Samyukta Maharashtra movement, which finally led to the state’s creation, lasted for almost five years. Led by the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, which included the Communist Party, Praja Samajwadi Party, Peasants & Workers Party and Republican Party, its impact was such that the ruling party and the leaders were incapable of even responding.
The organisation was founded on February 6, 1956, under the leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe in Pune. Many of the Prominent activists of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti were leftists such as S. M. Joshi, SA Dange, Nanasaheb Gore, and Bhai Uddhavrao Patil.
Other leaders included Maina Gawankar, Walchand Kothari, Acharya Atre, Prabodhankar Thackeray, Senapati Bapat, Bhausaheb Raut, and Shahir Amar Shaikh. As a part of the campaign, Acharya Atre used his Maratha newspaper to criticise Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Morarji Desai (then chief minister of Bombay state) and S.K. Patil, the Mumbai Congress party politician who favored separation of Mumbai city from a linguistically reconstituted Maharashtra or Gujarat.
The Indian National Congress had pledged to introduce linguistic states prior to Independence. However, after Independence, Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were adamantly opposed to linguistic states. They perceived linguistic states as a threat to the integrity of India.
For the first time and perhaps the only time, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its chief Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar supported Nehru and Patel against redrawing of the map along linguistic lines.
In 1956, the SRC (States Re-organisation Committee) recommended creation of linguistic states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka but recommended a bi-lingual state for Maharashtra-Gujarat, with Mumbai as its capital but vidarbha outside Maharashtra. Further, they recommended the creation of Vidharba state to unite the Marathi-speaking people of former Hyderabad state with Marathi-speaking areas of Central Provinces and Berar state.
On November 21 1955, demonstrators were fired upon by the police at Flora Fountain in the capital city of Mumbai. Flora Fountain was subsequently renamed Hutatma Chowk or “Martyr’s Crossroad” in their memory. It is estimated that in all, 105 people were shot by security forces during the period of agitation and at different places.
Morarji Desai, who was the then chief minister of Bombay state was later removed and replaced by Yashwantrao Chavan as a result of criticism related to the November 21 incident.
Nehru’s speech dissenting with the SRC led C. D. Deshmukh, the then Finance Minister of the Nehru Cabinet to resign his post in January 1956. This led to the creation of the predecessor movement Sanyukta Maharashtra Parishad, inaugurated on November 1, 1956, causing a great political stir and, under the leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe, a whole party meeting was held in Pune and Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti was founded on February 6, 1956.
In the second general election of 1957, the Samiti defeated the stalwarts of Congress by securing 101 seats out of 133, including 12 from Mumbai. The Congress party could form a government only with the support of Gujarat, Marathwada and Vidharba.
The Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti achieved its goal on May 1, 1960, when the State of Bombay was partitioned into the Marathi-speaking State of Maharashtra and the Gujarati-speaking State of Gujarat.