Regionalism is not about local patriotism or local pride as Gandhiji said ‘As the basis of my pride
as an India, I must have pride in myself as a Gujarati otherwise we shall be left without any
moorings’. National pride is not opposite of regional pride and rather two of them coexist
together and this was core to our nationalistic ideology too during our freedom struggle. Special
efforts to uplift one’s region is not regionalism as it promotes a progressive thinking and healthy
competition and even undermines other divisive factors like caste and class by diverting
attention from them to regional well being. For same regions, demand for a separate state or an
autonomous region is also not regionalism unless it is marked by bitterness towards others.
Regionalism is instead an ideology which propagates that interests of a region are not in
harmony with national interests or interests of other regions and hence may lead to hostility.
Politics of DMK during 1950s in Tamil Nadu is an apt example when a region becomes more
assertive of its cultural identity in a hostile manner. Case of Punjab during 1980s is not an
example of regionalism, but communalism.
Linguistic reorganization of states averted a major face-off between various regions by acting as
a safety value. Another area of potential conflict is sharing of riparian waters, especially in
southern states. Even such disputes have not aroused passions to such great extents to cause
major integrational threats.
Another potential source of regionalism can be economic disparity. However, many special
programs like Food for Work, IRDP etc in 1970s and special aid for development of such regions
helped in diffusing growth of strident regionalism. Industrial policy also ensured that new
industries are widely spread out. During planning process also, more development aid and funds
were given to lesser developed regions which continue even today and role of Finance
Commission is important in this aspect which allocates more grants to backward regions. Public
investment in various infrastructure projects like – rail, road, ports, industries etc also played role in offsetting the inequalities. Tax soaps and other incentives were provided to private
sector also to invest in industrially backward regions. Licensing policy was used to guide the
location of industries in various regions. Nationalization of banks started process of financial
inclusion of backward areas as well. However, investment in agriculture sector and irrigation
remained one ignored area. Green Revolution led to unequal benefits and considerable
heartburn in other rain-fed and dry areas which was tried to minimize through extending the
Green Revolution to other areas as well.
Results of above efforts have been a mixed one. Industrialization has relatively evenly spread
except a few states like North Eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. Some states have
progressed more than others and others have failed to keep pace. While states like Haryana and
Himachal Pradesh have improved upon, states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have lost
their position. Andhra and Rajasthan have stagnated.
One of the major reasons of economic disparity of poor economic growth of the nation as a
whole and it was not good enough to make a dent in regional inequalities. Specific issues of
social and political organization of certain states are also a reason of their backwardness as in
case of Bihar and West Bengal. Similarly, agrarian structure in UP and Orissa is still backward. In
Bihar and UP casteism is there. In West Bengal CPI led leadership didn’t allow much industrial
growth due to strong trade-unionism. Intra-regional disparities have also given birth to subregional
movements as well as in case of Vidharbha in Maharashtra, Telangana in Andhra,
Saurashtra in Gujarat, Darjeeling or Gorkhland in West Bengal, Bodoland in Assam etc.
For various reasons, economic disparity has not led to growth of regionalism in India. While it is
digested for many reasons, some rational explanations like fault of their own political leadership
are given in other cases. Some others are even unaware of the acuteness of the situation.
One particular instance of regionalism raising its head is in form of ‘sons of the soil doctrine’
since 1950s. It holds that a state and its resources specifically belong to a particular cultural or
linguistic group inhabiting in that state. It creates a notion of ‘us’ for insiders and ‘them’ for
outsiders. Outsiders are not regarded ‘sons of the soil’ even if they have been residing there
since long. To harness the employment and economic opportunities this doctrine was used
along communalism, casteism and nepotism. As migration into major cities accelerated after
1951, urban areas specifically became the playfield of this doctrine as ‘insiders’ were gradually
reduced to minority in these cities as these areas witnessed acute struggle for middle class jobs
and other opportunities. Failure to create new employment opportunities created more
competition in 1960s and 1970s. It particularly flourished in states of Maharashtra, Assam and
Telangana and was primarily led by urban middle class as people in these areas had little
tradition of migration as compared to other states like West Bengal, Kerala etc. Worst among
these was one led by Shiv Sena in 1960s which was more antagonistic towards South Indians
However, regional chauvinism has not posed a great challenge to national unity after 1960s and
70s. DMK has contended itself by changing the name of state and its capital city. Shiv Sena has turned to Hindu communalism instead. There are occasional flares like violence in Assam and
rhetoric of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, but they are only limited in their intensity.