All eyes are fixed on the two phased election in Chhattisgarh. The tribal dominated state, which lies at the heart of India, is always in the news for all wrong reasons. Since its creation as the 26th state of India on November 1, 2000, it tasted the political style of two national parties- the Congress and the BJP.
The 10th largest state of India was created by amalgamation of sixteen Chhattisgarhi-speaking southeastern districts of Madhya Pradesh.
With its capital Raipur, Chhattisgarh is flanked by Madhya Pradesh on the northwest, Maharashtra on the west, Andhra Pradesh on the south, Orissa on the east, Jharkhand on the northeast and Uttar Pradesh on the north.
On one hand the state houses various mineral and natural resources attracting huge investment, on the other it is also the hotbed for Naxalite activities.
Though Chhattisgarh was created only a few years back, references about the region can be traced to ancient texts and inscriptions.
The name Chhattisgarh is not ancient and, according to some, it was derived from the combination of Chhatis (36) and Garh (Forts). However, experts do not agree with this explanation, as thirty-six forts have not been identified in the region. In ancient times, the region was called Dakshin Kosala.
During Mughal era, it was called Ratanpur territory and not Chhattisgarh. The word Chhattisgarh was popularized during the Maratha period and was first used in an official document in 1795.
The history of Chhattisgarh can be traced back to the fourth century AD. In the 10th century, the region was ruled by a powerful Rajput family who called themselves as Haihaya dynasty. This dynasty ruled Chhattisgarh till 14th century when it split into parts. The Chalukya Dynasty established its rule in Bastar in the middle ages.
In 1741, the Marathas attacked Chhattisgarh and destroyed the Haihayas. Raghunathsinghji - the last surviving member of the Ratanpur house – was deposed by Marathas in 1745 AD. The whole region was annexed by Marathas in 1758, who appointed Bimbaji Bhonsle as the ruler. After Bimbaji Bhonsle, the Marathas adopted the Suba system.
Though Britishers controlled some part of Chhattisgarh by 1818, the whole region came under their direct control in 1854 when the province of Nagpur lapsed to the latter.
Tribal population of Chhattisgarh constitutes 32.5% of the total population of the state.
The state has witnessed several tribal rebellions during late 18th century to the first few decades of the 20 century. Most of these rebellions were aimed at asserting the right of the tribes on the local resources i.e. land and forests. These rebellions significantly influenced the then political environment. In fact, the on-going Salwa Judum movement has also been dubbed as a movement of tribes against the Naxalites.
Fought in 1774-79, the Halba rebellion was one of the key factors which led to the decline of Chalukya dynasty, which in turn created circumstances that first brought the Marathas and then the British to the region. The rebellion was initiated in 1774 by the Governor of Dongar which was supported by the Halba tribe and Halba soldiers.
In 1825, Abujhmarias rebelled against the invasion Marathas and the British which was also famously known as the Paralkot rebellion. The rebels were opposing the taxes levied by the Maratha rulers. This was a clear example of how tribes revolted against the foreign interference and control of Bastar.
The rebellion of Tarapur (1842-54) was yet another example of assertion of the tribals against the invasion of foreigners in their social, economic and political atmospheres. The movement started taxes levied under the pressure of Anglo-Maratha rule.
Another such strong reaction to outsiders’ interference was the Maria rebellion that lasted nearly 20 years, from 1842 to 1863.
Bastar region, which is a tribal district where about 70% of the total population is tribal and which constitutes 26.76% of the total tribal population of Chhattisgarh, was also actively involved in the First War of Independence of 1857 with Southern Bastar as the centre of the revolt.
Other tribal rebellions include Bhopalpatnam Struggle (1795), Paralkot rebellion (1825),
Tarapur rebellion (1842-54), Maria rebellion (1842-63), First Freedom Struggle (1856-57), Koi revolt (1859), Muria rebellion (1876), Rani rebellion (1878-82)\ and Bhumkal (1910).
Chhattisgarh has a unicameral legislature. There are ninety seats in the Assembly, of which ten are reserved for SCs and 34 for STs.
The struggle for the creation of Chhattisgarh dates back to 1924 when for the first time the Raipur Congress unit raised the demand. This was also later discussed in the Tripuri session of Indian National Congress.
Leaving aside the odd attempts by the regional Congress unit, the big step in this direction was taken in 1955 when the demand for separate state was raised in the Nagpur assembly of the then state of Madhya Bharat.
Notably, the State Reorganisation Commission (1954) rejected the demand for separate state, citing the necessity of Chhattisgarh’s resources for the upliftment of other regions of Madhya Pradesh.
In 90’s, a political party called as Chhattisgarh Rajya Nirman Manch was formed to give pace to the process of the creation of the state. The organization held bandhs and rallies which were also supported by major political parties including the Congress and the BJP.
On 18 March, 1994, the Congress government of Madhya Pradesh tabled a resolution for the creation of Chhattisgarh which was unanimously approved by the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. Both the Congress and the Bhartiya Janta Party supported the resolution.
In 1998, the BJP led government at the Centre drafted a bill for the creation of a separate state of Chhattisgarh which was sent to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly for approval and was subsequently approved unanimously in 1998. However, the fall of BJP’s Union government stalled the process.
Later, the BJP-led NDA government sent a redrafted Separate Chhattisgarh Bill to Madhya Pradesh Assembly, which again unanimously approved it. After getting the nod of Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the President of India gave his consent to The Madhya Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2000 on the 25 of August 2000.
At last on November 1, 2000, the state of Madhya Pradesh was bifurcated into Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
After the formation of Chhattisgarh, it was the Congress who first tasted the power. Ajit Jogi of Congress became the first Chief Minister of the state. He lost the election to the BJP in 2003.
Chhattisgarh has largely an agro-based economy despite having vast deposits of minerals. About 80% of the total population of Chhattisgarh depends on agriculture. Wheat, paddy, maize and groundnut are the major crops produced in the region. In fact, the state has often dubbed as the rice bowl of India.
The state is famous for its rice mills, cement and steel plants. Durg, Raipur, Korba and Bilaspur are in the forefront in industrial development. Established in 50’s, the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) in Durg district is the largest integrated steel plant of the country. It led to the development of a wide range of industries at Raipur and Bhilai.
There are also numerous big and small-scale cement plants in Raipur. Bilaspur and Durg districts, too, are home to a number of large-scale cement plants.
Chhattisgarh produces about twenty per cent of the India’s total steel and cement. A variety of mineral resources are fond in this region including diamond, gold, iron-ore, coal, corundum, bauxite, dolomite, lime, tin, granite etc. Notably, it is the only tin-ore producing state in the country. Other minerals such as korandum, garnet, quartz, marble, diamond are also found in Chhattisgarh.
Among its industrial units include Bhilai Steel Plant, 13 ferro-alloy plants, 125 steel rolling mills, one H.R. strip plant, S.E.C.Railway Zone, BALCO Aluminium Plant (Korba), and NTPC Korba (National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd) and S.E.C.L. (South Eastern Coalfields Limited).
Chhattisgarh is also a big contributor to power. According to estimates, Chhattisgarh has the potential to generate 40,000 MW of thermal and hydro power and can cater to the country`s power needs for at least 100 years.
With huge coal reserves, Chhattisgarh also offers cheap power generation which can be easily transmitted to any of the four grids of India. According to state government, about 90 percent of the villages in Chhattisgarh have been electrified.
With per capita of around 250 USD as of 2001, Chhattisgarh is considered as one of the rapidly developing states of India. Its GDP for 2004 is estimated at 12 billion USD.
Chhattisgarh has a higher proportion of Scheduled Tribes and Schedule Castes. Tribals constitute about 32.5% of the total population of the state.
According to the state government website, the combined population of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Chhattisgarh is 44.7%, which is significantly higher than the national figures of 23.6% of the total population and while for Madhya Pradesh, this figure is calculated at 37.1%.
The combined population of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Chhattisgarh is significantly higher at 44.7% as against 23.6% In India, and for Madhya Pradesh; this figure stands at 37.1%.
The state boasts a healthy sex ratio too (989 females per 1000 males).
The tribal dominated Chhattisgarh state has its own unique cultural identity. It harbors many religious sects like Satnami Panth, Kabirpanth, Ramnami Samaj, etc.
Tribes like Gond, Uranv, Kanver, Kamar, Baiga, Halba, Korva, Pando, Birhi, Binjhwar, have their own individual identity and traditions.
People of this state have their distinctive style of dance, cuisine, and music. Among the popular folk dances include Pandwani (a musical narration of Mahabharata), Raut Nacha and the Panthi and Soowa.
Prominent festivals that are observed in this region include Navakhani, Ganga Dushhara, Sarhul Chherka, Dushara, Dipawali, Karma, Kartika and Hareli.
Sohar song, Bihav song & Pathoni songs are very famous in the region. While Sohar songs are sung during child birth, Bihav songs are related to marriage celebration, and Pathoni songs can be heard during bride’s departure to bridegroom home.
The proximity to Orissa has also influenced the state also as one find the prominence of Oriya culture in the eastern parts of Chhattisgarh.
Champaran town, which is the birth place of the Saint Vallabhacharya, is considered as a big holy place for Gujarati community.