This article deals with ‘Regionalism’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.
What is Regionalism ?
The phenomenon in which people’s political loyalties become more focussed 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 Connotation : This type of Regionalism is not threat to National Integration. It is manifested in form of
- Desire for preserving identity based on language, culture and ethnicity .
- To protect socio-economic interest .
- For administrative convenience .
- Negative Connotation : 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
- 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 : North-eastern 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 and disputes between Punjab and Haryana over Chandigarh and Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal.
- Intra-state regionalism : Due to lack of equitable sharing of benefits within state. Eg: Coastal region vs western region in Odisha and Jaipur (Amer) vs Jodhpur (Marwar) in Rajasthan.
Causes of Regionalism in India
Regionalism is a pre-independence phenomenon. It became predominant in post-independence period. The establishment and role of Justice Party in Chennai, and to a lesser extent, of Akali Dal in Punjab in pre-independence period are examples of emerging regionalism in India.
- Linguistic Reorganisation of States
- After independence, Indian states were divided on linguistic lines . It generated sub-national identity and thus regionalism.
- 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 Tamil Nadu or Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab .
- After independence, there was integration of the Princely States . Small states were integrated with the big states. But people continued to nurse loyalties to 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:
- These are used by some region based parties. Eg : Shiv Sena claims to protect Maratha interests and Akali Dal to protect Punjabi (& Sikh) interests .
- Undue interference in the affairs of state by central government gives birth to regionalism.
- Economic Development : Sometimes development of particular community raises regional aspirations of the community . Eg After Green Revolution , Sikh Jatts of Punjab became economically prosperous and they started to demand separate Punjab from other Hindi speaking regions .
- Religion : Religion play a significant role in regionalism when it is combined with dominance and linguistic homogeneity as in Punjab or fed on a sense of religious orthodoxy and economic deprivation as in Jammu and Kashmir.
- 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 Maharashtra , Trinamool Congress in West Bengal etc. They encouraged regionalism .
Son of the Soil Movement / Nativist 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.
- The ‘sons of soil’ or nativist movements emerged in the sixties and seventies in some parts of India.
- Shiv Sena of the sixties and seventies and the Assam movement, which culminated in 1985, may be considered to belong to this genre.
Why son of the soil?
- Cultural prejudice is the main reasons behind the rise of nativist movements. More dissimilar the immigrant population is ethnically or culturally, stronger is likely to be the opposition.
- Economy’s failure not to create enough employment opportunity. There remains a competition for jobs .
- Rising aspirations of the local middle class .
- 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 the Soil theory is not there but in Maharashtra , Karnataka etc. it is present.
Not Present in Punjab, West Bengal, Delhi etc. because
- 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 and Communist Party refused to use anti-migrant sentiments in Calcutta because of its ideological commitment.
- Symbiotic Relationship : Punjabis want cheap agricultural labour . Hence, they don’t raise voice against immigration of cheap labour from Bihar and Eastern UP.
- In Delhi, culture is purely cosmopolitan.
It is present in Maharashtra because
- 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.
Various Regional Aspirations
Demand of Dravida Nadu (Supranational Regionalism)
- It’s genesis lies in Self Respect Movement of Tamil Nadu started in 1925 .
- Later it stood against imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi areas.
- Demand of Dravida Nadu in 1960s made it a secessionist movement.
- Gorkhas are demanding separate state of Gorkhaland by seceding from West Bengal .
- Gurkhas speak Nepali while West Bengal Government of Mamata Banerjee tried to impose Bengali on them by making it compulsory in schools.
- Region is under-developed compared to other parts of West Bengal.
- It was during the era of 1980s that Khalistan movement with its aim to create a Sikh homeland, often called Khalistan, cropped up in the Punjab . In fact this demand has also the colours of communalism, as there demand is only for Sikhs.
Shiv Sena and MNS Targeting North Indians
- Shiv Sena & MNS in Mumbai frequently attack North Indians.
Impact of Regionalism in India
- It can lead to inter-group solidarity in a particular region. People belonging to a region may feel the need to come together to protect their vested interests, setting aside their differences. Eg : Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council that was formed in 1985 has served to protect an otherwise endangered tribal identity in the state.
- Due to regionalism, 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 .
- Given the increasing uncertainty in the contemporary globalised world, regionalism has become a source of identity among people.
- Regionalism has helped in promoting democracy in India. Regional parties like Shiv Sena, DMK, Akali Dal etc. fight to capture power via democracy .
- It may induce competition among people of a region and propel them to do better to improve the status of their region. Eg. Competitive federalism in India .
- 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.
- Regionalism creates sub national feelings in the people . Eg : Naga Nationalism or Punjabi Nationalism vs. Indian nationalism.
- Development plans can be implemented unevenly, in order to curb regionalist and secessionist demands.
- 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 Regionalism
- 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 should be strictly implemented.
- Encouraging ‘People to People’ contact and making people aware of other cultures using TV & Radio.
- Taking steps to end the prejudices of Cow Belt against North Easterners & South Indians .
Federalism to Combat Regionalism
- Other countries with ethnic and linguistic diversities are facing many problems like secessionist movements as they weren’t able to accommodate regional aspirations
- Nepal was recently facing Madhesi Agitation
- Pakistan is facing Baluchi & Sindhi movements
- Sri Lanka has experienced Tamil civil war
- Eritrea 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 for this is 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 which has led to formation of Panchayati Raj and Urban Local Bodies.
- Regions under 5th and 6th Schedule enjoy certain autonomy .
- Article 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 . Hence, they cant complain of political apathy & discrimination .
- Economic interdependence between different regions has necessitated the need for migration to different cities and states, thereby reducing loyalties towards a particular region.
- Wave of globalization : Under the wave of globalization, India is becoming homogenous . Regionalism has been subsumed by Globalisation.
Previous year UPSC questions on Regionalism
- Growing feeling of regionalism is an important factor in generation of demand for a separate state. Discuss.
- What is the basis of regionalism? Is it that unequal distribution of benefits of development on regional basis eventually promotes regionalism? Substantiate your answer.