Definition: The term ‘Regionalism’ may be defined as a tendency to preserve and promote the language, customs and culture, economy and the way of life of a particular region.
The notion of ‘region’ itself changes according to the context in which we use it. In our country, region may mean a group of states with some shared characteristics (e.g. the southern region), a state (e.g. Andhra Pradesh) or a part of the existing state (e.g. Telangana).
The term ‘regionalism’ has two connotations. In the negative sense, it implies the excessive attachment to one’s region is preference to the country or the state. In the positive sense, it is a political attribute associated with people’s love for their region, culture, language, etc. with a view to maintain their independent identity. While positive regionalism is a welcome thing as it encourages the people to develop a sense of brotherhood and commonness, the negative sense regionalism is a great threat to the unity and integrity of the country. India’s is a negative regionalism.
However, regionalism has to be distinguished from separatism or secessionism. In the Indian context separatism means advocacy for a separate state within a country and secessionism means advocacy of withdrawal from the larger country or total separation as a nation.
Regionalism in India springs from the cultural and linguistic diversity that prevails. India is not a homogenous nation. It is a composite nation of many nationalities such as Telugus, Tamilians, Malayalees, Bengalis etc. Thus, regionalism is largely a product of the self-conscious attempt on the part of linguistic nationalities to preserve their identity and cultural individuality.
In a general sense, the concept of regionalism in the context of India has been analyzed by broadly classifying it into the following manner:
ü As a manifestation of centre-state relations
ü As an outcome of internal colonialism
ü As a subsidiary process of political integration
ü In the terms of the conflicts involving the political elite
ü As a product of the imperatives of the electoral politics
ü In contrast with the sub-regionalism,
ü In the context of increasing competitiveness among the regions in a liberalizing economy
Factors for the growth of Regionalism:
- The origin of regionalism in India can be historically traced to many of the factors like cultural heritage, geographical isolation, ethnic loyalties etc.
- In the pre-independence days, regionalism was promoted by the British imperialists with a view to maintain their hold over India during the national movement.
- Emergence of strong regional political parties, and their desire to capture power. While the national parties propagate the idea of nationalism, many regional parties often bank on nationality consciousness and identities and seek to reinforce them.
- There are several types of regionalism depending upon the combination of factors that lead to regionalism in a particular region. Sometimes it may be mainly due to linguistic factors or socio-economic disparities or cultural-communal divide.
- Changes in the political map of India: The reorganization of the country on a linguistic basis. The roots of some of the regional parties may have to e traced to such movements for linguistic states.
- Language problem: The fear that Hindi is being imposed as the sole official and link language on other linguistic groups caused a resentment. Ex: Tamilnadu
- Excessive centralization of power: Regionalism may be seen as a counter-movement against excessive centralization of power in the country. Attempts to establish authoritarian governments at the centre would only contribute to the growth of regional, fissiparous and separatist tendencies.
- Social, Economic and Cultural factors: Regional imbalances in economic development, social backwardness and threat to cultural identity make the people of a region to agitate for justice. Protecting the interests of ‘sons of the soil’ is an integral part of regionalism. Ex: Anti-foreigner movement of Assamese to preserve their own culture.
- The interaction between the forces of modernization and mass participation. As the country is still away from realizing the goal of a nation state, the various groups have failed to identify their group interests with national interests, hence the feeling of rationalism has persisted.
- Disputes between states over the sharing of river water, primacy given by the states to the language of majority and to people of their own states in job opportunities have also given rise to feelings of regionalism.
- Migration of people from the backward state to a developed state for employment opportunities have often resulted in a hostile attitude against the migrants. Ex : problems going on in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
A sub-region refers to a small area within a region. Due to various factors, the people of a sub-region feel that they possess a distinct identity. A movement for the separation of that sub-region from a state or for the redressal of grievances in the sub-region is known as sub-regionalism.
Ex: Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh or Vidarbha in Maharastra
Measures to ensure that regional sentiments and struggles do not lead to national disintegration:
- Recognition of autonomy of the linguistic nationalities
- The central government must not interfere in the affairs of the state unless it is unavoidable for national interest.
- Recognition of the right of a nationality to secede or live together
- Measures to reduce the unequal development of various regions
- Promotion of amity and understanding between the peoples of different regions
- Problems of people must be solved in a peaceful and constitutional manner. Politicians must not be allowed to misuse the issue of regional demands.
- Advancement of secular values and attitudes
- Participation of people in public affairs, i.e. empowerment of people.