As I write this article, stories of rapes, caste conflicts, murders, and robberies keep cropping up in Uttar Pradesh, a state with 200 million people. The most recent one is the horrific gang-rape of four women and the murder of a man near Bulandshahr, which reminds us of the chilling Bulandshahr gang-rape last year, when a mother and daughter were raped near the highway.
While BJP came into power riding on tall promises of ending goonda-raj and controlling law & order, it seems like a distant dream in the current scenario. At best, some minor improvements can be expected, but hope for a significant change will be optimistic to the point of delusion. Not to forget the fact that BJP’s rise is bringing another set of goons in the fray, who commit crimes in the name of gauraksha or Hindutva, on a regular basis. It is a daydream to think that any government, be it BJP or SP or BSP, can control crime. A broader assessment of the situation is required to understand the source of the problem. For UP, it is the size, and caste politics.
UP is caught in a vicious cycle of caste politics and criminal-politician nexus. This is further complicated because of its size and population. These two factors make it impossible to find the perfect caste equation. Only when the state is divided can this caste-web be unentangled. Further, no CM or DGP can oversee close to 80 districts. It is bizarre to think that a CM can succeed in micro-managing changes, or a DGP can improve law and order, for so many districts at the same time. The division of the state into three or four smaller states has been debated and discussed a few times, but has never been shaped into a concrete goal.
The name Uttar Pradesh, or ‘Northern State’, is itself a farce (J&K, Himachal, and Punjab are the true northern states), chosen to continue the acronym UP (United Provinces) after independence. Historically, it was called North-Western Provinces (NWP), which seems to be a more appropriate name considering its location. With time, NWP was renamed as Agra Province and then merged with Oudh (or Awadh) to form United Provinces (of Agra & Oudh). Unfortunately, Ambedkar and the States Reorganization Commission were overlooked when they suggested a division of the state into two way back in the 1950s. Nehru did not agree to it and probably foresaw UP as his political laboratory. All major states like Punjab, Madras State, Bombay State were divided but not United Provinces. Not surprisingly, this state has gone from bad to worse. Uttarakhand has made much progress after separation from the state and a similar movement for carving out new states is needed from the western (Harit Pradesh), central (Awadh), and eastern (Purvanchal) regions of the state.
If the current state remains intact, it will be a political, social and economic disaster. Politically, BJP took over the baton from Congress and conveniently decided to make the state their Hindutva laboratory. The current situation in Saharanpur indicates that BSP will continue this experiment. SP has used the Muslim-Yadav combine successfully by playing caste politics across different demographics in each region. From Muslim issues in the western regions to Ram Mandir in the central regions, the state continues to suffer from multiple political objectives. This state is too big, the only way it can be won is through divide-and-rule. Politicians are dividing the electorate to rule this state. This polarisation politics can be set back by splitting the state, and with it, the political agenda. Yadav-Muslim politics will end the day Western UP is separated because Yadavs dominate the Etawah region and Muslims are in the Doab region. The need for polarisation in Western UP will end. Purvanchal, which has a higher concentration of non-Yadav OBC’s, will not necessarily need a wedge with Yadavs for electoral reasons.
Socially too, these regions are linguistically and culturally distinct with their own sets of cuisine and language. While Khari boli and Braj are preferred in the western region, which is culturally closer to Haryana, the east has its own Bhojpuri culture and is closer to Bihar. Awadh, with its traditions, has always been a very different place from these two regions. However, the most significant benefit of this divide will go to India and its 1.3 billion people. One large state which changes the political landscape of the entire country is a very bad deal for a democracy where smaller states need as much importance as the larger ones. Uttar Pradesh gets too much political and media attention at the expense of other states, and it’s unfair to them. Compare it to the portfolio of a fund manager where one single investment is so big that it impacts the overall portfolio and overwhelms the performance of other investments. Uttar Pradesh is too big an investment and should be divided so as to balance this democracy. Sooner or later, it will be a state with 250 million people. The administration will crumble and will be brought to its feet. We must not reach that breaking point.