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REGIONALISM: CASE STUDIES IN INDIA

Most of the time regionalism have negative connotation, however regionalism is natural attribute of our human society as it shows the place belongingness. We as a human beings always has a special corner for the place we belong so there is nothing wrong in it till it is not undermining the national interests & not promoting the vested interest of some groups, communities or people in the society.

However, there are abundant examples related to regional conflicts based on language, ethnicity, cultural identity, social backwardness and economic deprivation. Demand for a separate state predominantly reflects the regional aspiration of the people of a geographical region. Case studies on some of the demands for the separate state & infamous regional conflicts are given below:

Case Study 1: Bodoland Demand in Assam

Recently Bodos reiterated the demand for separate Bodoland state. Due to state assembly election in Assam this year, the demand for Bodoland is getting momentum.

Bodoland is the entrence to North East. It comprises the area north of Brahmaputra river in eight districts of the current State of Assam, namely Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Darang and Sonitpur districts. The region is predominantly inhabited by indigenous Bodo people.

Evolution & Reasons for demand of separate state:

Early in 1960s, political party Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA) observed that most of the bodo areas gradually being acquired by rich landlords or new immigrants through illegal means. There was a little or no economic aid from the central government. Social infrastructure like schools, colleges and hospitals were poor. Even roads were not there to connect bodo areas to main cities of Assam. Thus party asked for Udayachal as a union territoty to be carved out of Assam. However demand never fulfilled. Even funds for tribal development were diverted & misused and in 1980 Meghalaya was carved out of Assam for the similar reasons. Thus discontent gew among bodo people for their neglect by successive state & central governments.

In late 1980s the agitation for separate land was taken by All Assam Bodo Student Union (ABSU) in their hand. ABSU and Bodo political parties jointly demanded a separate state, called Bodoland. However in 1993 an administrative district named Bodoland Territorial Area Districts were formed which is looked after by Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The council is responsible for development in the area of economic, education, preservation of land right, linguistic aspiration, socio-culture and ethnic identity of Bodos and above all to speed up the infrastructure development of communities in the BTC area. This council consists of the member of all communities of the area. However, there are growing concerns that the council was created not for the development of the area but to divide the bodos in name of caste & community.

Now, there are several political paties like All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), Bodoland People's Front (BPF) & several armed rebellion organisation like Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). They are divided & have difference of opinion on the issue. This caused violence in the area. Till now 7000 people have died in the vilolence & near 70000 are displaced. Many people both Bodo & Non Bodo are still living in refugee camps and agitation for separate state is still continued.

Thus both Central & State government need to negotiate with political parties in the region, however negotiations alone will not solve the issue without actual development on the ground like special care to be take for social needs as education, health & ensure the security of their distinct identity. Government need to create job opportunities for the youth in the region to mainstream them with rest of the state.

Case Study 2 : Vidharbha demand in Maharashtra

The voice of the people of Vidarbha, which form the eastern part of Maharashtra, for creation of an independent state, was raised for the first time over 100 years ago. Its former name was Berar & after falling to British in 1857, a separate state named Central province & Berar was formed with Nagpur as its capital. Currently region comprises Nagpur & Amravati devision of Maharashtra which include 11 districts of the Maharashtra. It occupies 31.6% of total area and holds 21.3% of total population of Maharashtra.

Evolution of Demand:

After Independence JPV committee leave it to the people of Berar to opt for a separate state, however at that time Nagpur region was prosperous than western Maharashtra except Mumbai so western & Konkani leaders  oppose the idea of creation of separate Vidhrbha state. On 28th September 1953, an agreement was signed what came to be known as the Nagpur Agreement. Leaders of Vidharba agreed for a united Maharashtra on the basis of a common language. However, the agreement was subject to certain conditions and those were; funds allocated for development would be in proportion to the population in each region of the state, with special attention given to backward parts of each region. Education and employment in government services would be open to all people from all parts of the state and the state assembly would hold at least one session every year, of at least six week duration in Nagpur, to focus on various issues pertaining to Vidarbha

However Vidarbhite leaders at that time, like M S Aney and Brijlal Biyani, submitted a memorandum to State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) for a separate Vidarbha State. The Fazal Ali SRC, after considering these memoranda and all other related aspects, favoured a separate Vidarbha State with Nagpur as capital in the year 1956.

But Vidarbha was made part of the new state of Maharashtra in 1960 by the central government, favouring the "One language - One state" principle.

Is this demand justified?

Although Vidarbha is endowed with mineral and forest wealth and fertile soil, it has always remained one of the poorest regions of the Maharashtra, infamous for the suicides of cotton farmers. This is despite Vidarbha generating more than 30% of Maharashtra's power and having all of its coal deposits.

According to state's economic survey for fiscal 2013, out of 11 districts in Vidarbha, only one had more average per capita income than the state average-Nagpur at Rs.1.06 lakh versus Rs.95,339. The region lacked in development & investment compared to western part. This region supplies electricity to western part & itself faces severe power cuts.

In recent time when Telangana was created, the more than 65 organizations have joined together, demanding the separate Vidarbha state. However the demand is fading away.

Meanwhile Shiv Sena argued for the Samyukta. It argued that that Marathi-speaking people shouldn't be divided.

Taking all these factors into account Vidharbha makes an economic sense due to unequal development but lacks political backing.

Case Study 3: Uttar Pradesh: Game of dividing politics

After separation of Uttarkhand, the hilly districts of the state from Uttar Pradesh in year 2000, the demand of dividing it further into smaller state was raised. In year 2011 Mayawati Government proposes the division of the state into four smaller states namely Paschim Pradesh i.e. western part of state comprising 22 district, Awadh Pradesh i.e. central part comprising 14 district, Purwanchal i.e eastern part comprising 32 district and Bundelkhand i.e. southern part comprising 7 district. However resolution was turned down.

It was argued that Uttar Pradesh (having highest population & large area) can be better managed & developed by dividing into small parts. Several parties like Lokdal also demanded previously the separation of Harit Pradesh from Uttar Pradesh.

There is a need to have a detailed & rational analysis of the division of states further into smaller states. People need to understand whether such move is politically motivated or there is really a negligence of a part of state with needs separate attention, resources & have potential to develop its own.

Like Bundelkhand is the case in UP which is economically & socially backward. It needs the support from prosperous parts of the state. However its independent growth is possible only if its own resources could have been be pondered upon.

Uttar Pradesh is a play ground of regional political parties which use their own divisive politics of caste, religion & community to gain voters confidence & acquire power. It is argued that major parties have their dominating area in the state which they want to secure for forever so they want division of the state. If such is the case then it would be injustice with the people of the state if it is divided only for the short term political gains.

Conclusion

The resurgence of regionalism in various parts of the country has emerged as such a serious problem that it literally threatens to divide the country.

This is due to development imbalance in which some part of the state receives special attention and other areas are neglected and allowed to rot causing immense suffering and hardship to the common people.

This marks the inefficiency and incapability on the part of the authority concerned-the Parliament, the Executive-to respond to the people's expectations and efficiently handling the growing unrest and deepening conflict. Besides, the local leadership is to be held equally responsible, which fails to reconcile with the aspirations of the people.

Thus, the need of the hour is to develop a realistic perception of regionalism at the conceptual level focusing on righteousness and judicious outlook maintaining unity in diversity rather than dividing the nation.

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