Chandigarh was planned to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the Partition.
Chandigarh has remained a bone of contention between Punjab and Haryana as both have staked claims on the city as their state capital.
In December 2020, the clamour for giving away the city to Punjab gained ground with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce the transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab during his visit on January 5.
In the past, former chief minister Amarinder Singh also demanded the same saying Punjab had a historical right over Chandigarh saying various accords in the past had given Chandigarh to Punjab but they were not implemented. Both states have remained at loggerheads over the claims leading to territorial issues.
How Chandigarh Came Into Existence
Initially, Chandigarh was designed to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the Partition. In March 1948, the Punjab government in consultation with the Centre approved the area of the foothills of the Shivaliks as the site for the new capital, according to the official wesbite of the Chandigarh administration. The location of the city site was a part of the erstwhile Ambala district as per the 1892-93 gazetteer of District Ambala, mentions the website. The foundation stone of the city was laid in 1952.
From 1952 to 1966 (till Haryana was carved out of Punjab), Chandigarh continued to be the capital of Punjab.
Chandigarh Becomes A Shared Capital
Subsequently, at the time of reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, the city acquired the unique distinction of being the capital of both Punjab and Haryana, even though it was declared a union territory and was placed under the direct control of the Centre. It was decided that properties in Chandigarh were to be divided in a 60:40 ratio in favour of Punjab.
What’s Punjab’s Claim?
Earlier, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also went on to announce that Haryana over a period of time would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab. According to the Times of India report, the Centre had issued a formal communication on this aspect on January 29, 1970. This was almost three years after Haryana was carved. “After very carefully weighing the claims of the two states, the capital project area of Chandigarh should, as a whole, go to Punjab,” says the note mentioned in the report. But the issue remained unsolved. Under the Rajiv-Longowal accord in 1985, Chandigarh was again to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986, but the Rajiv Gandhi government ended up withdrewing it at the last minute.
What’s Haryana’s Stance?
Going by the 1970 documents, the Centre had mulled over several alternatives for resolving the matter, including dividing the city. But it could not happen because of feasibility issue since Chandigarh was a planned city and constructed to serve as the capital of one state.
Haryana was asked to keep using the office and residential accommodation in Chandigarh only for five years untill it shifts to its own new capital. Infact, the Centre had offered a Rs 20 crore in grant and loan to Haryana for setting up the new capital, according to the government release.
Later in 2018, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar asked to create a special body for the development of Chandigarh, but the Punjab CM rejected it, saying the city “indisputably belonged to Punjab”.
On the other hand, Haryana has been asking for a separate High Court. The Haryana Assembly also passed a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha demanding 20 rooms in the Vidhan Sabha complex that have been ‘illegaly occupied’ by Punjab.