This article deals with topic titled ‘Regionalism’.


Note : Note : This is part of our series on Society for UPSC examination. For more articles , click here.



What is Regionalism?

The phenomenon in which people’s political loyalties become more focused on particular region in preference to the nation or other parts of the state of which that region is sub-part is called regionalism


In Indian context, regionalism is rooted in India’s diversity vis-a-vis caste , religion , language , ethnicity etc. When all these factors get geographically concentrated along with the feeling of relative deprivation, it results into Regionalism.



Is Regionalism a threat to National Integration?

The politics of regionalism has two connotations

  • Positive : This type of Regionalism is not threat to National Integration
        • Desire for preserving identity based on language, culture, ethnicity
        • To protect socio-economic interest
        • For administrative convenience .


  • Negative : Any demand of regionalism which acts as a threat to nation building efforts is referred as negative form of regionalism . Like Son of Soil policy & demand of secession.


Second form can be seen as threat while first form is not threat per se.


Characteristics of regionalism

  • Regionalism is conditioned by economic, social, political and cultural disparities. 
  • Regionalism at times is a psychic phenomenon.
  • Regionalism is built around as an expression of group identity as well as loyalty to the region. 
  • Regionalism supposes the concept of development of one’s own region without taking into consideration the interest of other regions. 
  • Regionalism prohibits people from other regions to be benefited by a particular region.




Types of Regionalism

Types of Regionalism
  • Demand for  Separation  : Demand to secede from Indian union and become a sovereign state. Eg : Khalistan , Azad Kashmir , Naga etc


  • Supra-state regionalism: Group of states are involved. They share common issues & build common identities . Eg    Northeastern states for economic development and rivalry between North and South Indian States on language


  • Inter-state regionalism: Between States . It is  issue-specific. Eg : Disputes between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Kaveri


  • Intra-state regionalism: Due to lack of equitable sharing of benefits within state. Eg:  Coastal region vs western region in Odisha, Jaipur (Amer) vs Jodhpur (Marwar) in Rajasthan


Causes of regionalism in India

  • Linguistic Reorganisation of States
    • States  divided linguistically => generate sub-national identity


  • Historical and cultural factors: 
    • History has divided India into two  parts – “Aryans” and “Dravidians”.
    • Different regions have their own local heroes &’people tend to mobilise around them .Eg Shivaji in Maharashtra or Periyer in TN etc
    • After integration of princely states , people were still loyal to their old territorial units


  • Economic underdevelopment : Uneven development generates  regionalism and separatism. It can manifest in form of demand for Special Category Status or separate state or secession . Eg Bodoland, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh, Telangana, and so on.


  • Politico-administrative factors:
    • Used by some region based parties. Eg : Shiv Sena => protect Maratha interests 
    • Undue Interference in the affairs of state by  central government gives  birth to regionalism.


  • Economic DevelopmentSometimes development of particular community raises regional aspirations of the community . Eg : After GR, Sikh Jatts of Punjab became economically prosperous and they started to demand separate Punjab from other Hindi speaking regions


  • Disintegration  of Congress Party : After Nehru, central leaders started to impose their mandate on regional leaders. As a result, local leaders moved away to form parties like NCP in MH , Trinamool Congress in WB. They encouraged regionalism




Son of the Soil Movement

  • “Son of the soil” doctrine argues that state specifically belongs to the main linguistic group inhabiting it , who are the sons of the soil or local residents.
  • Aka Politics of Nativism.



Why son of the soil?

  • Rising aspirations of the local middle class
  • Economy’s failure not to create enough employment opportunity. There remains a competition for jobs
  • Politicians with vested interests try to consolidate their voting base using this. Eg Shiv Sena in Maharashtra


Note : In some areas like Punjab , Haryana , Delhi etc , son of soil theory is not there but in Maharashtra , Karnataka etc it is present.

Not Present in Punjab, West Bengal, Delhi etc
  • Son of Soil theory is for Middle class jobs and not for menial jobs
  • It is not issue of political parties . Eg : Akali Dal is jatt dominated party + Communist Party refused to use anti-migrant sentiments in Calcutta because of its ideological commitment
  • Symbiotic Relationship : Punjabis and Haryanvis want cheap agricultural labour
  • In Delhi, culture is purely cosmopolitan


There in Maharashtra
  • Political parties like Shiv Sena, MNS use this as political tool
  • Competition between migrants and nativists is for middle class jobs
  • If national party is weak, the native political parties become more assertive




Impact of Regionalism in India

  • Most important basis for the formation of identity was language. Hence, it has kept communalism and formation of political identity based on religion in check
  • Regionalism has helped in promoting democracy in India. Regional parties like Shiv Sena, DMK etc fight to capture power via democracy
  • Agitate to preserve their culture => helped in preserving the diversity of nation


Negative Regionalism at times transforms into secessionism

Son of Soil Policy impacts Fundamental rights of Citizens like right to life or right to carry out any profession

It can cause great damage to private and public property.

Creates sub national feelings in the people . Naga Nationalism or Punjabi Nationalism vs Indian nationalism

Regionalism, also becomes hurdle in the international diplomacy, . Eg : Tamil Parties impact diplomacy with Srilanka & Trinamool Congress with Bangladesh (like in Teesta Water dispute)





Ways to Combat 

  • Making India truly federal in word and spirit
  • Doing away with regional imbalances 
  • Not imposing single culture on whole nation . Eg imposing Hindi in whole nation will face backlashes from Non-Hindi speaking states .
  • Three language formula as suggested by Sarkaria Commission to be strictly implemented
  • People to People contact + making people aware of other cultures using TV & Radio + Ending the prejudices of Cow Belt against North Easterners & South Indians



Federalism to Combat Regionalism/ Why India didn’t face Regionalism  to the extent other multi-lingual/diverse countries face

  • Other countries with ethnic and linguistic diversities are facing many problems like secessionist movements => they werent able to accommodate regional aspirations 
        • Nepal is facing Madhesi Agitation
        • Pakistan facing Baluchi & Sindhi movements
        • Sri Lanka experienced Tamil civil war
        • Eriteria seceded from Ethiopia
        • Yugoslavia broke due to various sub nationalisms at play


But India inspite of such a huge diversity of cultures is still united  .  Reason = Federalism and devolution of power which gives sense of meeting regional aspirations by various groups.



  • Indian federalism provides democratic ways to meet local aspirations of people
        • Sovereignty is constitutionally shared. States enjoy significant power  . People feel that they are governed by their own people . Cooperative  and Competitive Federalism is the new watchword in India.
        • 73rd and 74th Amendment
        • Regions under 5th and 6th Schedule enjoys certain autonomy
        • Art 370 & 371 has special provisions helpful in addressing concerns of some states.




Other factors why India hasn’t faced Regionalism 

  •  Linguistic reorganization of states
        • Unlike our neighbours, India recognized early that language is the reason behind regionalism & opted for linguistic reorganization of the states in 1956.And by 1966 all major language speakers have states of their own. This led to regionalism problem getting subdued in India.


  • Economically most backward regions are politically most powerful.
        • India has a peculiar situation  unlike other countries =>  UP is one of the most backward state in India but they decide who will make Government at Union => cant complain of Political Apathy & Discrimination
        • Out of 14 Prime Minister, 9 are from UP.


  • Economic interdependence between different regions


  • Wave of globalization => India is becoming homogenous => Regionalism subsumed by Globalisation






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