Regionalism in India

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On 15th of December 1953, when Potti Sriramulu succumbed to death not able to sustain 52 days of marathon fast that was undertaken to demand a separate state for Telugu speaking people, little did he realize that his death would become a launch pad for the dawn of Political Regionalism in India – that would in course of time alter the landscape of India.

But the brand of regionalism that evolved after Potti Sriramulu’s death was legitimate, genuine and logical. It reflected the aspirations of people at that time. It stood for fulfilling the longstanding want of people to have their own linguistic state. Thus, Andhra Pradesh became the first linguistic state of India. Today, Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh is renamed as Potti Sriramulu.

After the death of Sriramulu, reluctant Nehru was forced to agree to various cries from other parts of the country with similar demands. In 1954, a States Reorganization 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 people spoke in those respective regions. This heralded a new phase in the Indian politics.

The later movements for separate states and territories gave birth to a slew of regional parties which eventually became prominent at the national level becoming crucial in the formation of governments – heralding a ‘coalition culture’ in Indian politics.

Regionalism: Meaning

Regionalism is a feeling or an ideology among a section of people residing in a particular geographical space characterized by unique language, culture etc., that they are the sons of the soil and every opportunity  in their land must be given to them first but not to the outsiders. It is a sort of Parochialism. In most of the cases it is raised for expedient political gains but not necessarily.

Growth and Development

Regionalism in India can be traced back to Dravida Movement started in Tamil Nadu. The movement initially focused on empowering Dalits, non-Brahmins, and poor people. Later it turned against imposition of Hindi as sole official language on non-Hindi speaking areas. Finally, the movement for some time focused on seceding from India to carve out their own Dravidastan or Dravida Nadu. The movement slowly declined and today they have become prominent regional parties after many splits and factionalism.

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Throughout India regionalism persisted. In Maharashtra Shiv Sena against Kannadigas in the name of Marathi pride and recently MNS activists against Biharis; in Punjab against non-Punjabis that gave rise to Khalistan Movement and earlier Akali Movement; in Andhra, Telangana Movement with an aim of separate state; in Assam ULFA militants against migrant Biharis and Bengalis; in North-East against other Indians.

It can be traced that regionalism slowly turned from non violent means to violent means to achieve their goals. From Potti Sriramulu’s non violent means of fatsing to Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena (MNS) and ULFA’s violent means, regionalism has come a long way.

Regionalism in contemporary India is readily used for political gains by petty politicians and secessionist organizations. Economic reasons are exploited for political dividends.

When violence is used against people in the name of regionalism it is a criminal act and is punishable. Article 19 of the Constitution of India provides a citizen of India to move freely throughout the territory of India, to live and settle in any part, and to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. When ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) militants or MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) activists used violence against poor migrant workers, they clearly violated the law of the land and also the Constitution which is above all, even above the Parliament.

Do we need to fear Regionalism?

No. Regionalism in India is only a short cut to meet the political ambitions by emotionally exploiting the sentiments of the people. The fear of Balkanization is void of any logic. India is bound by a common culture that has flourished on this land many thousand years ago. I may be Kannadiga or Tamil but I am an Indian first. My identity outside India is that of an Indian.

The states which fought for complete independence are now part of Indian Union and they have renounced violence to some extent ; they include Mizoram, Nagaland, Kashmir, Bodoland, Tamli Nadu. India is too big for these states to fight against and win.

Today regional parties define how the governments are formed and conducted both at the Centre and the state level. Indeed it is a good development as some political entities such as RJD, BSP, LJP, DMK, AIADMK, BJD have to some extent represented those people who were neglected in the political process for a long time. As long as they thrive for regional development without discriminating against outsiders, regionalism is good for India.

Every Indian is  son of this soil. A Bihari becomes Mumbaikar when a bomb explodes in Mumbai and a Mumbaikar becomes Bihari when Kosi wrecks havoc in the plains of Bihar. We are united by an idea called India and that unity is imperative if we want to realize the dream of becoming a superpower.

  • Pradeep

    Was there an India before 1947? Cross ur hearts and tell me. Of course there was the British India. A ‘common cause’ (?) brought people together under great leaders…(But one Indian shot Gandhiji dead!!!)

    I feel that the Sri Lankans look more like many south indians than the Punjabis…so ethnicity cannot be the uniting factor…religion can also not be the uniting factor- multiple religions in our country….language…O MY GOD!! NO WAY…caste …no….

    I think that the history of India starts from 1947 and whatever happened before that was either an effort towards nation building or the history of various kingdoms and empires that thrived within the boundaries of the ‘present’ India.

    So what is this big talk about ‘Indian culture’????…

    Why can’t all Indians accept and respect the diversity in a modern nation and learn to love the ‘different’ and get out of the incestuous mentality of ‘love only those who are like us’.

    Such diversity…over 1.2 billion people. What is minority in this nation? Who can call even 5% of this population a minority? Well even a fraction of this huge population is more that population of many countries in the world. So in the name of democracy is there not a chance that huge numbers of people get marginalized,…well because they are some kind of minority. (I am not at all restricting myself to religious minority…Hindu-Muslim may be the most popularized social rift in this country, but remember that the the marauders from Khyber Pass did not loot and rape the whole of the ‘modern’ India (I am using the qualifier ‘modern’ here for those who still live in the illusion that there was an India before 1947). And therefore not the whole of India lives with the inherited vengeance…but ya! the majority. I even doubt if Pakistan has any interest in south or north east India, …but the income tax of all the citizens goes towards this Indo-Pak problem. Did Nehru not say “not a blade of grass grows there” about the part of Kashmir taken by Pakistan?

    Why did the separatist movement come up in Nagaland so close to the Independence? And what is happening in that part of the country now…? Either pumping money or pumping bullets…what about naxalism…it has been around since a long time in India….and these are just the violent exhibition of protest against the nation…how many such voices lay buried in how many indian hearts???

    What was the book ‘the white tiger’ about? In German there is a type of literature know as ‘anti-heimat’ literature. heimat is ‘the place to which a person belongs’ and anti- …you all know what that means.

    I thing ‘the white tiger’ falls into this category…and it is extremely well-written.

    • Rahul

      Off the topic…but you should read the history of mauryans, Guptas, Palas, Mugals. Infact you should read the complete history of India before making a conclusion. It is you, my friend, who is under illusion..

      • Pearl

        even under mauryas the great, akbar the great , and even during aurangzeeb period didnot include the india now we represent.
        India is salad (what we take add up in meals) like country represented by natural geographical features and called by outsiders. Before 1947 majority (99%) of indians never think of being united nation.
        It is nature not human made nation
        still you have doubt then see the map
        this natural borders convinced human and so the spread of religion of Pantheism (Hindu) created similarities.

  • ashokbbalakrishna

    In my opinion, regionalism is more of a mindset that one develops over a time. Even nationalism is no different.
    These kind of ‘isms’ just restrict ones horizon. It gives one a limited armoury to choose from.
    We all belong to one universe. We should rejoice of being one…:-)


      Regionalism is more about identity than mindset. People of same taste and aspiration come together and form a unique group. There exists various tastes and aspirations. I like to call it as Big Boss syndrome – you put people in a confined space for 100 days yet there they form groups despite many opportunities to live like a family; they fight each other and like to see someone get eliminated who do not conform to their tastes. On a macro-scale, various factors contribute in group formations. India with its huge diversity and high population is no exception to this rule. If regionalism is for a just cause, it should be appreciated.

  • Subhash Chandra Tripathi

    regionalism is sub nationalism that tries to articulate by violent means..

    • Eklavya

      Tripathi is , you are student or teacher ? i know some one with same name from Lucknow. Please, let me know.