It is natural for a community to see within as distinct entity having an identity different from others based on belonging to a particular region, culture etc. When such, conscious or unconscious, distinct identity becomes an ideological force, uniting these people around a common cause, building sub-national loyalties and leading to organization of demonstrations, movements or any other kind of effort for achieving their goal is called as ‘regionalism’.
This assertion of regional identities can be to further economic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic interests. Correspondingly political scholars have treated various forms of regionalism which include economic regionalism, linguistic regionalism, political regionalism and even sub-regional movements in the general frame of regionalism.
Regionalism in India
In a diverse country like India, each and every individual, community carries a kind of sub-national identity because of affinity to particular region, ethnicity, history, language, culture etc. During the process of national movement (which was a process more against outside forces and their non-discriminatory exploitation of all) all these diversities were put to the backburner, but never forgotten and people came together to present a common front against foreign occupants and process of nation building started.
Post independence, Indian Constitution and democratic polity tried to carry on the task of nation building by uniting these diversities by accommodating them. It did not consider diversity as threat to unity and expression of regional aspirations as Anti-nationalism but as demands for participation in democratic politics, demands for sharing the benefits of economic development, demands for getting fair share of resources etc.
Indian concept of unity in diversity sometimes results into conflicts because sometimes the concerns for national unity overshadow regional aspirations and sometimes blind concern for a region obscure one's vision of larger national interest. This has resulted into various instances of movements built around regional aspiration coming up because of various reasons. There is seldom a case of only one factor being the force behind growth of regionalism; various factors are intricately combined with one leading to other and so on.
Following are some of the factors resulted in to the conflicts:
- Efforts to impose a particular ideology or culture:
- During the 1950’s Union government tried to establish ‘Hindi’ as national language. Powerful movement came up against this in South India, especially in Tamilnadu under the leadership of Periyar Ramaswamy. They saw it as an attempt to belittle their own language, culture, history and attempt to impose north Indian language and culture. The movement during its hay days went to the extent of demanding separate Dravid Nation.
- Economic Reasons:
- Regionalism against discrimination by state administration and concentration of development activities, administrative power and political power to a particular region have been the main region for demand of new states like Telangana, Jharkhand etc. This neglect of the North-east region in economic development and providing relief during disasters like flood was the reason for emergence for secessionist movement in Nagaland, Mizoram etc in the country.
- Regionalism against loss of economic opportunities and exploitation of resources by outsider gives a feeling to the people of particular region that others are benefitting whereas, they are losing. Movements in Assam against exploitation of resources by outsiders especially Bangladeshi migrants and son-of-soil concept of Marathis fall in this category.
- Political Reasons:
- Attempts by political parties to exploit feelings to gain power: Various political outfits try to exploit the sub-national identities, feeling of dis-contentment because of neglect to gain power. During this process they flare up the issue of regional identities, showing distinctive glorious past. The Khalistan movement of Punjab during mid 1980’s was because of such political manipulations. The recent separation of Telangana can be said to be as a result of political ambitions of one particular political party.
- Aspirations of the people for political autonomy: Many regions want political autonomy, ranging from complete secession to autonomy within the confines of Constitution, and have raised their voice even through arms.
Some of these regions don't feel to be part of nation because of their historical separate existence as provinces. The nationalist under current during freedom struggle was not able to sweep these areas. Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur in North-east think of them as separate identity with different culture. Interference by outside powers have further fanned the separatist movements in these regions.
Others like Bodoland have sought autonomy within Indian Constitution.
Types of Regionalism
As can be seen from above, the demands raised by regional movements range from demanding complete secession from nation to separate statehood and sometimes favorable settlement of inter-state disputes like river-water dispute.
Therefore accordingly following types of regionalism can be identified:
- Parochialism: When the people of a region see only their interest and shun nationalist outlook, the principle of brotherhood, dignity of individual enshrined in Indian Constitution, such ideology is called ‘parochialism’. It is manifested in disdain for others and sometimes leading to violence. Such people many a times see themselves as superior to others in culture, language etc. Violence by Shiv-Sena against South Indians and North Indians, by ULFA cadre against people from Bihar fall in this category.
- Regionalism: When people of a region raise voice for their autonomy, rights, fair share in development process, against discrimination and demand separate statehood or autonomy within state, it is called ‘regionalism’. Demands for linguistic state of Andhra Pradesh in 1950’s, Bodoland and Gorkhaland fall in this category.
- Secessionism: When a region wants to end its association from the nation and wants to see itself as separate entity in world map, such extreme form of regionalism is known as ‘secessionism’. This form of regionalism evolved with A. Z. Phizo's Naga National Council, and T. Muivah's National Socialist Council of Nagaland. In the similar way, militants in Kashmir can also be said to follow this form of regionalism as they are persistently committing bloodbath in pursuit of their dream of a separate state.
- Inter-state dispute: Indian federalism have given rise to another form of regionalism which is manifested in inter-state disputes. State and its people see other states as rivals and competitors and this results into conflict over sharing of common resources, land boundary issues etc. The dispute over Chandigarh, Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal between Punjab and Haryana, boundary disputes between Maharashtra and Karnataka on Belgao, water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over Cauvery water are some examples of it.
The Effects Of Regionalism
Regionalism has both positive and negative effects on nation, but negative effects are more.
- On positive side it helps in strengthening the nation. The linguistic organization of states, giving autonomy to various regions in North-East, creation of new states have helped the nation as these have removed the fissures which if would have continued to exists may have become fatal.
- It has brought imbalanced regional development and regional issues to focus and opportunity to solve them. Creation of new states like Uttarakhand had resulted into fast growth of it.
At the same times regionalism effect negatively as:
- It hampers the economic growth. Instability created by it erodes moreover the faith of investors.
- Continuation act provisions of the eroded issues and the capacity of the state and administration to tackle with these issue. This has serious effect on the standing of the country in world fora. These effects the capacity of the Union to engage effectively with outside world. India's relation with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have suffered because of this.
- It created serious internal security challenges which can be exploited by forces inimical to India.
- It effects politics of the country, as regional demands becomes national demands, gives politicians opportunity to play dirty politics and divert the attention from other important issues. It has many a times resulted into extra burden on exchequer in the form of grants, special packages etc.
Strategies attempted at the time of independence and How to tackle it now?
After independence Indian government adapted various strategies to overcome the issue of regionalism, which many said, will result into disintegration of India. Establishment of Planning Commission to ensure balanced regional growth, provision of autonomy within 5th Schedule and 6th Schedule, linguistic reorganization of states, three language formula, special grants to backward states and provision for Inter-State Council to sort out differences are some of the few. All these also give hints to what solutions can be adopted in future to sort out such issues in addition to the new innovative solutions.
Solutions are discussed below:
- In long term steps like building a nationalistic outlook through education can be taken. Objective should be to imbibe next generation with the idea of a India as a union in which all are organically linked. Inter-state education facilities can be taken up.
- Creating strong interdependence among states. Each state must see other as a partner in development. This can be done by educating people and politicians about how one state participate in development of another. Information sharing, like thermal power stations in Punjab, Haryana receive coal from Jharkhand, Odisha should be taken up.
- Within a state organic linkage between Panchayats and State Legislature should be taken up. This will help in ensuring all round development of state.
- New institutional structures like NITI Aayog can be utilized to find out the solutions to the problems of state.
- Uniform development of all regions should be taken up so that no region feel isolated and left behind. Proper sharing of resources like done in Mines and Minerals bills, which fixes share of local bodies in earning from natural resource allocation, should be taken up.