Paper 2 – Section C – Social Change in India
(iv) Politics and Society:
(a) Nation, democracy and citizenship.
(b) Political parties, pressure groups , social and political elite.
(c) Regionalism and decentralization of power.
Regionalism is the development of political, economic, or social systems based on loyalty to a distinct geographic region with a largely ideologically and culturally homogeneous population. Regionalism is the expression of a common sense of identity and purpose by people within a specific geographical region, united by its unique language, culture etc. If the interest of one region or a state is asserted against the country as a whole or against another region/state in a hostile way, and if a conflict is promoted by such alleged interests, then it can be called as regionalism. Roots of regionalism is in India’s manifold diversity of languages, cultures, ethnic groups, communities, religions and so on, and encouraged by the regional concentration of those identity markers, and fueled by a sense of regional deprivation.
CHARACTERISTICS OF REGIONALISM
i) Regionalism is conditioned by economic, social, political and cultural disparities.
ii) Regionalism at times is a psychic phenomenon.
iii) Regionalism is built around as an expression of group identity as well as loyalty to the region.
iv) Regionalism presupposes the concept of development of one’s own region without taking into consideration the interest of other regions.
v) Regionalism prohibits people from other regions to be benefited by a particular region.
CAUSES OF REGIONALISM
Geographical factor: The territorial orientation based on geographical boundaries relate to the inhabitants of a particular region which are symbolic, at least in the Indian context. This is more so because of the linguistic distribution along geographical boundaries. The topographic and climatic variations along with differences in the settlement pattern induce in people the concept of regionalism.
Historical and cultural factors: In the Indian scenario, the historical and cultural factors assume greater significance. The historical and cultural components interpret regionalism by way of cultural heritage, folklore, myths, symbolism and historical traditions. People of a particular cultural group also derive inspirations from the noble deeds and glorious achievements of the local heroes. Nevertheless, there are sudden political and economic realities which can be covered under the gamut of historical and cultural factors.
iii) Caste and religion: When caste is combined with language conflicts or religious fundamentalism, it breeds regional feeling. It leads to dogmatism, orthodoxy and obscurantism.
iv) Economic factors: Uneven development in many parts of the country may be construed as the prime reason of regionalism and separatism. There are certain regions in the country where industries and factories have been concentrated, educational and health facilities are adequately provided, communication network has been developed, rapid agricultural development has been made possible. But there are also certain areas where the worth of independence is yet to be realized in terms of socioeconomic development.
v) Politico-administrative factors: Political parties, especially the regional political parties as well as local leaders, exploit the regional sentiments, regional deprivation and convert them to solidify their factional support bases. They give place to the regional problems in their election manifesto and promise for political and regional development.
Harihar Bhattacharya in his Federalism and Regionalism in India writes that regionalism is rooted in India’s diversity of languages, culture, tribe and religion. It is also encouraged by the geographical concentration of these identity markers in particular regions fuelled by sense of regional deprivation. According to Harrison, regionalism is a precursor to nationalism. What starts, as a regional aspiration will grow into nationalistic aspiration. Paul Brass wrote that in India regionalism is a result of social set up where masses drive larger gratification from caste, community and region and not from a pan- Indian identity. However the concept of regionalism has undergone many changes over the years. Rajni Kothari believes that regionalism has made federalism more deep rooted in India with the rise of true-multi party politics. Regionalism can also act as a healthy competitive force and hence can be instrument of progress. According to Dipankar Gupta regionalism may not be necessarily anti-people and anti-nation. Regionalism becomes a threat when it borders on chauvinism and interests of a region are branded as diametrically opposite to interests of other nations. The bitter water disputes in south Indian states are manifestation of such regionalism.
POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
Positive: Scholars believe that regionalism plays important role in building of the nation, if the demands of the regions are accommodated by the political system of the country. Regional recognition in terms of statehood or state autonomy gives self-determination to the people of that particular region and they feel empowered and happy. Internal self-determination of community, whether linguistic, tribal, religious, regional, or their combinations, has remained the predominant form in which regionalism in India has sought to express itself, historically as well as at present time.
Negative: Regionalism definitely impacts politics as days of collation government and alliances are taking place. Regional demands become national demands, policies are launched to satisfy regional demands and generally those are extended to all pockets of country, hence national policies are now dominated by regional demands. E.g. MSP given to sugarcane, it was helpful for farmers in Maharashtra but it was implemented across all states resulting agitations of farmers belonging to UP, Punjab and Haryana. Some regional leaders play politics of vote bank based on language, culture, thisi s certainly against healthy democratic procedures.
MANIFESTATIONS OF REGIONALISM
Linguistic states: Revolts for separate states all across India resulted in the formation of the States Reorganisation Committee (headed by Faisal Ali). It recommended reorganisation of Indian states on linguistic lines, thus reinforcing the regionalist tendencies.
Secessionism: It is a form of regionalism that involves militant and fundamentalist groups advocating a separation from India on the basis of ethnicity or any other factor.
Separatism: It is a demand for separate statehood within the Indian Union. Many times, linguistic or ethnic minorities within the states come together and unite against the majority community in that state. Formation of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana are examples of Separatism.
Demand for Full Statehood: The union territories have been forwarding such demands like the NCT of Delhi.
Demand for Autonomy: Since the 1960’s, with the emergence of regional parties, the demand for state autonomy has been gaining more and more strength due to the central political interference. Several parties in states like Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have been continuously demanding a larger share of powers for the states.
Regionalism is defined as a feeling of loyalty to a particular part of a country and a wish for it to be more politically independent. It is not just a territorial unit but a culmination of socio-economic and political factors. Regionalism depends on the social setup, geography among other factors. At times, Regionalism can promote healthy competition and be a precursor to nationalism. However, it can also lead to bitterness and petty politics such as the case of numerous river water disputes in India.