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Published: 12th Jul, 2019

Language is closely related to culture and therefore to the customs of people. Besides, the massive spread of education and growth of mass literacy can only occur through the medium of the mother tongue. Democracy can become real to the common people only when politics and administration are conducted through the language they can understand.

Hence language plays an important role in the social and economic development of the region.

Since independence in 1947, linguistic affinity has served as a basis for organizing interest groups; the "language question" itself has become an increasingly sensitive political issue. Efforts to reach a consensus on a single national language that transcends the myriad linguistic regions and is acceptable to diverse language communities have been largely unsuccessful.

The language policy of India is basically embodied in part XVII of the Indian Constitution along with the 8th schedule in reference to articles 344 and 351 (which specify the languages of India for purposes mentioned in these 2 articles), and the articles concerning Fundamental Rights regarding language, education, and culture etc.

The language policy gives full freedom to the states to choose any language or languages spoken in regions as their regional languages and to have one or more of them as official languages by different states. However, for the Union, the Constitution prescribes Hindi in Devanagari script for official purposes along with English as an associate official language. The Language Policy of India relating to the use of languages in administration, education, judiciary, legislature, mass communication, etc., is pluralistic in its scope. It is both language-development oriented and language-survival oriented. The policy is intended to encourage the citizens to use their mother tongue in certain delineated levels and domains through some gradual processes, but the stated goal of the policy is to help all languages to develop.

Language and Regionalism

Many Indian nationalists originally intended that Hindi would replace English the language of British rule (1757-1947) as a medium of common communication. Both Hindi and English are extensively used, and each has its own supporters. Native speakers of Hindi, who are concentrated in North India, contend that English, as a relic from the colonial past and spoken by only a small fraction of the population, is hopelessly elitist and unsuitable as the nation's official language. Proponents of English argue, in contrast, that the use of Hindi is unfair because it is a liability for those Indians who do not speak it as their native tongue. English, they say, at least represents an equal handicap for Indians of every region.

English continues to serve as the language of prestige. Efforts to switch to Hindi or other regional tongues encounter stiff opposition both from those who know English well and whose privileged position requires proficiency in that tongue and from those who see it as a means of upward mobility. Partisans of English also maintain it is useful and indeed necessary as a link to the rest of the world, that India is lucky that the colonial period left a language that is now the world's predominant international language in the fields of culture, science, technology, and commerce. They hold, too, that widespread knowledge of English is necessary for technological and economic progress and that reducing its role would leave India a backwater in world affairs.

Determining what should be called a language or a dialect has taken a political angle and initiated a sense of regionalism attached to it.

Anti-Hindi agitations erupted in Tamil Nadu in 1937, a decade before India obtained independence, and much before Hindi was even declared the country's official language. In that year, the Indian National Congress Party came to power in the Madras Presidency (modern-day Tamil Nadu). Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari, heading the Congress, introduced Hindi as a compulsory language in the Presidency's public schools. This order was immediately met with opposition by social activist Periyar E.V Ramasamy, leader of the opposition Justice Party (Dravida Kazhagam) and advocate for a separate Dravidian State. His denunciation triggered massive resistance against the mandatory instruction of Hindi in schools. C. Rajagopalachari's insistence that, Hindi must be learnt in public schools was related to the acknowledgement that Hindi was the primary language used in the government; he encouraged South Indians to learn Hindi as it would greatly help them in obtaining offices, and consequently a voice, in the government. Despite the growing protests, his administration issued a government order in 1938, making the teaching of Hindi compulsory in 125 schools of the Madras Presidency. Viewing his insistence as an effort to undermine and destroy the Tamil language and its culture, a large-scale movement arose, marked by fasts, demonstrations, protest-marches, processions, and the destruction of public property. The protests only subsided in 1940, when the government withdrew its initial order and instead made the teaching of Hindi optional rather than compulsory.

The next decade was embedded with similar agitations, that erupted most often in relation to education; whenever the Congress government tried to institute a change in the curriculum by making Hindi compulsory during certain academic years, or by introducing a minimum mark qualification in Hindi for promotion to higher classes, the leaders of the Dravida Kazhakam initiated protests all over the state. Every time the protests abated, the administration would try to re-institute Hindi in schools, triggering yet another round of demonstrations. The movement was characterized by a growing Anti-brahminism and incorporated not only Anti-Hindi elements in some cases, but also Anti-English ones; some leaders of the movement, members of the DK, turned their eyes and ambitions towards a separate Tamil state.

As the day (26 January 1965) of switching over to Hindi as sole official language approached, the Anti-Hindi movement gained momentum in Madras State with increased support from college students. A full-scale riot broke out in the southern city of Madurai, sparked off by a minor altercation between agitating students and Congress party members. The riots spread all over Madras State, continued unabated for the next 2 months, and were marked by acts of violence, arson, looting, police firing and lathi charges. The Congress Government of the Madras State, called in paramilitary forces to quell the agitation; their involvement resulted in the deaths of about 70 persons (by official estimates) including 2 policemen. To calm the situation, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave assurances that English would continue to be used as the official language as long the Non-Hindi speaking states wanted. The riots subsided after Shastri's assurance, as did the student agitation.

The agitations of 1965 led to major political changes in the state. The DMK won the 1967 assembly election and the Congress Party never managed to recapture power in the state since then. The Official Languages Act was eventually amended in 1967 by the Congress Government headed by Indira Gandhi to guarantee the indefinite use of Hindi and English as official languages. This effectively ensured the current "virtual indefinite policy of bilingualism" of the Indian Republic. There were also 2 similar (but smaller) agitations in 1968 and 1986 which had varying degrees of success.

One of the greatest concerns of the students in Madras was that any prominent use of Hindi in the government services would disadvantage them for employment within those services. They also felt it was unfair that they would have to learn Hindi and English, whereas native speakers of Hindi would need only learn English. In response to this, the ‘Three Language Formula’ of education was instated so that the educational load would be more fair. People from Non-Hindi areas were to study their regional language, Hindi, and English (or another European language). Hindi speakers were to study Hindi, English, and another language. It seeks to accommodate the interests of group identity (mother tongues and regional languages), national pride and unity (Hindi), and administrative efficiency and technological progress (English)."

Like so many things, this was fine in theory, but it was not followed in practice. Hindi states did little to enforce this curriculum. Despite the fact that Hindi classes were not seriously taken in Tamil Nadu, the Anti-Hindi DMK government in Madras decried the northern states' lack of implementation of the Three Language Formula and removed all teaching of Hindi from schools in Tamil Nadu. The Three Language Formula has proven a failure in India as a whole though in some areas, it has worked well.

Further in 1986, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced the "National Education Policy". This education policy provided for setting up Navodaya Schools, where the DMK claimed teaching of Hindi would be compulsory. [The Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) led by M. G. Ramachandran (which had split from the DMK in 1972), was in power in Tamil Nadu and the DMK was the main opposition party. Karunanidhi announced an agitation against the opening of Navodaya Schools in Tamil Nadu. On 13th November, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution demanding the repeal of Part XVII of the constitution and for making English the sole official language of the union.

Rajiv Gandhi assured Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu that Hindi would not be imposed. As part of the compromise, Navodhaya schools were not started in Tamil Nadu. Currently, Tamil Nadu is the only state in India without Navodaya schools.

The following factors played a major role in consolidating the movement:

  1. South Indians felt that a new language was being pushed down their throats much against their wishes.
  2. Since the North Indians would not have to put any effort (because they already knew Hindi), the South Indians felt that they were being enslaved into this.
  3. South Indians felt that getting Government jobs (which would use only Hindi) would almost be impossible for them. Also, if the most coveted Civil Service Examinations were only in Hindi, the South Indians would stand no chance and it would alienate them in their own country.

Recent Controversy

NDA government's proposal to give prominence to Hindi in official accounts in social media has met with stiff opposition in Tamil Nadu with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and even BJP allies joining DMK chief Karunanidhi in slamming the move, voicing fears of "imposition" of the language on Non-Hindi speaking sections. People located in 'Region C' with whom the Government of India's communication needs to be in English, will not have access to such public information if it is not in English. This move would therefore be against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963.

The controversy was sparked by two Home Ministry circulars. The official language department had issued a circular asking all Ministries and Departments, public sector undertakings and banks to give prominence to Hindi on official accounts in social media.

"All officers and employees who operate official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Google, YouTube should use Hindi and English languages. Prominence should be given to Hindi," Director, official language, Avadesh Kumar Mishra wrote in the directive.

Another circular announced prize money of Rs 2,000 to 2 employees who do their official work mostly in Hindi. Rs 1,200 and Rs 600 will be given to the second and third position holders respectively.

This has again initiated scuffle between North and South India but the issue get resolved unanimously.

Issue of Linguistic Minorities

In India issue is not only of multilingualism, but also with the rights of many millions of speakers of lesser used minority languages. As the political and cultural context privileges some major languages, linguistic minorities often feel discriminated against by the current language policy of the Union and the States. The general political and cultural context of India's society at large favours the major languages as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati etc., which are generally and officially recognized in several States as state languages, but countless speakers of smaller, Non recognized languages feel discriminated against by the linguistic policy as efficient regulations for their protection are very rare.

The Scheme of the Safeguards for the linguistic minorities includes the provision for instruction through mother tongue at the primary stage of education; teaching of minority languages at the secondary stage of education; registration of language preference of the linguistic minority pupils to facilitate inter-school adjustments; provision for text-books and teachers in minority languages; translation and publication of rules, regulations and notices, etc. in minority languages where their speakers constitute 15% or more of the district/ tehsil population; declaration of minority languages as additional Official language in districts, where their speakers constitute 60% or more of the district population; receipt of, and reply to representations for redress of grievances in minority languages; use of minority languages in recruitment tests to the State Services; setting up of proper machinery for effective implementation of the safeguards for the linguistic minorities at the State and District levels; issue of publicity material in minority languages detailing the Safeguards available to the linguistic minorities, etc.

States have been accused of failure to fulfill their obligations under the national constitution to provide for the education of linguistic minorities in their mother tongues, even when the minority language is a Scheduled Language. Although the constitution requires that legal documents and petitions may be submitted in any of the Scheduled Languages to any government authority, this right is rarely exercised.

Under such circumstances, members of linguistic minorities may feel they and their language are oppressed by the majority, while people who are among linguistic majorities may feel threatened by what some might consider minor concessions. This may lead to linguistic regionalism.

Hence steps should be taken to place language as a source of unity of the country by recognizing linguistic diversity and initiating tolerance for each culture.

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.



Recently President has accepted most of the recommendations made in the ninth report of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language, which are aimed at promotion of Hindi.

What does the notification says?

The recent notification by the Department of Official Languages, Ministry of Home Affairs came out with the recommendations of Committee of Parliament on Official Language which were accepted by the President. Some of the important ones are:

  • All dignitaries including Hon’ble President and all the Ministers especially who can read and speak Hindimay be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi
  • Making announcements on civilian flights in Hindi followed by English.
  • On flights, half the reading material should consist of Hindi newspapers and magazines as “Hindi is grossly neglected by airlines”,
  • Maximum usage of Hindi should be ensured on all tickets of Air India and Pawan Hans helicopters.
  • 100% availability of training material in bilingual at the Mussoorie-based Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Administrative Academy.
  • Universities and higher educational institutes situated in non-Hindi speaking states, where the students are not given an option for Hindi to appear in exams/interviews, must be given an option to answer in Hindi.

The panel had also asked the ministry of human resource development to make serious efforts to make Hindi language compulsory in curriculum. This recommendation is accepted in principle.

Why these new rules came up?

In a large and diverse country like India, there is always need to found certain mechanisms which can strengthen unity in diversity. Though India has many languages, but it is said that the substance of the literary works has been common to the great extent and thus promoting unity. The present notification is step further in this direction.

  • No one is denying the need of having a common language for administrative purpose, as it will greatly reduce burden, will facilitate easy communication of ideas, knowledge, persons and in turn help in building sense of brotherhood and integrity.
  • It is said that Hindi is the most widely spoken Indian language, with around 40cr. people using it. Therefore there is natural need to use it in official communications, so that the official decisions are easily understood by these people.
  • English language which at present dominates official work, is foreign language and is a colonial legacy. Therefore it must be replaced with our own language.
  • With greater use of Hindi for official purpose, it will get wider publicity, greater attention and focus which has been lost in recent. As result of new ideas, literature may be written in it and which in turn further help it.

Other steps taken to promote Hindi

  • Recently there has been lot of focus on use of Hindi. Rajbhasha desks have been instituted in all govt. departments, naming of schemes has been done mostly in Hindi language, Prime Minister of India has most of the times used Hindi to address gathering or seminars. Along with this a PIL has come up in Supreme Court asking to make Hindi compulsory till 8th class in all schools.

Constitutional provisions related to languages:

· There is no national language as declared by the Constitution of India.

·  The Constitution lists Hindi written in Devanagari script as well as English as the official language to be used for official purposes such as parliamentary proceedings, judiciary, communications between the Central Government and a State Government.

· States within India have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation.

· The Constitution imposes a duty upon the Centre to promote the spread and development of the Hindi language so that it may become the lingua franca of the composite culture of India.

· The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages. The Government of India is under an obligation to take measures for the development of these languages.

What may be its impact?

The official use of Hindi has always been a bit of a touchy topic, with the Southern states like Tamil Nadu having protested against mandatory Hindi education in the past. The present notification can be seen by some sections as an attempt to force Hindi upon them.

  • Hindi is widely spoken in the north, but southern and eastern states have always opted for local languages or English. Five decades ago, efforts to impose Hindi as the country’s only official language had triggered violent riots in the south.
  • Language is regarded by people as closely connected with their culture. E.g. in Tamil Nadu, disinterest in Hindi stems from the pride of people in Tamil heritage.
  • Hindi is of recent origin as compared to other languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannad, Sanskrit etc.  and therefore many states are not ready to accept it as main language superseding their regional languages.
  • This issue continues to be exploited by the political parties for narrow political ends.
  • Constitution also says that government must focus on development of all Scheduled languages, thus promoting Hindi will discriminate against them

It must be kept in mind that linguistic problems are not limited to India and have arisen in other parts of the world too. The language issue has lead to civil war in Sri Lanka, students uprising and separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Therefore there is a great need to handle the language issue with care.

Way forward

There is no denying of the fact that there is a need to develop a lingua-franca for India, but it should neither be forced upon nor such feeling should come. It should be a natural process. It must be kept in mind that whenever a particular language has dominated a region or world , it has been because of knowledge creation in the language. English language was source of knowledge because of scientific discoveries in English speaking countries. Same has been with Sanskrit, Latin and Greek, Arabic in past. Therefore there is need to promote education, literary works, scientific development to be done in Hindi; so that speakers from other language feel a natural desire to learn it and in the process it becomes a common language. All this requires long term vision, support system.

Till then a common official language, which reflects local culture, aspirations should be used only after consultation with all states. Along with this training facilities for officials, application of three language formula and other steps must be taken so that no one finds difficulty in understanding Hindi.


The concept of Sons of the Soil (SoS) is deeply embedded in the human psyche. Sons of the soil is an elemental concept tying people to their place of birth and confers some benefits, rights, roles and responsibilities on them, which may not apply to others.

Sons of Soil Doctrine underlies the view that a state specifically belongs to the main linguistic group inhabiting it or that the state constitutes the exclusive 'homeland' of its main language speakers who are the 'sons of the soil' or the 'local residents'.

All others who live there or are settled there and whose mother tongue is not the state`s main language are declared 'outsiders'. These outsiders might have lived in the state for a long time, or have migrated there more recently, but they are not regarded as the 'sons of the soil'.

It is a difficult concept to grasp, even though this has been explicitly seen in many countries. The problem with this concept of SoS is that it is beset between two forces, the concept of equality versus the concept of fairness. Quite a lot of insurgencies, terrorist campaigns, riots, internal disturbances, tensions and wars have been driven by this issue.

A sons-of-the-soil (SoS) conflict has the following core features: 

First, it involves conflict between members of a minority ethnic group concentrated in some region of a country, and relatively recent, ethnically distinct migrants to this region from other parts of the same country. 

Second, the members of the minority group think of their group as indigenous, and as rightfully possessing the area as their group's ancestral (or at least very long-standing) home. 

By "conflict" we mean competition and dispute over scarce resources such as land, jobs, educational quotas, government services, or natural resources.  A SoS conflict may be violent, but it need not be. 

Sons of Soil concept in India

At the time of independence, only a few enclaves or areas around Calcutta. Bombay and Madras had undergone modern industrial development, rest were backward.  The central government adopted a whole range of policies to influence the rates of growth in poorer states and regions so as to reduce their economic distance from the richer states and regions. The government adopted the trickle-down effect but it failed to bring result.

Due to low rate of economic growth regional inequality did not dissipiated even after steps taken by the government.

This unequal access to resources and competition for that raises the concept of the sons of the soil' movements.

The friction has been more intense in states and cities where 'outsiders' had greater access to higher education and occupied more middle-class positions in government service, professions and industry and were engaged in small businesses, such as small-scale industry and shop keeping.

The economy's failure to create enough employment opportunities for the recently educated created an acute scarcity of jobs, and led to intense competition for the available jobs during the sixties and seventies. The major middle-class job opportunities that opened up after 1952 were in government service and the public sector enterprises. Popular mobilization and the democratic political process could therefore be used by the majority linguistic group to put pressure on the government to appropriate employment and educational avenues and opportunities. Some groups could then take advantage of 'the sons of the soil' sentiment for gaining political power.

The problem was aggravated in a number of cities or regions because the speakers of the state language were in a minority or had a bare majority. For example, in Bombay, in 1961, the Marathi-speakers constituted 42.8 per cent of the population. In Bangalore, the Kannada speakers were less than 25 per cent. In Calcutta, the Bengalis formed a bare majority. In the urban areas of Assam, barely 33 per cent were Assamese. After 1951 the rate of migration into the cities accelerated.

Some examples are:

  • Shiv Sena and Mumbai

A big campaign was fought by the Shiv Sena, a particularly nationalistic Hindu and mainly Maharashtrian focussed group in the western part of India.

They were chiefly upset because of three other groups of Indians; the first group were the wealthy Gujarati's, the professional South Indian groups (Kannada, Tamil, Kerelaites, etc.) and finally the labourer class of Northern India.

In various shapes and sizes, the demands came up as, preference to the natives, better educational opportunities, funding opportunities, job opportunities, etc to give better livelihoods to native of state rather than outsiders.

  • North East India

This has been an issue both in the plains areas and the hilly regions of Northeast India. In the river plains, the large majority typically depends on agriculture. When competition over cultivable land increases, as a result of a population that increases at an alarming rate, the issue becomes highly contentious. Also, due to such scarcity of land in the plain areas, some migrants have also moved into the hilly regions, which are the traditional tribal areas. As an example of understanding how population pressure due to migration creates competition over resources, consider some of the traditional Bodo-inhabited areas in Northwest Assam (such as the districts of Kokrajhar and Goalpara). These areas have experienced large-scale immigration of Bengali Muslims, from partition and onwards. This has not only changed the demographic profile of the area but also caused many tribals to become landless.

It could also be said that the 'son of the soil' theory offends section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. And being disrespectful of or bringing into contempt the Constitution of India is a criminal offence punishable by up to three years imprisonment or fine or both. Not just does the theory disrespect and bring into contempt Article 19 (1) (e) of the Constitution - hence becoming a crime - it is also an offence under section 153A of the IPC as it amounts to inciting enmity between groups of people.

 Examples outside India

  • Sri Lanka:

SOS issue in Sri Lanka because the Tamils were better educated and better qualified than the majority Singhalese. Resentment was brewing there within the Singhalese ranks. There are ironies galore within this situation. Despite positive action as well as positive discrimination, the Singhalese were not able to rise up economically as compared to the Tamils. This led to rise of Civil War.

  • Malaysia:

The other example is in Malaysia where ethnic Malays were and are explicitly given a hand up by the government in all sorts of human activities, whether government funding by state financial institutions, explicit (and for a long period of time, only) usage of Malay as the language of instruction thereby putting the Chinese and Indian populations at a disadvantage, explicit favouring of Malays in government job opportunities, more emphasis on development in the rural areas where more Malays live, etc. So much, that they decided to chuck Singapore away from Malaysia because Singapore was skewing the population too much towards the ethnically Chinese minority.


The unity of India is required for economic development of the nation. Article 301 of the Constitution states that trade and commerce shall be free throughout the territory of India. This provision guarantees the economic unity of India, and political unity depends on economic unity. Thus, a factory in Tamil Nadu is entitled to sell its goods in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal, etc.

Modern industry requires a large market. And unless modern industry emerges in India, we cannot be a prosperous nation, because agriculture alone cannot generate the wealth required for our people's education, health, employment and so on. Only united India provides such a large market. Any attempt to break up our country will therefore doom our people to poverty.

Social and economic development, spread of education, deepening of democracy and politicization can act as a medium for solving the issue.

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.


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.

The advent of new millennium saw the creation of three new states -- Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand (originally named Uttarakhand) and Jharkhand, carved out from the parent states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the recent statehood of Telangana. More recently, India has witnessed a renewed assertion from historically constituted regions for the creation of smaller states. The regions include Gorkhaland and Kamtapur in West Bengal; Coorg in Karnataka; Mithilanchal in Bihar; Saurashtra in Gujarat; Vidarbha in Maharashtra; Harit Pradesh, Purvanchal, Braj Pradesh and Awadh Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh and Bundelkhand comprising areas of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

 The demand for smaller states has arisen due to the unequal development of the nation.

At the time of independence, only a few enclaves or areas around Calcutta. Bombay and Madras had undergone modern industrial development rest were backward.  The central government adopted a whole range of policies to influence the rates of growth in poorer states and regions so as to reduce their economic distance from the richer states and regions. The government adopted the trickle-down effect but it failed to bring result.

Due to low rate of economic growth regional inequality did not dissipiated even after steps taken by the government.

This unequal access to resources and competition for that raises the concept of the sons of the soil' movements.

The friction has been more intense in states and cities where 'outsiders' had greater access to higher education and occupied more middle-class positions in government service, professions and industry and were engaged in small businesses, such as small-scale industry and shop keeping.

The economy's failure to create enough employment opportunities for the recently educated created an acute scarcity of jobs, and led to intense competition for the available jobs during the sixties and seventies. The major middle-class job opportunities that opened up after 1952 were in government service and the public sector enterprises. Popular mobilization and the democratic political process could therefore be used by the majority linguistic group to put pressure on the government to appropriate employment and educational avenues and opportunities. Some groups could then take advantage of 'the sons of the soil' sentiment for gaining political power.

The problem was aggravated in a number of cities or regions because the speakers of the state language were in a minority or had a bare majority. For example, in Bombay, in 1961, the Marathi-speakers constituted 42.8 per cent of the population. In Bangalore, the Kannada speakers were less than 25 per cent. In Calcutta, the Bengalis formed a bare majority. In the urban areas of Assam, barely 33 per cent were Assamese. After 1951 the rate of migration into the cities accelerated.

Analyzing success of smaller states (critical view)

  • The small States could also lead to the hegemony of the dominant community/caste/tribe over their power structures. There can develop, in such States, an aggressive regionalism too leading to the growth of the sons-of-the-soil phenomenon and consequent intimidation of the migrants.
  • The attainment of Statehood could also lead to emergence of intra-regional rivalries among the sub-regions as has happened in Himachal Pradesh, religious communities as in Punjab and castes/tribes as in Haryana and Manipur, if the regional identity of the new States remains weak due to demographic factors or historical reasons or their cultural backwardness.
  • The creation of small States may also lead to certain negative political consequences. Since the strength of the State legislature would be rather small in such States, the majority of the ruling party or ruling coalition would remain fragile as the present situation in Uttarakhand. In such a situation, a small group of legislators could make or break a government at will.
  • There can be the risk of centralisation of powers in the hands of the Chief Minister, the members of his family and the chief Minister’s Secretariat would be rather greater. And, so would be the possibility of a Chief Minister turning the State into a political machine and himself becoming its boss merely by purchasing the support of MLAs in one way or the other. The administration of such States would tend to be highly personalised and politicised.
  • The creation of small States would lead to an appreciable increase in the inter-State water, power and boundary disputes.
  • The division of states would require huge funds for building new capitals and maintaining a large number of Governors, Chief Ministers, Ministers and administrators as the case in division of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (establishment of new capital at Amravati).
  • It has often been pointed out that smaller states are better placed to administer and respond to the needs of the state’s citizens more nimbly. e.g In the pre-birth years, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh clocked an average growth rate of approximately 3% during the pre-birth periods. In the post- birth period, these states improved their growth rates dramatically too approximately: Uttarakhand 11%, Chhattisgarh: 9% – a good 200% increase in the growth rates. Contrast this with the mother states – UP accelerated 20% from 4.7% to 6%, MP from 6% to 7%.
  • In human development indicators also there is a mixed result where smaller states like Haryana, Punjab, Kerala and bigger states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, etc. top the list, indicating that Good Governance and not size , what determines development.
  • The votaries of ‘small ‘states argue that small state administrations are quicker to respond. However, truth again lies somewhere in between. That small states may not be very prompt in responding was amply clear in the recent unfortunate floods of Uttaranchal. However, some of the worst terrorist attacks have taken place in ‘large’ Naxalism – affected ‘small’, ‘large’, ‘old’, ‘new’ states equally. Hence, this argument is perhaps is not convincing.
  • Creation of smaller states only transfers power from the old state capital to new state capital without empowering already existing institutions like Gram Panchayat, District Collector, etc. development cannot be diffused to the backward areas of the states.


Though Indian constitution (and democratic polity) welcomes genuine regional aspirations, the plethora of demands for smaller states as a panacea for all developmental issues has created many administrative and political problems in recent times. Hence a rational assessment of the factors behind the demand, the success of earlier such division must become the basis of scientifically arriving at a formula (based on Population size, geographical homogeneity, strategic nature of the location etc), which will decide the future demands for smaller states.

Apart from this, the fundamental problems of development deficit such as concentration of power, corruption, administrative inefficiency etc must be approached with a new vigor of cooperative federalism based on "principle of subsidiary". Smart transport system, ICT must be heavily relied upon for better public service delivery, where people have a direct say in their development. This will address the problems of displacement and discontent among people and lead to balanced regional development.

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