Open main menu

The Punjabi Suba movement aimed at creation of a Punjabi-majority subah ("province") in the erstwhile East Punjab state of India in the 1950s. Led by the Akali Dal, it resulted in the formation of the Punjabi-majority Punjab state, the Haryanvi-Hindi-majority Haryana state and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Some Pahari majority parts of the East Punjab were also merged with Himachal Pradesh as a result of the movement.

Punjabi Suba movement or punjab sepration 1966
Punjab, India (1956-1966).png
The East Punjab state in India from 1956 to 1966
Date 15 August 1947 (1947-08-15) - 1 November 1966 (1966-11-01)
Location East Punjab, India
Goals Creation of the separate state of Punjab for Punjabi-speaking people from the bilingual East Punjab state
Methods Protest march, Street protest, Riot, Hunger strike, General strike
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures



A map of the distribution of native Punjabi speakers in India and Pakistan

In the 1950s, the linguistic groups across India sought statehood, which led to the establishment of the States Reorganisation Commission in dec 1953. At that time, the East Punjab state of India included present-day states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (some parts) along with Chandigarh. East Punjab had a majority of Hindu religion followed by the Sikhs.

The Akali Dal, a Sikh-dominated political party active mainly in Punjab, sought to create a Punjabi Suba ("Punjabi Province"). The Sikh leaders such Fateh Singh tactically stressed the linguistic basis of the demand, while downplaying its religious basis — a state where the distinct Sikh identity could be preserved.[1]

The Government of India was wary of carving out a separate Punjabi language state, because it effectively meant dividing the state along religious lines: Sikhs would form a 60% majority in the resulting Punjabi state.[2] The case for creating a Punjabi Suba was presented to the States Reorganisation Commission. The States Reorganisation Commission, not recognising Punjabi as a language that was grammatically very distinct from Hindi, rejected the demand for a Punjabi-majority state.[citation needed] Another reason that the Commission gave in its report was that the movement lacked general support of the people inhabiting the region.[citation needed]

According to the States Reorganisation Act, the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) was merged with Punjab. However, the state still did not have a clear Punjabi majority, as it contained a large Hindi-speaking area.[citation needed]

Akali Dal's agitationEdit

The Akali Dal leaders continued their agitation for the creation of a "Punjabi Suba" after the merger of PEPSU to Punjab. Akali leader Sant Fateh Singh spearheaded the Punjabi Suba Morcha in 1966.[3]


In September 1966, the Indira Gandhi-led Union Government accepted the demand. On September 7, 1966 Punjab Reorganisation Act was passed in Parliament. The Act was implemented with effect from November 1, 1966. Punjab was trifurcated creating Punjab, Haryana and transferring certain areas to Himachal Pradesh.[4]

Areas in the south of Punjab that spoke the Haryanvi dialect of Hindi formed the new state of Haryana, while the areas that spoke the Pahari dialects were merged to Himachal Pradesh (a Union Territory at the time). The remaining areas, except Chandigarh, formed the new Punjabi-majority state, which retained the name of Punjab.[5] Until 1966, Punjab was a Hindu majority state (63.7%). But during the linguistic partition, the Hindu-majority districts were removed from the state.[6] Chandigarh, the planned city built to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the partition.[7][8] Chandigarh was claimed by both Haryana and Punjab. Pending resolution of the dispute, it was declared as a separate Union Territory which would serve as the capital of both the states.

Further protest by Akali DalEdit

The Akali Dal never accepted the Punjab in its existing form as of today. Akali Dal Opposed the implementation of the Punjab Reorganisation Act on 1 November 1966 and Akali leaders protested against it.[3]

A week after the implementation of the Act, Akali leader Fateh Singh initiated preparations for another long-drawn agitation to have Chandigarh and the Punjabi-speaking areas left in Haryana transferred to Punjab. He also sought seeking the control of Bhakra Dam and other hydro power projects and headworks. On November 16, 1966, the morcha was re-launched. Fateh started sending Jathas of Akali leaders to the countryside to mobilise support. December 12 was observed as Black Day. In the third week of December, Fateh started fast unto death at the Akal Takht. He then announced that he would immolate himself on December 27, 1966. The Union government was concerned at this announcement and continued negotiations on the demands. An hour before the scheduled time of 4 pm on December 27 for immolation, Fateh called off his immolation bid.[3]


The prominent leaders of the movement included:


  1. ^ Brass, Paul R. (2005). Language, Religion and Politics in North India. iUniverse. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-595-34394-2. 
  2. ^ "Hindu-Sikh relations — I". The Tribune. Chandigarh, India: 3 November 2003. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Dhaliwal, Sarbjit (9 September 2016). "Punjabi Suba: What's there to celebrate?". The Tribune. Archived from the original on 31 December 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  4. ^ "The Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966" (PDF). Government of India. 18 September 1966. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  5. ^ The Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society By W. H. McLeod,Published 1991, Columbia University Press
  6. ^ The Sikhs as a "Minority" in a Sikh Majority State in India, by Paul Wallace, Asian Survey, 1986 University of California Press
  7. ^ "Chandigarh History". Chandigarh Guide. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "About Chandigarh". Government of Chandigarh. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 

Coordinates: 31°00′N 76°00′E / 31.000°N 76.000°E / 31.000; 76.000