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Regionalism Vs Nationalism: INDIA’S MOST DANGEROUS DECADE, By Dr S Saraswathi, 14 August, 2013 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 14 August 2013

Regionalism Vs Nationalism


By Dr S Saraswathi

                                           (Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


India is presently going through a most “dangerous decade” akin to the 50s. Sentiments of regionalism within regions are getting to be strong in many States as these arise and are nurtured by multiple factors. These sub-regional sentiments can and do divide linguistic unity. One of the biggest challenges today before the country, in its 66th year of Independence, is to subdue these fissiparous forces to the bigger national interests.  


However, knowingly, the political class just does the opposite. The recent-most case before us is of Telanagana. A separate State forebodes some serious disturbances to peaceful life in Andhra Pradesh that once spearheaded the movement for linguistic States. Besides, with many claims for statehood – some as old or even older than that of Telangana, a chain reaction is, inevitable.


Advocates of smaller States argue that smaller size facilitates better administration and better development. This is in contrast to Nehru’s idea that “small States make small minds”. He batted for multi-lingual and multi-cultural States when faced with the problem of re-organization of provinces after independence. He was willing to concede the demand of any individual language as the basis for formation of a separate State on merit, but did not accept that the principle could be adopted for wholesale re-organization of provinces. That itself was reversal of the Congress stand on linguistic States during the Freedom Movement.


There have always been contradictory views on the formation of linguistic States in India.  Even the States Re-organization Committee’s Report, which is erroneously considered as the report on linguistic States, did not endorse the linguistic principle in toto. While recommending separate State for some major languages like Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, and Bengali, it presented a case for both linguistic and multi-linguistic States. Pressures for integration and not linguistic principle decided the cases of over 550 princely States that merged with India.


The linguistic principle, from the beginning was not for “one language, one State”, but for “one State, one language”. Explaining this position, B R Ambedkar worked out several safeguards against what was termed as “linguistic communalism” that was strongly emerging with great expectations in free India. The presence of linguistic minorities in a unilingual State was unavoidable throughout India despite demarking State boundaries at the village level.


Besides this, no linguistic group has ever been a unified or a homogeneous group. The population of all major language-based States exhibits several dissensions within on account of unequal development and opportunities open to different regions within the linguistic region.


Factors that can divide a linguistic group to the extent of promoting demands for separate States were not unknown in the days of the SRC. They have become more and more pronounced in course of time as growth and development at different pace intensify real as well as perceived inequalities. Better awareness of the people adds to bitter feelings.   Divisive factors are exploited by political parties for creating vote banks and for whom winning elections is the one goal overriding everything else.


Creation of States of widely differing size was another issue that bothered some of the members of the SRC.  An idea to create smaller States out of four bigger States, namely, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh was mooted by Ambedkar. He could foresee the distinct possibility of bigger States with larger membership in both houses of Parliament assuming dominance over smaller States in an elective democracy.   In the days of one-party dominance at the Centre, it was even believed that only Uttar Pradesh could give a Prime Minister for the country.


In the formation and re-formation of States, certain general conventions are being followed. Secessionist demands have been rejected and no State is formed on the basis of religious identity. No linguistic State is considered without the backing of popular demand of the concerned group and no division is made without the concurrence of all affected linguistic groups.


Telangana is a case of dividing an existing linguistic State of Telugu on the demand of people of that territory known as Telangana, which mainly comprises the old Hyderabad State. If past practice in creating new States is to be followed, the proposed division has to have the concurrence of the people of the present AP duly expressed through the State Assembly. 


Telangana shows the power of regional identities over linguistic unity. It is present in many other States. These identities are partly based on historical and cultural factors and partly grown out of political frustration and a sense of backwardness.


Growth of a kind of internal colonialism is actually experienced and/or imagined in all States which have intensified their cry for separate States after the Government’s nod for Telangana.  Bodoland and Karbi Anglong in Assam, Gorkhaland and Kamtapur in West Bengal, Vidharbha in Maharashtra, Garoland in Meghalaya, for instance, are not likely to silently watch Telangana coming up. They are demonstrating the needed public demand and are prone to follow the successful agitational method of Telangana supporters.


Already the previous Government of UP adopted a resolution in the State Assembly for dividing the State into four. Demands that have weakened in recent years and fresh demands like that of Mithilanchal, Saurashtra, Tulu Nadu, Kosal, Kukiland, Coorg and many others are likely to get encouragement.  Indeed, the number is too large to be listed out here. There is an apprehension among some people whether we are heading towards a re-organization of a United States of India.


The situation is caused by the failure of our system and institutions to achieve “development for all”. Party politics flourishes on divisive methods. We accused the British Government of following a policy of “divide and rule”, but we are also specializing in the same policy.


Unfortunately in India, a person’s feeling of identity is strongest at the lowest level and gets weaker at every higher level.  For many, national identity is notional and comes last or even unknown.  Local identities – village, caste, language, district and State are real and felt. 


Sub-regional identities behind statehood demands are not likely to be discouraged by political classes interested in building political careers. More States mean more posts in political parties and in governments at various levels and wider reach of the system of patronage.


Common people unaware of political machinations fall in the trap and imagine that a separate State is the panacea for their deprivations. Far from that. Regionalism has a tendency to multiply with every division. Remember, the rise of “creamy layer” within SC, ST, and Backward Classes under the Reservation Policy. ---- INFA 


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)








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