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Regionalism: The division among us

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Is regionalism a threat to Nationalism?

India; a union of 28 states and 8 union territories, has diversity in its geography, languages, history, religions, cultures, races, etc. We have read and heard that India has so many languages and dialects, so many religions and so many different cultures. And the thing about all these things is that we are proud of our diversity and we claim: Unity in Diversity. These diversities make us feel proud of our culturally rich country. We have different foods, different dance styles, different dresses, a different way of living and all of these seem pretty cool if we want to explore them. We don’t call these diversities something that diverges us, but we see them as something that converges us into one name; Indian. Being an Indian and having so many different things in our country feels proud. And what do we do when we feel proud? We promote them, right? Suppose you belong from the Northern part of India and you are visiting Southern India… Now you are seeing different food, culture, language, etc. You feel proud of Charminar, Jog fall, Rameshwaram, lake Vembanad, Mysore palace, Golconda fort, Meenakshi temple, etc and you post them on your social media account #Fun#ProudOfSouthIndia#TravelVlog.

Congratulations, you acted like a good citizen who promoted India’s rich culture to other people. You liked the diversity and you promoted it. Now someone on your post commented like this: “Why going there?? We have so many places here in North India… Why visit the dosa walas, who can’t even speak Hindi?”. Well now, someone from south India will reply to this guy as: “You @$%# don’t come to South India then… tell your Biharis not to seek jobs here!”. Now someone from Bihar will reply to this guy: “You piece of %$#@ agar hum nahi honge to tumhare roads bhi nahi hongi”. The fight will go on. They will start abusing each other and the region from which they belong. The cause of the fight is regionalism. 

Region means a particular geographical area. Regionalism means loyalty, affection towards a certain region. When people start identifying themselves as a part of the region, regionalism develops in them. Regionalism provides a sense of belonging to the people living in the region. Their belonging makes them feel proud and this further creates more affection, more loyalty towards the region. And when people feel more connected to the region, they will start working for the region. This will help in the growth and development of the region as people feel they are responsible for their region. They help in promoting the arts and the culture of the place, letting people from the other region know about their region. This further helps to understand the different cultures and regions. They not only promote their region, but they also start defending the region, its culture. But over time, a sense of ‘my region is superior’ to yours takes a downturn in the context of regionalism. Now people just don’t defend or protect their region, they start attacking the other regions. 

The example above is a simple case of regionalism traversing a downturn. People living in the same country but different regions start identifying more with the region than the country as a whole. This affects the unity of the country as people start thinking about their people and their region. But why does this happen?

When India got independence, there were more than 500 princely states and provinces. The political leaders wanted to organize the country into different states for effective administration. But on which basis a geographical land be demarcated? In many parts of the country, people demanded ‘language’ as the basis for the state’s formation, which means; Tamil speaking region will be separated from the Telugu speaking region and many more. The first committee that was assigned to find the basis on which the states would be reorganized was the Dhar commission. Earlier in 1920, Indian National Congress(INC) supported language as the basis for the reorganization of the states. But after independence, the leader realized that it would not be suitable for the administration purpose and might pose a risk to national unity. Dhar Commission headed by SK Dhar(retired judge of Allahabad HC) reported in the last month of 1948 that linguistic consideration for the reorganization of states would not serve the interest of India. Another committee was formed: the JVP commission.

Members of this commission were Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya to study the recommendations of the Dhar commission. Even they found that linguistic separation among the states would yield division rather than unity. By this time, agitations started in the various parts of the nation. Many leaders advocated Linguistic separation while some were against it. There was no clear image of the decision. Potti Sreeramalu was advocating a different state for Telugu-speaking people from Madras State. He went on to put pressure on the government by fasting. However, on December 16 of 1952, Sreeramalu died. Many people joined his procession and soon the fire engulfed the region. The crowd shouted slogans, destroyed public properties and seven were killed in this storm that ravaged the region. On 19the Dec, PM Nehru announced creating a separating state of Telugu speaking people. K.N. Wanchoo; retired judge of the Rajasthan HC was appointed to look into issues related to the formation of the Telugu state. And on 1st October 1953, Andhra Pradesh was formed; the first linguistic state. This development paved the way for using language as the key factor for reorganizing states. A new commission under Fazal Ali was formed who was the retired CJI of the Supreme Court along with HN Kunzu and KM Panikker. They submitted the report in 1955 and accepted language as the basis for the reorganisation of the states. And soon many linguistically formed states came onto the map of India.

The basic problem with a linguistically formed state is that it creates inequality among the people who belong to the language and who don’t. This inequality is used by the political leaders for gain in the election. They create an image of those who don’t belong to the language as an outsider; someone who has come to take their job, their houses, their spaces, their opportunities, etc. Polarization is a form of politics and political leaders use this form to polarize the people belonging to the region by instigating them, making them hate people belonging to other regions/languages. Pressure starts building between different linguistic groups which finally culminates into violence, damage of public properties. This further affects the economy of the region as businesses will be forced not to recruit people from other regions. The disaffection grows bitter as time passes. We have seen this case in Assam, Maharashtra, Punjab, Southern India, etc. 

The Indian Constitution gives every citizen fundamental rights and also protects these fundamental rights. One of the rights is given by Article 19, which gives the right to move anywhere in the country and the right to settle in any part of the country, right to the profession. But with the politics around the region which creates division, hampers these fundamental rights offered by the constitution. This damages national integrity as people starts associating more with a region. People are identified with states and stereotypical remarks are casually used which further increases the gap.

A healthy competition between states is good for the growth of our nation. However, discrimination based on region creates unwanted division in the country. At the time of our Independence, India was already divided by religions, caste, class, etc. Now regionalism adds up more division to this. Rather than working as units for the whole, regionalism promotes working only for the region. And if regionalism increases, it not only takes the growth of the country down, it disturbs the basic nature of our federalism; cooperation. If citizens of a particular region do not cooperate with other parts of the country, distrust is developed between them. Remember not every region is self-sufficient. It requires many things; goods and services from many other parts of the country and for that there must be cooperation, understanding and affection between people of the regions.

As a citizen, it’s a duty to promote oneness to strengthen national integration. We don’t want to get entangled in fighting with each other and make a favourable environment for an enemy that wants to harm India. We can never be strong if we are divided by regions. Our progress lies in the progress of the entire country and not just to some specific parts of the country. When we go out, we represent India and not some regions. We are seen as Indians, we must, therefore, act like Indians. Imagine if our soldiers were divided into the regionalism lines, they would guard just their region and not the other parts. But fortunately, there is no regionalism in defence forces, there is nothing above the nation to them. Therefore, we must be like them. We must engage in working for national integration, promoting all the cultures of our country and dropping off the divisive lines of regionalism. Nothing will be impossible for a nation where 1.3 billion people will be working for its glory!

It is as simple as that kindergarten story where a single stick is easily broken, but it’s hard to break the bunch of sticks. We are stronger together, we are weaker when divided. And like the Chak De India movie, we all must drop off our regional identity and integrate ourselves in identifying ourselves as I-N-D-I-A-N and end this division among us.


Authored by: Ajay Sharma. (L4Light)

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