--not only large-scale industrial power but the widely diffused power of small merchants who practise usury in villages and provincial towns. Beyond Rajasthan, the Marwari is an outsider everywhere, a ready target for regional propagandists who link him with the central government. The Marwari, for example, is the northern demon in Dravidasthan propaganda. This propaganda is financed by the Chettiar moneylenders and textile magnates of Tamilnad, rivals of the Marwaris. Thus the linguistic limit to caste reinforces the regional lines of economic competition in India.

V

Quick to exploit this inter-regional competition have been the Indian Communists, potentially dangerous but as yet deeply rooted only where they have become the political custodians of regional patriotism.[ii] Communist propaganda from 1946 through 1953 depicted the Marwari as the major villain in India, the evil monopolist power behind the Nehru government, in league with Anglo-American finance to create a centralized Indian economic empire in Marwari hands. Hindi, the Communist argument ran, was the cultural instrument of the Marwaris to weaken regional solidarity.

The Indian Communists first turned to separatist tactics in 1942, using the Leninist-Stalinist principle of self-determination to justify support of the Moslem League demand for Pakistan. They amplified it as the imminent transfer of power from Britain sharpened regional consciousness, demanding in the 1946 election campaign that power go not to the provisional central government headed by Nehru but to 14 sovereign regional constituent assemblies, each empowered to decide whether or not to join the new Indian Union. Nehru, campaigning against the Communists in 1946, declared that he was "greatly surprised at the treacherous attitude of the Indian Communists, who want to create a dozen or perhaps more divisions of India."

After Independence, the separatist thrusts of the Indian Communists at the new Nehru government were the sorest point in early Indo-Soviet relations. Insurgent Communists organized parallel village governments in Telengana, the Telugu-speaking belt in southeast India. Soviet writings suggest that Soviet strategy proceeded from the belief that Indian unity would not survive. By late 1953, when Stalin's successors started to woo India with kindness, the avowed separatist policies of the Indian Communists required modification.

In this case it was relatively easy to reverse the Party line, for Communist manipulation of "national" differences is an unusually flexible weapon even by Communist standards. It can be used or repudiated, depending upon expediency, with equal support from the Leninist-Stalinist scriptures. While affirming the right of national self-determination to the point of secession, which supports local Communists in separatist programs, the Soviet literature on nationality specifies at the same time that it is only the proletariat, whose will is embodied in the Communist Party, which can decide whether it is in the interests of the nation to exercise this right on a given occasion.

In keeping with the new turn in Indo-Soviet relations, the Third Congress of the Indian Communist Party in December 1953 switched to a new policy "encouraging" the use of Hindi. This was the sole amendment to the Party program. Secretary Ajoy K. Ghosh spelled out the new line in the Party's monthly organ in May 1954, repudiating the "myth of a Marwari oppressor nation" which had been the cornerstone of Communist policy for seven years. However, in an intra-Party circular letter proposing program amendments for consideration at the 1956 Party Congress, the Central Committee still maintained that "the demands of the various nationalities of India for their free development are denied." Only last March, the Party monthly attacked "the reactionary Congress concept of India as one nation." This reluctance to give up separatism is understandable. The Communist record in India suggests that the Party can minimize regionalism only at the cost of its own strength.

Indian Communism is a loose federation of regional units, with the real power residing in non-Hindi regions which have a vested interest in manipulating the regionalist issue. In the delegate roster to the Third Party Congress, the Telugu belt has 23 percent of Party strength, the Malayalam belt 16 percent, and Bengal 11. Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, in which the dominant Soviet nationality is also the dominant bloc in the Party, the Hindi-speaking areas represent only 21 percent of Indian Communist strength. This is an outside figure, for it embraces the Communist delegations from all states that can by any criterion be considered within this region: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Madhya Bharat.

An intra-Party report on the 1951 election underscored the effective use of regionalism by the Communist Parties in Andhra and in the Malayalam-speaking Kerala belt on the west coast. The report noted successes where "provincial units of the Party brought out their own manifestoes, where agitation was positive and such concrete factors as the national factor, the factor of unification of the nationality into linguistic provinces, were effectively utilized. . . ." For its failures in this regard, the national Party leadership rapped the knuckles of the Maharashtra Communists, who soon found an opportune moment to translate this official hint into action. In the 1956 Bombay riots, the Mahar factory hands, at once proletarians and Maharashtrians, were doubly ready to man the barricades against the Gujarati mill-owners. This was a moment of new Indo-Soviet amity, however, and from the standpoint of the national Communist leadership may well have been extremely inopportune for a total assault on the law and order of the Nehru government. While it is possible that the central Party leaders joined in the decision to make the most of the Bombay upheaval, it is more likely that they tried and failed to dull the edge of the local Communist rôle. Similar conflicts of interest between central and regional leaders, and between regional Communist Parties, are increasingly apparent in other controversies involving the reorganization of states.

Even the nominal restraint of the present Communist line on separatism can be changed whenever the dictates of Soviet foreign policy make this desirable. The last published reference to Indian Communist policy on the right of linguistic regions to secede from the Union qualified the right but did not deny it, declaring that "though for India, too, the principle of self-determination means and naturally includes the right of separation, it is inexpedient for Indian nationalities to exercise this right."[iii] In a conversation in late 1953 with the Andhra Communist leader, Basava Punniah, a member of the Indian Communist Central Committee, the writer asked whether the day might come when an Indian region under Communist leadership might wish to exercise this right. He replied that

The right of secession is brought into the picture only when connected with imperialism--otherwise it is a question of union. We don't rule out those situations, but we doubt that any Indian government any more will risk imperialist connections. Anyway, the central government is not sitting in the air. They would think very seriously before they would force us to that point. If they force a solution of their problems on the people, not by democracy but by the bayonet, then the people will decide for themselves. Why should we talk of secession now?

VI

The Nehru government, once "connected with imperialism" in the Soviet definition, now enjoys a respite from the full fury of Communist separatism. To win this respite must have been a primary motive in Indian foreign policy. For the central authority in India today must above all gain time, free from external pressures, to achieve national consolidation.

The Government hopes that an India outside the cold war will attract capital from both sides to bolster centrally-directed economic development--New Delhi's most potent weapon in the war against disunity. The Five-Year Plans assign their major outlays to economic integration, to the river valley projects, railroad lines, highways and communications networks that knit the regions together. New factories can mean new population mobility, migration between regions on a scale unknown in Indian history. Nehru has devoted unusual personal attention to the development of national scientific laboratories which place basic scientific research squarely in the hands of the central government. Technological progress flowing from nuclear research will be centrally directed, for India's embryo atomic energy program is a central monopoly. Indeed, the preponderance of the public sector in the mixed economy now emerging in India will give a central bureaucracy decisive control over the industrialization that every region wants. To the extent that all regions can look to New Delhi for the wherewithal of progress, the financing and know-how that build dams, irrigation canals and industries, the Indian Union gains in strength. But the exercise of economic development power demands statesmanlike care. For to the extent that regions believe the national government discriminates in the allocation of capital, the Union is weakened.

Second only to economic development, Nehru's centralizing program emphasizes the civil service. The national leadership well realizes that a central bureaucracy that is truly national in its outlook can be a strategic instrument of Union power. At the same time, it sees in the new recruits increasing parochialism as a result of the new emphasis on regional languages. While English remains the medium at this writing, the recruitment examination will be taken by and large in the regional language if a Congress Party policy recommendation is carried out. Suggestions in 1955 that Hindi should be used exclusively raised thundering protest, even from nationalist leaders such as the former Home Minister, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. The rising bureaucratic generation lacks the worldly perspective of the Indian civil servant under British administration. To instill this once again the States Reorganization Commission has proposed an intensive civil service training program to inculcate a pan-Indian perspective.

The Nehru government is resisting pressures which would draw the bureaucrat into a narrow provincial compartment. The Congress Party in Tamilnad, for example, was rebuffed in its recent behind-the-scenes struggle to win greater local control of recruitment to civil service posts in the state. As an example of measures under consideration to strengthen centralized control of the civil service, the States Reorganization Commission recommended that in any state at least half of all federal civil service posts should be filled by nonresidents. The Commission urged in addition that at least one-third of the judges in every state high court should be outsiders.

In response to linguistic separatism, Nehru has recently launched two important cultural programs to draw the regional languages into closer contact. The National Book Trust will subsidize the translation, publication and exchange of literature between regions, while the National Literary Academy prepares histories and anthologies of the regional literatures, underscoring cultural strands common to all. Nehru's secular emphasis does not permit him to use the Hindu pantheon as the symbol of cultural unity. In place of this, Nehru stresses India's "unity in diversity." That, says Nehru the historian, is the genius of Indian culture. Nehru and other Indian writers stress that despite all surface conflict between Hindu and Moslem, Tamil and Bengali, Indians in the long run have always reconciled their differences; Indian culture has taken as its own the best of all cultures that have crossed the land, and is the richer for it.

Nehru prescribes grim linguistic requirements in school to meet the needs of Indian unity. He not only urges Indian youth to learn English, but goes on to say that no Indian can henceforth be considered educated without command of at least four languages, first the regional language, then Hindi, English, and a second foreign language such as Russian or Chinese.

VII

Will India develop as a strong centrally-directed political whole, or will she, under the stresses of regionalism, become a congeries of loosely federated states?

The answer is inextricably linked, of course, with the shape that Indian leaders give to their political institutions in the coming decades. It is not clear, however, what kind of political institutions will assure what results. Under the present Indian Constitution, each state elects its own legislature. Since Independence, Nehru's Congress Party has maintained its power in all states, but in time a divergence could easily develop between a state party in power and the ruling national party. The central government will then have to decide whether firm action will relieve or aggravate the resulting crisis, and whether the firm action that may be needed is possible under the present Constitution. There are dangers both in bold action and in trusting to the ultimate good sense of regional leadership.

Impatience with the slow pace of economic progress, hampered as it is by regional bickering, pushes Indian leaders in the direction of a stronger and stronger central authority. For no matter how valiantly Indian nationalists press forward with integrating programs on all fronts, the central authority remains caught in a vicious circle in which national progress requires unity and unity demands rapid development.

To break through this vicious circle the central authority must gain a supremacy it cannot now claim. It can constitutionally seek this supremacy only through democratically-enacted legislation, such as the River Boards Bill and Water Disputes Bill now pending before Parliament. These would enhance central power to adjudicate interstate controversies and to prohibit the imposition of state fees for the use of waters of interstate rivers. But even with the passage of these mild bills--whether bills with more teeth can ever be passed is problematical--the central government would not have the last word in this realm. The same dilemma confronts Indian leadership in all spheres where state interests clash.

In his recent study of Indian administration, Dean Paul H. Appleby comments that the Indian Government "is given less basic resource in power than any other large and important nation."[iv] He blames especially the absence of central machinery to oversee the use of funds turned over to the states for economic development. The Indian Government does not have its own field agencies comparable to those which exist in the United States. Thus the central government is restricted in its control over state participation in national development. Appleby warns that the extent of nationwide coördination evident since Independence has rested on "the uncertain and discontinuous power of prestige," a power which he implies may go with the passing of Nehru.

This central weakness is only relative to the strength of state resistance to incursions by the national government. It is not weakness in ultimate constitutional power. As democratic constitutions go, the Indian Constitution gives the central government strong powers. Under Article 352, the President holds emergency authority to take over any unit where national security is threatened by war, external aggression "or internal disturbance." The President has final power of review over state legislation if the governor of a state, whom he appoints, withholds legislation for presidential approval. In addition to these presidential powers, the upper house of Parliament can by a two-thirds vote assume prerogatives assigned to the states in the Constitution. All these residuary powers are constitutionally available to the center in time of showdown, but in practice governments do not like to admit the political bankruptcy that makes it necessary to resort to a final test of strength. Inexorably, representative leaders of Indian political thought appear to be coming to the common conviction that the exercise of supreme central power can no longer be the exception in time of emergency, but must become the everyday rule.

The "National Unity Platform" of S. K. Patil, leader of the Bombay Congress Party, demands a sweeping increase in central power. This view is widely shared, by business leaders, by the bureaucratic élite in the Indian Civil Service and by the military. The Indian Army's high standard of officer training, bending all to a common loyalty, leaves little sympathy for the regional outlook. Though they operate apart from these relatively Westernized elements, Hindu revivalists reinforce the nationalist position. M. S. Golwalkar, leader of the major group of Hindu extremists, charged that the recommendations of the States Reorganization Commission proved it had been "under pressure from various extraneous quarters, for this surely paves the way for the ultimate disintegration of the nation."[v]

Socialist leader Asoka Mehta has argued for "coalition politics" to avert outright dictatorship. In his concept, the democratic centrists should join together with the Congress until "national integration" permits a resumption of party politics. This turn in Socialist thinking came as the party proved increasingly unable to challenge Congress power. With no significant democratic opposition to the Congress now in sight, the developing political groupings in India follow regional leadership patterns. Mehta's plan grew out of the belief that all parties are so torn by regional pressures that the times demand a non-partisan nationalist front.

This approach is kindred to the political philosophy of Vinoba Bhave, the inheritor of the Gandhian mantle, who advocates an end to parties as a prelude to a "no-party" régime uniting all men of good will. With none of the long-range parliamentary aspirations implicit in the Socialist view, Bhave points to the Hindu political principle inherent in the institution of the village panchayat, or five-man council. Here there is no place for a majority victory over a minority. All must deliberate together until unanimity is possible. "God speaks in Five," according to Bhave's interpretation of Vedic tradition.

In the immediate political debate in India all these disparagers of faction take Nehru's over-all leadership for granted. Meanwhile, Nehru himself exhibits growing exasperation with the stresses and strains that slow Indian progress. In his present efforts to institute administrative zones embracing groups of language areas, he shows a new assertiveness. His state of mind is reflected in his warning that India will stay united "no matter what." Whatever régime follows Nehru will be confronted with even graver strains on Indian unity, and in consequence seems sure to be even more resolute in this attitude.

Inevitable as it may be in the present phase of national consolidation, an assertive central authority carries with it profound long-run dangers. It is doubtful that the Indian Union could survive a man on horseback, whose ties to one region would be certain to array rival regions against him in civil strife. A respected school of Indian nationalist thought maintains that, precisely because of its diversity, the Indian Union must take the form of a loose federation, giving full scope to local cultural integrity. This may be the wiser course, but it is doubtful that a loose federation will get a trial. The main drift is in the opposite direction, toward the centralization of power.

The resentment that follows every invasion of state prerogatives is sure to erupt in periodic crises. In this intermittent tug of war, the most tragic figure is the politician or bureaucrat whose base is in his home region but who possesses at the same time a cosmopolitan outlook. As a product of the nationalist era he knows well what he does when he takes the regional side. He does not exploit crises in order to undermine the Indian Union but to make the most of his best bargaining position. While he reassures himself that India will survive, in fact he saps the vitality of Indian nationalism when it most needs nourishment. Divided in his loyalties, he leans now to one side, now to the other.

The struggle shapes up as one of prolonged indecision. The regions may ultimately win, inflicting a slow, malignant fever on the Indian body politic. But it is more likely that a political formula will evolve by which national unity can be consolidated. The real question is: What will be the cost of this integration? In the moment of decision, will India's historic authoritarian traditions uproot democratic loyalties only recently imported? While representative institutions might survive the rise of a commanding central authority, the great danger is that sooner or later the center will discard the restraints of Parliament and Constitution in the name of nationalism.

[i] Census of India, 1951, Paper No. 1, Languages, All-India Tables (New Delhi: Government of India Press, 1954), p. 6-7.

The Indian Constitution designates 14 languages as official languages for administrative and educational purposes. The four omitted in the list of ten major regional languages are Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri and Sanskrit. Champions of Urdu and Punjabi, the vehicles of Indian Moslem and Sikh culture respectively, wage political battles against Hindu power under a linguistic banner. However, neither language constitutes an undisputed majority in a homogeneous language region. As rock-bottom figures for these languages, Punjabi can be set at 6,200,000, the 1951 census figure for the Sikhs, who write Punjabi in their own Gurmukhi script; and Urdu can be set at 35400,000, the census figure for Moslems, most of whom use Urdu script rather than the Hindi Devanagri script. A complicating factor is the widespread use of both Punjabi and Urdu by Hindus, which has led to claims of 20,000,000 for Punjabi and 50,000,000 for Urdu. Hindustani, the language of everyday speech in cities throughout north central India, draws on both Hindi and Urdu. There are varying degrees of mutual intelligibility between speakers of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and the two groupings of dialects at the eastern and western extremes of the Hindi region--Bihari and Rajasthani respectively.

[ii] See a study by the author, "Caste and the Andhra Communists," scheduled to appear in American Political Science Review, July 1956. A forthcoming study to be published by the Modern India Project, University of California, Berkeley, will analyze at greater length the challenge presented to nationalism and Communism by regional forces throughout India.

[iii] E.M.S. Nambudripad, "Nationalities and the Right of Secession," Crossroads (former Indian Communist weekly), Sept. 6, 1953, p. 10.

[iv] Paul H. Appleby, "Report on a Survey of Public Administration in India," Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat, New Delhi, 1954, p. 9.

[v] National Herald, Lucknow, Dec. 14, 1955, p. 1.

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  • SELIG S. HARRISON, Associate Editor of The New Republic; Research Associate of the Language and Communication Research Center, Columbia University; Associated Press Correspondent in India and Pakistan, 1951-54; with Walter Reuther on a recent trip to India
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