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Liberation: Uttaranchal: Five Years of Statehood

By Raja Bahuguna
Liberation, December 2005

On November 9, Uttaranchal completed five years as a State. How has the five-year long journey been for the new State? The new State, from its very birth, bore the marks which foretold betrayal of the aspirations that had fuelled the popular movement for Statehood. The ‘UP State Re-organisation Ordinance – 2000’ tabled in Parliament by the BJP for the creation of Uttaranchal, had already laid the ground for the distortion of the vision of the hill state – and the BJP and Congress Governments that followed took the process forward.

In the Uttarakhand movement, people had demanded a hill State consisting of the Kumaon and Garhwal Mandals – where people’s rights over rivers, land and forests would be safeguarded, and development would actually mean livelihood and dignity for the common man and woman. The demand for a State where women, who constituted half the population and were the pillar of the hill economy, would face fewer hardships and where the landless would be guaranteed land and youth, jobs, was the heart of the Uttarakhand movement. In order to ensure access and accountability of hill people to the seat of governance, people had demanded that Gairsain, in the middle of the hill region, be named the capital.

But when the State was formed, the ruling class destroyed the very concept of the hill state, by including the Haridwar district in the State. Flying in the face of popular demand as well as the recommendations of the Kaushik Committee, Dehradun was declared the capital rather than Gairsain. Adding insult to injury, Uttaranchal received step-motherly treatment in the distribution of assets with UP, and was also deprived of the Constitutionally guaranteed right to make its own land-ceiling laws. The State was created with the interests of the big landlords, land mafias, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and multinational corporates in mind – and the common people were left feeling betrayed, with the signboard of ‘Uttaranchal’ hanging around their necks. [more]