Problem of Regionalism in India

The problem of Regionalism in India 

Regionalism is the attachment toward one's own region or state instead of to the entire country. India is a large country having continental dimensions and comprising no fewer than 28 States and 7 Union Territories. It is a multi-racial, multi-lingual nation. There are scores of regional languages, various strains of culture, and different loyalties, single as well as multiple. Amidst the amazing diversities, it is natural that regional feelings, regional parties, regional institutions, and similar other organizations meant for voicing the aspirations of local people and providing forums for them, should emerge. Indeed, with the passage of years, the multi-faceted aspirations, which together may be described as regionalism, have gained strength. It is not a new phenomenon.

In fact, the fillip given to regionalism by the emergence of the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh in 3982 has a historical continuity. The growth of this trend can be traced back to the fast unto death by Potti Srivamulu over the demand for the creation of Andhra Pradesh which set in motion the reorganization of the State along linguistic lines in 1956. In principle, regionalism need not be regarded as an unhealthy or anti-national phenomenon—unless it takes a militant, aggressive turn and encourages the growth of secessionist tendencies, (as it did in Punjab during the past five years or so).

National unity is not impaired if the people of a region have genuine pride in their language and culture. But regionalism develops into a serious threat to national unity if politicians do not go beyond their regional loyalty and claim to stand only for their regional interests if regionalism is to be regarded as an unhealthy phenomenon, decentralization too would be objectionable, which of course it is not. So there is nothing basically contradictory between nationalism and regionalism. Nor does the growth of regional values and consolidation of regional forces as such pose a challenge to the central administration of the country. 

The people in India differ greatly from one another in respect of language and social habits. India is divided among states mainly on the basis of language. The Government of India, shortly after independence began reforming the provinces on a linguistic basis. It was expected that this would make each region or state a compact homogeneous whole, facilitate administration, and help its rapid progress, thus benefiting the country as a whole.

But the linguistic division of the country has already given rise to feelings that threaten the very unity of the motherland. Though the States of India are united under a common banner and common central government, we think of ourselves as natives of Bengal, Bihar, Assam,  Odisha, etc. first and Indian afterward.

At times, the feeling of regionalism in India gets so strong that people of one state often starts treating the people of other states as foreigners. The Constitution of India lays down that every Indian shall enjoy equal rights in every part of the country.

Indeed the evil of Regionalism has already become so serious that fears have arisen in many quarters about the unity of the country. People need to understand that India is a union of states. Our pride is in Unity in diversity. The problem of Regionalism is evil. We should be tolerant and respect the people as human brothers.

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 the 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 from a particular region.

Impact of Regionalism in India


Scholars believe that regionalism plays important role in building a 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. 


Regionalism is often seen as a serious threat to the development, progress, and unity of the nation. It gives internal security challenges to 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 of governments 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 the country, hence national policies are now dominated by regional demands. E.g. MSP was given to sugarcane, it was helpful for farmers in Maharashtra but it was implemented across all states resulting in agitations of farmers belonging to UP, Punjab, and Haryana. Meanwhile, it sowed a seed of defection among ministers and targeting to the corresponding minister.

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 an intense awakening among various region-based linguistic nationalities for identity and self-determination, often in opposition to the pan-Indian nationalism. To mobilize people from all over India, leaders of mainstream nationalism have to recognize and mobilize the local leaders, they had to reach out to the people in local languages. Mass mobilization was only possible when people became aware of their regional needs and their importance. Mainstream Indian nationalism had continuously grappled with regional nationalism. Under the heavy weight of the 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 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 multiethnic 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.

Suggestive Measures

i) Doing away with regional imbalance
ii) Check on regional political parties
iii) Top priority for the economic development of deprived zones
iv) Restructuring of the society
v) Acculturation
vi) Developed means of transport and communication
vii) Proper education
viii)Appeal through mass media
ix) Create enough employment opportunity
x) Provide Special Packages to backward states
xi) Special category status to Bifurcated State in India
xii) Improve National Integration


Several regional political parties have merged in recent years and have gained strength for obvious reasons. The handful of national parties cannot, by the very nature of things, adequately represent and pursue regional causes. Most of the national parties have even failed to live up to the people's expectations. That explains why more State-based parties have been formed in various regions and is quite successful in their aims. Regional parties are not a new phenomenon. Several parties have been existing in the country for the last many decades.

They have held power, or are still holding power, in many states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Pondicherry, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, and other States in the North-Eastern region. But never before were regional parties dubbed as anti-national or regarded as a threat to the nation's unity. People repose confidence in regional parties International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development 120 because they believe that they alone can safeguard the interests of the State concerned and can fight for the legitimate rights and powers of the States without being hamstrung by their association with a national party. Regional parties naturally concentrate on safeguarding and promoting regional interests. But they do not sacrifice the larger interests of the country.

It is also significant that in the Lok Sabha a regional party now forms the largest opposition group. Among the causes of the growth of regionalism is prolonged maladministration and neglect of an area or State by the Central, Government. There has been a creeping disillusionment against Central rule. Regional symbols, regional culture, history, and in many cases a common language, all promote regionalism. The Centre's indifference to the development of certain regions has created imbalances. 

Some areas particularly in the North, are well developed, with adequate infrastructure while others are way behind. This explains why there is Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, DMK in Tamil Nadu, and the Jharkhand Movement in Bihar. There is much concern among leaders of Congress (I) about the growth of regionalism in the country. It is looked upon with suspicion and is even regarded as a challenge to democracy and national integration. But this concern is largely unwarranted; Regionalism will come into conflict with nationalism only when it becomes aggressive and when members of the various regional parties tend to forget that they are Indians first and last, citizens of the same country. Non-regional conflicts are however a cause for concern.

There are constitutional means to deal with regional conflicts, while the communal and caste conflicts have often to be settled in the streets. Inter-regional or center-region disputes have never created a serious explosion whereas communal clashes frequently cause havoc. Unfortunately, there are important differences among the regional parties themselves in the country. The differences of approach and policy have hindered the formation of an effective, durable, and viable combination of regional parties so as to facilitate the emergence of a national alternative to the ruling party at the center. The growth of regional parties in itself is not incompatible with the process of nation-building. In a democracy, ideological options are open in the sense that any individual or group can adopt any ideology, provided, of course, it is within the legal framework.

Political parties have the freedom to compete for power and pursue their respective ideologies. Since ideologies are no respecters of geographical boundaries, they also check the exclusiveness of regional identities. In fact, it has been the decline of the party system in recent years that has inflated the role of regionalism in the country. As for the cures, three suggestions may be made. First, there should be a greater spirit of accommodation on the part of the Central authorities. This implies a reversal of the process of concentration of power which has admittedly been much in evidence in the country, causing resentment among the opposition-governed State.

Power and authority must be shared on an equitable basis between the Centre and the constituent units, of the Indian Federation. Harmonious, balanced growth should be the administration's aim, not suppression of local desires and demands. Of course, firmness is necessary when regionalism, assumes militant forms, as it has done in Punjab m the form of operation Blue Star and Operation Thunder, where in recent years certain groups of misguided youth started running a parallel government and creating chaos.

Regionalism must not be allowed to become a shield for militancy, extremism, establishing a reign of terror and carrying on other anti-national activities. The regional party's patriotism should not be suspected, regionalism does not weaken India. The majority groups should not become arrogant or obsessed with power. They should be generous towards the minorities, religious, cultural and linguistic Suppression of regional aspirations is not the right remedy.

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