The radical indexing of linguistic difference as a territorial category within a polyglot polity characterised by immense linguistic diversity as obtained within the South Asian subcontinent is peculiarly striking. Significantly, such direct identification between a region and ‘its’ linguistic identity to create linguistic units firstly in 1920 within the Congress structure states and eventually in the 1950s as part of the federal structure of the new Republic has remained largely uninterrogated.

Exploring these paradoxes, this chapter traces the category of ‘region’ as a territorial entity around language as it emerged through the decades following the revocation of the Bengal Partition. Language and linguistic communities acquired a new salience as demands for political reform and responsible government after the end of the Great War precipitated debates around territorial redistribution, constitutional norms and distribution of franchises. These inter-war debates to reconfigure spatial and territorial parameters of constituent units determine the scope of franchises and delimit political rights for minorities in later colonial India and were as much about foundational manoeuvres to fix the place of key markers of caste, religion and language within Indian democracy.

Drawing on the constitutional debates, higher education policy and regional discourse in Marathi between the 1920s and 1950s, the chapter explores the elaboration of the ‘regional’ and shifting positions of Marathi cultural elites as sites to understand official and elite efforts to establish political coherence and exercise control via a modicum of connect with popular will. The final section dwells upon the drawn-out temporal intersections between the logic of linguistic territorialisation and simultaneous leveraging of development agendas in the decades between the 1920s and 1950s. The tensions between the democratic stimuli inherent in the former processes against the centralising thrust of the latter are brought out through a brief focus on the ‘battle for Bombay’ at the peak of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement.