Friday, April 3, 2009

The Rise of Regionalism – Logical or an Aberration

In my two previous posts, I first spoke of India being at crossroads and followed it by examining our concept of nationhood, more in a political form than as a cultural union of sorts that existed for multitude of centuries before that.

This young nation came into being with plenty of trauma associated with childbirth and seemed to be in a state of turmoil for a considerable period of time after that. A union of states was fused together into India. Things like a common constitution, rule of law, currency and a federal structure to follow, were right ideas to pass the common unifying thread through diverse lands, people, languages, cultures and religions.

Through this exquisite and colourful collage, what we witness is large homogenous groups coming together to constitute a great idea called India. The best part of this is this formation of a common platform was envisaged and came about not by surrendering individual cultures but by strengthening one’s own leanings.

Regionalism was and is the life of this collage. The existence of regionalism is a logical corollary to the idea of India. One cannot imagine a uniform and homogenous country like India. Regional vibrancy and its expression have a crucial role to play in this day and age.

This was, to my mind, further aided by the formation of states on a linguistic basis. This, of course, was not a smooth process and there was much violence and ill will at that time. Many experts also questioned the wisdom of forming states on a linguistic basis. Doomsday prophets were quick to dub this as a divisive move which would eventually disintegrate India.

I feel this was an erroneous and short sighted view taken by people. I remember even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had once remarked that linguistic division of states was a mistake. I believe that states formed on linguistic basis has given each group in the country a social and cultural platform to express themselves, evolve and develop in a way they want. Further, some contentious and emotive areas were not the cause of prickly Centre – State relations.

When I reflect on all this and the current reality of a fractured polity referred to in my earlier post – The Concept of Nationhood, some pertinent questions arise in my mind

- Was social and cultural autonomy fuelling larger ambitions of people?

- Were the spill over of these ambitions into the political field inevitable?

- Is the desire for social, cultural and political hegemony responsible for the aggressive expression of regionalism?

- Have these attitudes of certain groups contributed to strident regionalism in other groups?

- Could there be other reasons which have contributed to regional insecurity and instigated those people to become extremist in thought, word and deed?

- Can economics reasons fuel an aggressive regional approach?

- Why do people feel safe with their own political dispensations in place?

I will try and examine some of these issues in my following posts. I believe that the rise of regional political aspirations, are an extension of our social and cultural evolution and, perhaps, aided by some other factors like mis-management, prejudice and short-sightedness which seem to have compounded matters.