V K Krishna Menon ‘opposed’ Kerala

Published Nov 8, 2016, 1:21 am IST
Updated Nov 8, 2016, 6:50 am IST
Even before the submission of the report, it came to be known that the Commission had favoured the formation of Kerala State.
Government Secretariat(Thiruvananthapuram)
 Government Secretariat(Thiruvananthapuram)

The late V K Krishna Menon, who won the Lok Sabha election from Thiruvananthapuram with CPM backing in 1971, was initially opposed to the formation of a separate Kerala State fearing among other things that the Communists would come to power. Mr Menon’s observations had come in the course of correspondence between him and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the clamour for Provinces to be reorganized on the basis of language. The Centre later constituted a State Reorganization Commission. Asserting that the agitation for a Malayalam-speaking State was artificial, backed by parties seeking “conquest of power”, Mr Menon alleged that the recommendation of the State Reorganization Commission pertaining to the creation of separate Kerala and Tamil States was inspired by personal views of one of the members of the commission (K.M. Panikkar).

Even before the submission of the report, it came to be known that the Commission had favoured the formation of Kerala State. This was not appreciated by Mr Menon. Mr Menon was virtually No 2 in the pecking order in Delhi, a status that emerged from his stewardship of India League in the UK, fighting for India’s freedom, and championing of the Non-Aligned Movement. His epic eight-hour speech in the UN earned him the title of the “Hero of Kashmir”. He said the Commission’s recommendation was inadvisable for economic, political, administrative, strategic and national security reasons. As a sectarian sub-nationalism of fascist orientation was developing in the Tamil country, he argued a separate Tamil Province would be very antinational while Kerala State would doubtless go communist after the general elections with disastrous and international consequences.


[The reference was to DMK and communist parties, then secessionist in nature. Further the violent role of Communist party in Hyderabad was well known]. He added: “We will Balkanize India if we further dismember the States instead of creating larger units”. In his note to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 28 September 1955, Mr Menon suggested the creation of a “Southern State, a Dakshin Pradesh, as a corollary to Uttar Pradesh, which could include the present Tamil Nadu, Travancore, Cochin, Malabar and possibly Karnara up to Kasargod.” This “rather emotionally worded note” was circulated by Nehru among his Cabinet colleagues. To Mr Menon, Mr Nehru wrote: “Nobody here likes the proposal for a Kerala State as suggested. We do not think that the Communists will get a majority there. That is possible, but I think, not likely.

Anyway, if they get it, we have to face the risk. But that apart, I am sure that it will be bad for Kerala and for its neighbouring States. What are we to do? No other neighbouring state agrees to have Kerala. Kamaraj Nadar and his Madras Cabinet absolutely refuse to have anything to do with it. So do the Karnataka people.” (Interestingly, Mr Menon was the master of ceremonies, receiving the Kerala piravi torch in Kozhikode. He also won the election in Thiruvananthapuram with CPM support, defeating the Achutha Menon-Government backed Congress candidate D Damodaran Potti)

The British Government was conscious of the haphazard nature of the multilingual British Indian Provinces and against their reorganisation on the basis of language. Sind and Orissa were created, out of (1) Bombay and (2) Bihar and Orissa, respectively in the middle 1930s. Formation of Sind was to satisfy Muslim demands. Orissa was separated due to other reasons. The formation of Kerala concerned mostly (1) the native states of Travancore and Cochin, which had no mutual cordial relations and (2) a district in Madras Presidency. There was no organisation of Malayalees, either in Travancore or Cochin or in British India aspiring “to bring all the Malayalee speaking areas under one administration and (2) to assiduously work towards such goal for a long time.

Indian National Congress during the freedom struggle came to accept the principle of reorganisation of Provinces on linguistic basis and included it in its manifesto. In the situation following the bloody partition of India in 1947, this principle had a very low priority in its policies and programmes. The Centre was forced to concede the demand for the creation of Andhra State and later the appointment of the States Reorganisation Commission. The formation of Kerala in view of the recommendation of the Commission came to be considered and willy-nilly accepted by the Central Government. The dream of Aikyakeralam thus became a reality 60 years ago on 1 November 1956. 

Congress was harbinger of linguistic realignment

It was the Indian National Congress in 1924, which first organized its units within the multilingual British Indian Provinces on the basis of languages. Kerala team became one of the Congress Provinces in 1920. Its jurisdiction was limited to Malabar district as activities of the Congress were limited then to British India. The demand for the creation of a Kerala Province (or State) was neither old nor persistent. In 1933, Sir Sankaran Nair argued in favour of a separate Kerala province. In the Madras Legislature a resolution favouring the formation of Andhra Province simultaneously with the inauguration of the new constitution of India was passed on November 11, 1933.

An amendment to include Karnataka was carried. An amendment by K.M. Palat, son of Sir Sankaran Nair in favour of Kerala province, was lost. C.S. Ranga Iyer moved and withdrew a similar resolution on Kerala in the Indian Legislative Assembly in June 1934. It was for the first time that the matter of Kerala came for discussion in the Central Legislature. During the Provincial Autonomy period under the Government of India Act 1936, INC, which favoured the reorganisation of British Indian provinces on linguistic basis, came to power in Madras Province. Supporters of the demand for the Andhra Province wanted to introduce a resolution favouring formation of Andhra Province. C. Rajagopalachari (C.R. the Premier - the designation corresponding to the Chief Minister of a State now) suggested the inclusion in the resolution of Tamil, Kannada and Kerala Provinces.

So a comprehensive resolution was moved and carried and was forwarded to the authorities. CR intrigued against the resolution thus passed by the Assembly and the council in March 1938. The result was it was negatived by the British Government. Thus the Malayalees lost an opportunity to have a province through limited for just one district. Till then there were no Malayalee conferences. The first all-Malayalee conference was organised in Madras in January 1940. Since then more or less regular annual sessions came to be held usually in Madras. After World War II was over, Madhava Menon, the president of Kerala Provincial Congress Committee, speaking at the Seventh All-Malayalee Conference in January 1946, emphasised the need for a Kerala province by including the native States of Travancore and Cochin.

In the Royal family of Cochin, it was usual for the second son to be named as Kerala Varma, and the then king of Cochin was Kerala Varma Thampuran. He took the initiative. Towards the end of July 1946, the Cochin ruler asked his Diwan to initiate discussion on a scheme for a Kerala Province, but Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Dewan of Travancore, expressed himself against the unification of Kerala. For his initiative, Kerala Varma came to be popularly known as “Aikya Keralam Thampuran”. An Aikya Kerala Convention was organised along with the eighth All Malayalee Conference in January 1947. At the Conference, C.P.K. Menon, the Dewan-designate of Cochin, considered the suggestion of Pattom Thanu Pillai fir a sub-federation for Kerala as a sound plan.

On 26 April, 1947 a United Kerala Convention was organised in Trichur, where Kelappan, the president of Kerala Provincial Congress Committee, wanted the United Kerala to be a unitary Province and not a sub-federation. Events were moving fast. Representatives of Cochin, along with the representatives of six native states in Northern India, took their seats for the first time in the Constituent Assembly on 28 April 1947. About a month later, Lord Mountbatten announced the plan of June 3, 1947, according to which His Majesty’s Government would soon relinquish power to two Dominions. - India and Pakistan. As the reign of the Crown over the States would lapse, there was urgency to deal with the States.

On 11 June 1947, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar announced that Travancore had decided to set itself up as an independent sovereign power, so representative of Travancore was sent to the meeting of States representatives, called for by Lord Mountbatten on  July 25, 1947. Just twenty days before the transfer of power scheduled for August 15, 1947. Lord Mountbatten invited Sir C.P. to New Delhi. V.P. Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States, who had been preparing the ground for the integration of states, had discussions with Sir C.P. Sir. C.P. met Lord Mountbatten on July 21.

Interviews made Sir C.P. feel that the accession of Travancore to India was inevitable. He returned to Travancore with a draft copy of the Instrument of Accessions and a personal letter to Maharaja from Lord Mountbatten. After his return, he was attacked and wounded. The Maharaja telegraphed Lord Mountbatten his acceptance of the instrument of Accession. Thus Travancore came to be a part of the Dominion and later Republic of India. After the accession of the States, the Government of India began to think of evolving a scheme of permanent relationship between the States and the Governments.   

Dar panel feared sub-national bias, opposed linguistic reorganization

Demands for the Organisation of India on the basis of language, encouraged by Indian National Congress before Independence now became more vocal. In June 1948 the President of the Constituent Assembly appointed the Dar Commission to look into the matter. What Provinces, if any, among Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra should be created was one of the terms of references to the Commission. Thus Kerala along with the long-standing demands forced its place in the terms of reference. On the ground that linguistic provinces would have a sub-national bias and militate against the working of India into one nation, the Dar commission spoke against linguistic provinces in its report submitted in December 1948.

The Ministry of States, Government of India, busy all along in organising the small states into Unions, successfully began efforts in the direction of merging Travancore and Cochin in 1949. V.P. Menon began his visits and discussions in March 1949. Frequently he came across the suggestions for merging Travancore and Cochin with the state of Madras. His concern then was only with Travancore and Cochin.

Ultimately Travancore and Cochin merged on July 1, 1949 to form the United State of Travancore and Cochin. Travancore was to be capital. High Court was to be located in Ernakulam. No more was heard of aikyakerala - for 5 years. After the passing away of Potti Sriramulu, Andhra State was created in October 1953. Three months later the Government of India appointed the States Reorganisation Commission. The report of the Commission submitted on Septe-mber 30, 1955 was released on October 1955. 

The author is retired Professor of Political Science, S.V. University, Tirupati/ Kvnrao2002@yahoo.com

Location: India, Kerala