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Decades Since The Ask, Why Is Mithila Still Struggling For A ‘Separate State’ Status?

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Bihar elections are round the corner. All political parties are busy striking the right balance with the caste matrix trying to reach out to more and more caste factions. On the same lines, the national and local news media keep analyzing the election outcomes of these parties keeping caste structure at the centre. This is how elections in Bihar have been since independence, the real issues sit on the backbench as usual, and it seems as if discussion on those would only happen during the next century.

Some of the issues that need immediate attention are floods, migration, unemployment, education and many more.

Among all the demands, there is one which has remained unnoticed- it is the demand and need for a separate Mithila state comprised of Maithili speaking people comprising more than 40 million, almost one-third of Bihar.

Proposed Mithila state. Photo: Wikipedia

The demand arose shortly after Bihar state came into existence after separating from Bengal Province in the year 1912, but during the late 1930s, the demand was prominently put forward by Maithil Mahasabha With the support of Raj Darbhanga, Lakshman Jha eminent leader of Maithili movement in his book ”Mithila: A Union Republic, 1952” writes:

“Taken as a linguistic, geographical and cultural unit, or considered on the extent of its territory or the strength of its population, Mithila has a claim to statehood. In consideration of the suffering of its people at the hands of the  Congress rulers from Magadh and Bhojpur, this claim to statehood is an urgent necessity.”

There were several campaigns initiated afterwards in 1996.  a mass contact campaign was notable after all these efforts the demand lacked popular support and political will. Our decision-makers have the tendency to act only during an emergency when violent protests and agitations leading to an outcry in the country gains prominence.  This movement so far has been a broader outreach and vocal demand by several groups.

If we look at this region by keeping history in the centre, Mithila was a separate and autonomous state till the 20th century from the 11th to 20th century.  Mithila was ruled by various indigenous dynasties- the Karnatas, Ooiniwar Dynasty and Khandwala Dynasty a.k.a Raj Darbhanga.

After everything, the demand of Maithili being added to the Eighth Schedule to the constitution was accepted in 2002. Te demand now only boils down to the single point of a separate Mithila state. The demand can be called legitimate as the real problems of region were largely ignored, it is only during elections that a slew of promises are put forward to sweep real issues.

The new AIIMS, another airport,  and other promises are only electoral stunts. With more than 40 million population, the region can be called one of the worst affected flood areas every year. On an average, 80% of the area causes lakhs of people to get displaced thereby initiating a never-ending poverty chain since 1979 when the government started sharing data of deaths of people due to flood.

Migration due to lack of infrastructure related to education and unemployment is one of the highest among all parts of the country. If a recent study by the Institute of Population Studies (IIPS) is to be believed, more than half of the households in Bihar is exposed to migration.

The state stands with worst at seven colleges per lakh students, the national average being 28.7 per lakh students. Mithila stands as one of the most left out regions with over 40 million population and no institutes of national importance like IITs or IIMs.

The region has its separate identity, culture, art, language, division of states on a linguistic basis. These are facts. If we consider the eighth schedule, almost all languages are represented by separate states and only some languages where speakers are scattered do not have a separate state.

Why is a region, with its own language, people residing in 10-12 districts, and a population of more than 40 million, left out?

Smaller states bring local priorities in focus. They help protect the culture which is very necessary for Mithila where even after having an indigenous language, Hindi is imposed causing Maithili to shrink in the region. With a smaller area to govern for the decision-makers, access to people and their problems becomes easier.

We have seen several examples in the past where smaller states have separated out of bigger ones who don’t just have political stability, but good governance and efficiency in social schemes.  Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and now Jharkhand, set the examples. It’s time for Mithila to do the same.

Featured image: The History of Maithili/Photo: Bihargatha
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