Read this comprehensive essay on Tribal Movements in India!
Numerous uprisings of tribals have taken place beginning with one in Bihar in 1772, followed by many revolts in Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland.
The important tribes involved in revolt in the nineteenth century were Mizos (1810), Kols (1795 and 1831), Mundas (1889), Daflas (1875), Khasi and Garo (1829), Kacharis (1839), Santhals (1853), Muria Gonds (1886), Nagas (1844 and 1879), Bhuiyas (1868) and Kondhas (1817)
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Some scholars like Desai (1979), Gough (1974) and Guha (1983) have treated tribal movements after independence as peasant movements, but K.S. Singh (1985) has criticised such approach because of the nature of tribals’ social and political organisation, their relative social isolation from the mainstream, their leadership pattern and the modus operandi of their political mobilisation.
Tribals’ community consciousness is strong. Tribal movements were not only agrarian but also forest-based. Some revolts were ethnic in nature as these were directed against zamindars, moneylenders and petty government officials who were not only their exploiters but aliens too.
When tribals were unable to pay their loan or the interest thereon, money-lenders and landlords usurped their lands. The tribals thus became tenants on their own land and sometimes even bonded labourers. The police and the revenue officers never helped them. On the contrary, they also used the tribals for personal and government work without any payment.
The courts were not only ignorant of the tribal agrarian system and customs but also were unaware of the plight of the tribals. All these factors of land alienation, usurpation, forced labour, minimum wages, and land grabbing compelled many tribes like Munda, Santhals, Kol, Bhils, Warli, etc., in many regions like Assam, Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra to revolt.
The management of forests also led some tribes to revolt, as forests in some regions are the main sources of their livelihood. The British government had introduced certain legislations permitting merchants and contractors to cut the forests. These rules not only deprived the tribals of several forest products but also made them victims of harassment by the forest officials. This led tribes in Andhra Pradesh and some other areas to launch movements.
Raghavaiah in his analysis in 1971 of tribal revolts from 1778 to 1970 listed 70 revolts and gave their chronology. The Anthropological Survey of India in their survey in 1976 of tribal movements identified 36 on-going tribal movements in India.
It was said that though these revolts were neither numerous nor gravely frequent, yet there was scarcely any major tribe in middle or eastern India which at some time in the last 150 years had not resorted to launching movements to register their protest and despair.
Some studies on tribal movements have been conducted and reported in North-East and Central India. However, there were an insignificant number of movements or none at all among the tribals of the southern states. This is so because the tribes down south are too primitive, too small in numbers, and too isolated in their habitat to organise movements, in spite of their exploitation and the resultant discontent . L.K. Mahapatra also has observed that we do not find any significant social, religious, status-mobility, or political movement among the numerically small and migratory tribes.
After independence, the tribal movements may be classified into three groups:
(1) movements due to exploitation by outsiders (like those of the Santhals and Mundas),
(2) movements due to economic deprivation (like those of the Gonds in Madhya Pradesh and the Mahars in Andhra Pradesh), and
(3) movements due to separatist tendencies (like those of the Nagas and Mizos).
The tribal movements may also be classified on the basis of their orientation into four types:
(1) movements seeking political autonomy and formation of a state (Nagas, Mizos, Jharkhand),
(2) agrarian movements,
(3) forest-based movements, and
(4) socio-religious or socio-cultural movements (the Bhagat movement among Bhils of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, movement among tribals of south Gujarat or Raghunath Murmu’s movement among the Santhals).
Mahapatra (1972) has classified tribal movements in three groups: reactionary, conservative and revolutionary. The reactionary movement tries to bring back ‘the good old days’, whereas the conservative movement tries to maintain the status quo. The revolutionary or the revisionary movements are those which are organised for ‘improvement’ or ‘purification’ of the cultural or social order by eliminating evil customs, beliefs or institutions.
Surajit Sinha (1968) has classified movements into five groups:
(i) Ethnic rebellion,
(ii) Reform movements,
(iii) Political autonomy movements within the Indian Union,
(iv) Secessionist movements, and
(v) Agrarian unrest. K.S. Singh (1983) has also classified them in more or less the same way, except that he has used the word ‘sanskritisation’ instead of reform movement and ‘cultural’ instead of ‘ethnic’.
S.M. Dubey (1982) has classified them in four categories:
(a) Religious and social reform movements
(b) Movements for separate statehood
(c) Insurgent movements and
(d) Cultural rights movements.
Ghanshyam Shah has classified them in three groups:
(2) Agrarian, and
If we take into consideration all the tribal movements, including the Naga revolution (which started in 1948 and continued up to 1972 when the new elected government came to power and the Naga insurgency was controlled), the Mizo movement (gurerrilla warfare which ended with the formation of Meghalaya state in April 1970, created out of Assam and Mizoram in 1972), the Gond Raj movement (of Gonds of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, started in 1941 for a separate state and reaching its peak in 1962-63), the Naxalite movements (of the tribals in Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Assam), the agrarian movements (of the Gonds and the Bhils in Madhya Pradesh), and the forest-based movements (of the Gonds for getting customary rights in the forests), it could be said that the tribal unrest and the resultant movements were mainly movements launched for liberation from (i) oppression and discrimination, (ii) neglect and backwardness, and (iii) a government which was callous to the tribals’ plight of poverty, hunger, unemployment and exploitation. K.S. Singh (1985) analysing tribal movements before independence have divided them into three phases: the first phase between 1795 and 1860, the second between 1861 and 1920, and the third between 1921 and 1947.
The first phase coincided with the establishment of the British Empire, the second with intensive colonialism during which merchant capital penetrated into tribal economy, and the third with participation in the nationalist movement and also launching of agrarian as well as some separatist movements.
Tribal movements after independence have been classified by K.S. Singh in four categories: agrarian, sanskritisation, cultural and political. In the first two phases before independence, K.S. Singh holds that in their effort to introduce British administration in the tribal areas, the British came in conflict with the tribal chiefs.
The rebellious tribal leaders revolted against the British and exhorted their followers to drive out the outsiders. Such movements were launched by Oraon, Mundas, Maikda, etc., in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and North-East India. After independence, the tribal movements were launched either for maintaining cultural identity or for demanding a separate state or for asserting their status as caste Hindus through sanskritisation process or on economic issues.
Stephen Fuchs (1965) has dealt with a large number of first types of tribal movements. He has called them messianic movements led by rebellious persons gifted with abilities for assuming the role of a Messiah, or these gifted people (Messiahs) are given this messianic role by the community when it faces economic distress, social strain or political oppression.
Fuchs has suggested that success of such a movement would depend upon the individual ability of charismatic leaders, thereby ignoring the relevance of system characteristics. Fuchs’ analysis of movements is mostly descriptive which lists host of factors for the success or failure of these movements. None of them propose a theoretical framework.
Not many studies have been conducted on the political-separatist dimension in Nagaland, Mizoram, Chotanagpur and Madhya Pradesh. The Jharkhand movement in Bihar is a movement of tribal communities consisting of settled agriculturalists which are sensitised to Vaishnavism.
Further, Chotanagpur was the most advanced of the tribal regions in terms of literacy, political consciousness and industrial progress. Christian Missions influenced the lives of tribes here substantially. These Missions promoted education, planted the notion of private rights in land, and emphasised a sense of separateness from the rest.
The Jharkhand movement after 1950 developed in phases—from ethnicity to regionalism (Singh, 1977). Of these, the phase (1963-1975) after the fourth general elections is characterised by fragmentation of the Jharkhand party and factionalisation of tribal politics. The BJP-led government at the Centre announced in 1998 the creation of two tribal states—one in Bihar and an other in Madhya Pradesh.
B.K. Roy Burman (1971 and 1979) has distinguished between proto- national and substantial movements among tribes. Proto-national movements emerge when tribes experience a transformation from tribalism to nationalism. It is a search for identity at a higher level of integration.
In contrast, sub-national movements are a product of social disorganisation pioneered by acculturated elite engaged in the contraction of relationship and not exclusion of it with the outside world. While proto-nationalism results from expansion of the orbit of development, sub-nationalism is the result of disparities of development. Sub-nationalism is based on the coercive power of the community, while proto-nationalism is based on the moral consensus of the community.
L.K. Mahapatra (1968) in his study of tribal movements based on a time-sequence and the nature of stimulus in their existence noted certain general tendencies:
(1) Most reformists’ tribal movements, although initiated by charismatic leaders, gradually led to rationalisation and institutionalisation, affecting structure but not always affecting basic changes.
(2) Tribal movements, irrespective of their goal orientation, invariably appeared among the numerically strong, usually settled agriculturalists and economically well-off tribes.
(3) Primitive and small tribes directly took to large-scale conversion and separatist tendencies are marked amongst them.
(4) Given the geographical distribution, a pan-Indian tribal movement is unlikely to emerge.
(5) Democratic politics among tribes is fragmentary which in turn blocks the emergence of civil collectivism.
Surajit Sinha (1972) has proposed several propositions regarding tribal solidarity movements:
(1) The nature and degree of involvement of tribes in solidarity movements will depend on several factors like location, size of population, exposure to outside communities, level of economy and the historical experience.
(2) The intensity of tribal solidarity will not be strong.
(3) Isolated and scattered tribes with a primitive economic base would rarely be involved in solidarity movements.
An instance of tribal exploitation may be taken to explain the cause of origin of a movement. This incident took place in June 1999 among Bettada tribals in Nagarhole forests near Hunsur town in Kodagu district in Karanataka state. About 29,000 Bettada tribals have been evicted from the Nagarhole forest ranges since 1972.
These tribals were promised rehabilitation by the Government. In 1998 some land became available in the area and the Bettada Gram Sabha authorised 70 families to take over the land. This was legal because the Centre had empowered gram sabhas to disburse land under their control. But about 200 forest department officials and the police burnt down huts of these 70 tribal families. The local tribal organisation first organised protest dharnas and then a movement calling for severe action against the officials concerned and the rehabilitation of the tribals. All this depicts that when the law does not help tribals, when the government remains callous, and the police fails to protect them, even harasses them, they take to arms against their exploiters.
These movements indicate that tribals adopted two paths of achieving goals:
(a) Non-violent path of bargaining and negotiating with the government and using a variety of pressure tactics without resorting to violence/revolts, and
(b) Militant path of revolts or mass struggles based on developing the fighting power of the exploited/oppressed tribal strata.
The consequences of both these paths are different. One indicates struggle oriented to reforms, while the other indicates structural transformation of the community. The fact that tribals continue to be faced with problems and also continue to feel discontented and deprived, brings to the fore the conclusion that both paths have not helped them to achieve their goals.
Regionalism – Its Dimensions, Meaning and Issues
To understand regionalism, we need to know various dimensions of the region. Region as a geographical unit, is delimited form each other. Region as a social system, reflects the relation between different human beings and groups. Regions are an organised cooperation in cultural, economic, political or military fields. Region acts as a subject with distinct identity, language, culture and tradition.
Regionalism is an ideology and political movement that seeks to advance the causes of regions. As a process it plays role within the nation as well as outside the nation i.e. at international level. Both types of regionalism have different meaning and have positive as well as negative impact on society, polity, diplomacy, economy, security, culture, development, negotiations, etc.
At the international level, regionalism refers to transnational cooperation to meet a common goal or to resolve a shared problem or it refers to a group of countries such as-Western Europe, or Southeast Asia, linked by geography, history or economic features. Used in this sense, regionalism refers to attempts to reinforce the links between these countries economic features.
The second meaning of the term is regionalism at national level refers to a process in which sub-state actors become increasingly powerful, power devolves from central level to regional governments. These are the regions within country, distinguished in culture, language and other socio-cultural factors.
Now, we will discuss in detail about regionalism within nation w.r.t. INDIA only and then next we will discuss about regionalism at international level.
Regionalism within nation
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.
If someone is aspiring to or make special efforts to develop one’s state or region or to remove poverty & make social justice there, then that cannot be called as regionalism. Regionalism doesn’t means defending the federal features of the constitution. Any demand for separate state, autonomous region or for devolution of power below the state level is also, sometimes confused as regionalism.
Regionalism in INDIA
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. For many centuries, India remained the land of many lands, regions, cultures and traditions.
For instance, southern India (the home of Dravidian cultures), which is itself a region of many regions, is evidently different from the north, the west, the central and the north-east. Even the east of India is different from the North-East of India comprising today seven constituent units of Indian federation with the largest concentration of tribal people.
Regionalism has remained perhaps the most potent force in Indian politics ever since independence (1947), if not before. It has remained the main basis of many regional political parties which have governed many states since the late 1960s. Three clear patterns can be identified in the post-independence phases of accommodation of regional identity through statehood.
First, in the 1950s and 1960s, intense (ethnic) mass mobilisation, often taking on a violent character, was the main force behind the state’s response with an institutional package for statehood. Andhra Pradesh in India’s south showed the way. The fast unto death in 1952 of the legendary (Telugu) leader Potti Sriramulu for a state for the Telegu-speakers out of the composite Madras Presidency moved an otherwise reluctant Jawaharlal Nehru, a top nationalist leader and it was followed by State reorganisation commission under Fazal Ali paving way for State Reorganization Act, 1956.
Second, in the 1970s and 1980s, the main focus of reorganization was India’s North-east. The basis of reorganization was tribal insurgency for separation and statehood. The main institutional response of the Union government was the North-eastern States Reorganisation Act, 1971 which upgraded the Union Territories of Manipur and Tripura, and the Sub-State of Meghalaya to full statehood, and Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh (then Tribal Districts) to Union Territories. The latter became states in 1986. Goa (based on Konkani language (8th Schedule)), which became a state in 1987, was the sole exception.
Third, the movements for the three new states (created in 2000)—Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand out of Bihar and Uttaranchal out of Uttar Pradesh— were long-drawn but became vigorous in the 1990s. And the most recent one, we can see with the division of Andhra Pradesh, giving a separate Telangana, which started in 1950s.
Potential cause for regionalism: Regionalism could have flourished in India, if any state/region had felt that it was being culturally dominated or discriminated against.
Regional economic inequality is a potent time bomb directed against national unity and political stability. But, this potential cause did not take shape of regionalism, because of government steps, which focussed on the balanced regional development and fulfilled the aspiration of states.
Few of them are – Industrial Policy, 1956, National Integration council, 1961. Transfer of financial resources to poorer states on the recommendation of Finance commission.
Planning became an important tool through Planning commission and Five year plans. But the new government is planning to devolve the planning power to the respective states, so that they can do planning with real-time approach of their respective needs and requirements.
The central government has categorized states on the basis of backwardness and accordingly gives grants and loans. In September 2013, Raghuram Rajan, recommended a new index of backwardness to determine- which state need special help from central government. It is composed of 10 equally weighted indicators. According to that, Orissa and Bihar are the most backward states.
Regular public investment by central government through centrally sponsored schemes have focussed on development of necessary infrastructure and poverty eradication, integrated rural development, education, health, family planning, etc. For example- Prdhan Mantri Gram sadka yojana, Mid day meal, MGNREGA, etc.
Government at centre and states give incentives to private players to develop in backward states through subsidies, taxation, etc. Nationalisation of banks, granting new banking licences, making mandatory for banks to open rural branches are few other steps for inclusive development and balanced regional development.
There are certain discrepancies at the implementation part of these schemes. Few areas have been neglected like irrigation, which has created agricultural disparity. Rain fed and dry land agriculture also have been neglected, which became cause for suicide of farmers in various states (Coverage of P. Sainath, gives us more insights on such issues.)In reality, the interstate industrial disparity, agricultural disparity, number of BPL, etc. are decreasing. But, more actions are needed to completely eradicate the disparities
Why regional disparity still persists?
Low rate of economic growth: The economic growth of India has been fluctuating since independence. But with respect to High population growth, the economic growth has been not enough to catch the development with full speed. In the last decade, the economic growth were progressive, but now they are reeling under the influence of world economic crisis and other bottlenecks at domestic level.
Socio-economic and political organisation of states: The states have been unable to do the adequate land reforms and the feudal mentality still persists. Bhoodan and Gramdaan movements, after independence, were not enthusiastically carried and even land under land Banks were not efficiently distributed. The political activities in the backward states were limited to vote bank politics and scams.
Lower level of infrastructural facilities in backward states: The level of infrastructural development, such as- power distribution, irrigation facilities, roads, modern markets for agricultural produce has been at back stage. All these are state list subjects.
Low level of social expenditure by states on education, health and sanitation: These subjects are core for human resource development. The sates which have invested heavily on these subjects, fall under the developed and advanced states, for example Tamil Nadu, where health care services in Primary health centre is bench mark for other states.
Political and administration failure: This is source of tension and gives birth to sub-regional movements for separate states. Jarkhand, Chattisgarh, Uttrakhand and recently Telangana are result of these failure only. Many such demands are in pipeline such as- Vidarbha, Saurashtra, Darjeeling and Bodoland, etc. These failures also weakens the confidence of private players and do not attract investors in the states.
“Son of the soil” doctrine explains a form of regionalism, which is in discussion since 1950. According to it, 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 local residents.
Why son of the soil?
- There remains a competition for job between migrant and local educated middle class youth.
- This theory works mostly in cities, because here outsiders also, get opportunity for education, etc.
- In such theories, major involvement of people is due to rising aspiration.
- Economy’s failure to create enough employment opportunity.
Clashes in India having colours of regionalism
Linguistic Reorganization of States
It was the demand of Potti Sriramulu, a freedom fighter and a devoted follower of Mahatma Gandhi, that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh state and linguistic recognition of the states in India. To achieve this end, he died in 1952 after not eating for 52 days in support of a Telugu-speaking state. Sriramulu’s death forced Jawahar Lal Nehru to agree to the various demands from other parts of the country with similar demands. Consequently, in 1954, a States Reorganisation Committee was formed with Fazal Ali as its head, which recommended the formation of 16 new states and 3 Union Territories based on the language.
Demand for Dravida Nadu
Going back to the journey of Regionalism in India, it is well noticeable that it emerged with Dravidian Movement, which started in Tamil Nadu in 1925. This movement, also known as ‘Self-Respect Movement’ initially focused on empowering Dalits, non-Brahmins, and poor people. Later it stood against imposition of Hindi as sole official language on non-Hindi speaking areas. But it was the demand of carving out their own Dravidastan or Dravida Nadu, which made it a secessionist movement. As early as 1960s the DMK and the Nan Tamil organized a joint campaign throughout Madras state demanding its secession from India and making it an independent sovereign state of Tamiland. DMK proposed that the states of Madras, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore should secede from the Indian union and form an independent “Republic of Dravida Nadu”
In the years after the formation of Andhra Pradesh state, people of Telangana expressed dissatisfaction over how the agreements and guarantees were implemented. Discontent with the 1956 Gentleman’s agreement intensified in January 1969, when the guarantees that had been agreed on were supposed to lapse. Student agitation for the continuation of the agreement began at Osmania University in Hyderabad and spread to other parts of the region. Government employees and opposition members of the state legislative assembly threatened “direct action” in support of the students. This movement since then finally resulted last year one separate state of Telangana.
It should be noted that roots of disparity in two regions was in colonial rule. Andhra was under direct rule of crown while Telangana was ruled by Nizam of Hyderabad, who was not so efficient ruler. So over time Andhra got more developed in comparison to Telangana.
Shiv Sena against Kannadigas
In 1966, Shiv Sena, in Maharashtra, launched its agitation against Kannadigas in the name of Marathi pride. The first targets of its agitation were South Indians who were the workers of Udupi hotels in Mumbai. This agitation was labelled to be a retaliation of the lathi-charge on Marathi speaking people in the border areas.
Bodoland Demand within Assam
The Bodo agitation is led by the Assam Bodo Students Union which is demanding a separate state and has resorted to wide scale violence and series of crippling bandhs to pursue their demand. One of the basic reason Assam agitations is because of the expansion of education, particularly higher education, but not industrialization and other job creating institutions is increasing the army of educated youths in the backward regions. These frustrated young men are allured by the movements against the inflow of people from other countries and states. On the other hand these unemployed youths are also attracted by the caste, communal and other sectional agitations fighting for the protection of rights on sectarian lines.
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 region of India and Pakistan. In fact this demand has also the colours of communalism, as there demand is only for Sikhs.
Attacks on Bihar Labourers by the ULFA
ULFA continues to attempt ambushes and sporadic attacks on government security forces. In 2003, the ULFA was accused of killing labourers from Bihar in response to molestation and raping of many Assamese girls in a train in Bihar. This incident sparked off anti-Bihar sentiment in Assam, which withered away after some months though. On August 15, 2004, an explosion occurred in Assam in which 10-15 people died, including some school children. This explosion was reportedly carried out by ULFA. The ULFA has obliquely accepted responsibility for the blast. This appears to be the first instance of ULFA admitting to public killings with an incendiary device. In January 2007, the ULFA once again struck in Assam killing approximately 62 Hindi speaking migrant workers mostly from Bihar. On March 15, 2007, ULFA triggered a blast in Guwahati, injuring six persons as it celebrated its ‘army day’.
The MNS Targeting North Indians
It was in 2008 that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers began their violent agitation against North Indians. Bhojpuri films were not allowed to run on theatres in Maharashtra. The targets were vendors and shopkeepers from North India in various parts of Maharashtra.
Another form of regionalism in India has found expression in the form of interstate disputes. There are disputes boundary disputes for example between Karnataka and Maharashtra on Belgaum where Marathi speaking population is surrounded by Kannada speaking people, between Kerala and Karnataka on Kasargod, between Assam and Nagaland on Rengma reserved forests. There is a dispute over Chandigarh in Punjab and Haryana.
The first important dispute regarding the use of water source was over the use of water resources of three rivers mainly Narmada, Krishna and Cauvery in which states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra were involved. Disputes also arose between use of Cauvery waters among the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Another dispute arose among the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh over the use and distribution of waters of the Krishna River. Disputes between Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh overt the use of waters of Ravi River. The Electricity sharing issue between Punjab and Delhi is another example of this.
Creation of new States in 2000
In 2000, the Government of India, pursuant to legislation passed by Parliament during the summer, created three new states, Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, and Jharkhand, reconstituting Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, respectively. Both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress party supported the formation of the states. The basis for creating the new states is socio-political and not linguistic.
Impact of Regionalism in India
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 state hood 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.
Regional identities in India have not always defined themselves in opposition to and at the expense of, the national identity, noticed a democratic effect of such process in that India’s representative democracy has moved closed to the people who feel more involved and show greater concern for institutions of local and regional governance.
For example- Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council (TTADC), formed in 1985, has served to protect an otherwise endangered tribal identity in the state by providing a democratic platform for former separatists to become a party of governance, and thereby reduced significantly the bases of political extremism in the state.
In such political setup, there always remains a scope of balanced regional development. The socio-cultural diversity is given due respect and it helps the regional people to practise their own culture too.
Regionalism is often seen as a serious threat to the development, progress and unity of the nation. It gives internal security challenges by the insurgent groups, who propagate the feelings of regionalism against the mainstream politico-administrative setup of the country.
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. Meanwhile it sowed seed of defection among ministers and targeting to corresponding minister.
Some regional leaders play politics of vote bank based on language, culture, this is certainly against healthy democratic procedures. This always leads to demand for separate state and it has observed that after creating small states only few political leaders could run efficient government else alliances run government which ultimately makes administration machinery ineffective.
Developmental plans are implemented unevenly focusing on regions to which heavy weight leaders belongs are benefitted, hence unrest is generated among rest regions. Law and order is disturbed, agitations with massive violence take place ultimately government is compelled to take harsh steps; hence wrong signals are emitted about government authorities.
Regionalism, also becomes hurdle in the international diplomacy, as in 2013 we saw how Tamil Nadu regional parties were against the Prime Minister of India, attending the Commonwealth heads meeting(CHOGM) in Sri Lanka. These actions have their direct implication on the relation of India with Sri Lanka or other countries of the forums or in case of Mamata Banerjee not agreeing to Land Boundary agreement and Teesta River Water sharing, when the leaders at centre level were ready to do it.
The regionalism induced violence disturbs the whole society, people are killed, students cannot attend the schools & colleges, tourism cannot be promoted, etc. This impacts the development of human resource, governments need to deploy extra forces to control the situation and it has direct implication on the economy of the nation. Impacted societies remain aloof from the mainstream development and then the regional variations and backwardness is clearly reflected.
On the broader front, it harms India’s status in global arena and becomes hurdle in becoming global power or world leader.
Other than the evolution of regionalism in India and its impact, it is also associated a discussed with the Nationalism and federalism. These two aspects are discussed below.
Nationalism and Regionalism
Historians of modern India have highlighted, how the growth in Indian nationalism against British colonialism since the nineteenth century also gave birth to intense awakening among various region-based linguistic nationalities for identity and self-determination, often in opposition to the pan-Indian nationalism.
To mobilise people from all over India, leaders of mainstream nationalism has to recognise and mobilise the local leaders, they had to reach out to the people in local languages. The mass mobilisation was only possible, when people became aware about their regional needs and its importance.
The mainstream Indian nationalism had continuously to grapple with regional nationalism. Under the heavy weight of regional identities of the people of India, the Indian National Congress (INC) could have hardly remained immune from it. It gradually became, in fact, an inter-regional coalition of forces. And for that reason only and to further strengthen the feeling of nationalism, INC used to have their annual meetings in different regions of India, raising the consciousness of people against the colonial exploitation.
Federalism and Regionalism
The role played by Indian federalism in ensuring India’s unity, stability and survival as a polity in the face of persistent regionalism, often verging on separation, rooted in manifold and complex social and cultural diversity, and mass poverty, illiteracy, extreme regional unevenness in development, and widespread inequality. The question has assumed special significance in the aftermath of the disintegration of the multi-ethnic and multinational Soviet Union, and the split up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The need for federalism is enhanced in countries with ethnically distinct regions where the territorial accommodation of distinct groups of people is of paramount importance. For those countries, a combination of shared rule (for general purposes of unity) and some kind of self-rule (for regional/local purposes of diversity) is a must if unity and integrity are to be maintained.
Indian federalism is seen as a method of accommodation of regionalism in India. Federalism is seen here as a political equilibrium, which results from the appropriate balance between shared rule and self-rule. In the post Second World War period, many post-colonial countries adopted federalism as a method of governance in multi-ethnic contexts.
India’s rich diversity sometimes looks like an obstacle to unity. But the latest election has proved that a commitment to resolving differences peacefully and democratically can transform diversity into a source of strength.
India’s federal reconciliation of regional identity with autonomy has a democratic aspect. Democracy rather than ethnicity is thus the legitimacy basis of such political institutions.
The federalism has been given strong push by devolving powers at local level to states and their local bodies through 73rd and 74th Amendment act. And according to Indian judiciary federalism is basic structure of Indian constitution.
The regions declared under fifth and sixth schedule enjoy certain autonomy which gives them scope to maintain their own culture and develop according to their own need. This make federal structure stronger. Other than this any policy for such area is different than the mainland policy as in case of THE PROVISIONS OF THE PANCHAYATS (EXTENSION TO THE SCHEDULED AREAS) ACT, 1996, popularly known as PESA
(Read more about PESA on – http://insightsonindia.com/2012/06/30/the-provisions-of-the-panchayats-extension-to-the-scheduled-areas-act-1996/)
Why diversity of India is supreme guarantee of democracy?
Diversity is undoubtedly strength of our democracy. Indians have so much to differ and divide themselves, but thread of democracy is common among different regions, communities, religions, and cultures. India has seen many secessionist movements since Independence, but none of them was too big to challenge a common resource pool huge democracy. If a particular community rise up against our democracy it has to be big enough to challenge the whole nation. But no community is that big in India. For e.g. Culture, language, social practices etc. change every few miles in India. And that micro culture is comprised of people from various sects and religion. So it is not possible that a huge part of India find a common ground to fight against Democratic government.
Regionalism in international arena
In the introduction we saw, what does regionalism means in international sense. The use of common cultural identities to define regions grew out of the process of decolonization, which was observed to lead to the construction of ”culture blocs”.
Regionalism in International sense can be with respect to –Physical regions, refer to territorial, military, and economic spaces controlled primarily by states, and functional region, which are defined by non-territorial factors such as culture and the market that are often the purview of non-state actors.
During the Cold War, most regions were either political or mercantile clusters of neighbouring countries that had a place in the larger international system. End of the Cold War has reduced the effects of the global system on regional security dynamics and national decisions. Thus, ”an end to the bipolar cleavage has led to a restoration of regional sovereignty” and to the establishment of ”several regional powers dominating their geographical areas”. Changes in the international structure and new security challenges were expected to push the development of regionalism.
In the post-Cold War international system, even though there has been an increasing demand for external intervention and crisis management for humanitarian and other political reasons, neither the United States nor any other major power has shown a willingness to shoulder the full responsibility for managing these regional crises. As a solution to this dilemma, countries go for the establishment of a regional blocks to replace global hegemony.
Currently, Economists take regions as institutionally granted, for example, the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), ASEAN, proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), etc. to study changes in the shares of intra- and interregional trade.
In the economic sphere, however, the situation is quite different. The process of globalization, although partial and variable in nature, is creating an increasingly autonomous economic reality that interacts directly with both national and regional economies. The formation of regions takes place at the interface between global economic and technological forces and national realities. National actors may, in fact, perceive regionalism as a defence mechanism against the competitive pressures arising from the globalization.
With respect to the world, regionalism is often talked in two sense i.e. – OLD Regionalism and NEW Regionalism. Both have different meaning, which we will see further.
Old regionalism was formed in context of a bipolar Cold War. That time various regions of the world, made an association with the two major power blocks of the world i.e. USA and USSR. This regionalism was done on the basis of their security and economic concerns. This old pattern of hegemonic regionalism was of course most evident in Europe before 1989, but at the height of the Cold War discernible in all world regions.
Old regionalism was created “from above” (often through superpower intervention). It was inward oriented and protectionist in economic terms. It was also specific with regard to its objectives (some organizations being security oriented, others economically oriented). The old regionalism was concerned only with relations between nation states.
The New regionalism is taking shape in a multipolar world order. The new regionalism and multi-polarity are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. The new is a more spontaneous process from within the regions, where the constituent states now experience the need for cooperation in order to tackle new global challenges. Regionalism is thus one way of coping with global transformation, since most states lack the capacity and the means to manage such a task on the “national” level.
The new is often described as “open”, and thus compatible with an interdependent world economy. It is a more comprehensive, multidimensional process. This process includes not only trade and economic development, but also environment, social policy and security, just to mention some imperatives pushing countries and communities towards cooperation within new types of regionalist frameworks.
The New regionalism forms part of a global structural transformation in which non-state actors (many different types of institutions, organizations and movements) are also active and operating at several levels of the global system.
In sum, the new regionalism includes economic, political, social and cultural aspects, and goes far beyond free trade. Rather, the political ambition of establishing regional coherence and regional identity seems to be of primary importance. The new regionalism is linked to globalization, as it is seen as reaction to the selectiveness nature of the globalization. So, in future, new regionalism could be basis for multilateralism.
Impact of Regionalism on the World
Regionalism is giving strength to the regions which were earlier neglected like Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia. The consequences of regionalization are in terms of security and development. For example, SAARC, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and various other regional groups has been formed for the regional security and development with the cooperation of all the member nations.
It may offer solutions to development problems, which in fact could be seen as a form of conflict prevention, since many of the internal conflicts are rooted in development problems of different kinds.
It helps the regions and the countries within in achieving Self-reliance, with respect to their social development, economic needs, technological needs, etc.
With the help of regionalism economic policies may remain more stable and consistent. As it is, in practice in European Union, though Eurozone crisis is learning for the member nation to create an environment for more predictable and stable economic environment.
Regionalism gives collective bargaining on the level of the region could improve the economic position of marginalized countries in the world system. As in the case of WTO Bali meet, developed countries were hell-bent on Trade facilitation agreement and were pressurizing for doing away of subsidies in developing countries. Then the South Asian countries like China and India, resisted and projected their socio-economic conditions to continue with their present subsidy schemes to their farmers.
Regionalism can reinforce societal viability by including social security issues and an element of redistribution. Ecological and political borders rarely coincide. Few serious environmental problems could be solved within the framework of the nation state. For example conservation of Biodiversity is closely monitored, poaching and trade of endangered species is easy to check with regional cooperation. Check on emission of greenhouse gases and global warming under common but differentiated responsibilities.
Diversity may make the success of regional organizations problematic. Sometimes, ethnic clashes in some other country of the region causes security challenges in neighbouring countries and destabilize the region as a whole. For example Fundamentalist approach by ISIS or Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist outfit of the region has serious implication in countries like Iran, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. Even ethnic clashes in Myanmar, Pakistan disturbs the Indian society. As it was observed in case of violence in Assam due to clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The growing regionalism is seen as a threat to the multilateral institutions like WTO and its existence and role is being questioned. The growing bilateralism, trilaterlism blocks have serious implication on the effectively of the WTO policies.
In fact, Regional conflicts could be resolved, with the help of regionalism and it eliminates distorted investment patterns, since the “security fund” (military expenditures ) can be tapped for more productive use and can give peaceful dividend to the nation as well as to the region.
We have seen how regionalism could be good or bad for a nation as well for group of nations. Constitution of India under Article-19, gives every citizen a fundamental right to move around and settle down peacefully any part of the country. And, as citizen of India everyone should respect this fundamental right of every person, avoiding clashes like Shiv Sena does in Maharashtra.
The need of the hour is to develop each region of India, through devolution of power to local governments and empowering people for their participation in decision-making. The governments at state level need to find out the alternative resources of energy, source of employment for local people, use of technology in governance, planning and for agriculture development. The 12th five year targets for “Faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth“, which will be instrumental for balanced regional growth.
The regional blocks like BRICS, ASEAN are developing more negotiation capabilities for economic needs of the region, for climate change negotiations, etc. The dependency on World Bank, IMF for developmental projects is being complimented by the new commitments of the BRICS Bank, New Developmental Banks, etc.
In future, the further integration of the different regions will give every nation due respect and due importance to their needs. Their exotic and unique things are getting exposure at international level and no one will feel left out. The whole world will be a global village with unique regions within.